In what was a “Shark Tank” style of competition, middle and high school students from across Southern California pitched their cutting-edge nanoscience-based business ideas to a panel of judges who were venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and UCLA faculty and staff. The students were required to not only explain the science behind their idea but to also present their business plan to bring their idea to market.
Valencia students Brock Bowers, Lauren Chen, Isabelle Goralsky and Nicholas Lottermoser claimed second place and $1,000 with their idea “UltraClear,” a microplastic filter for drinking water marketed to millennial parents and health conscious consumers.
The second team of Cody Aung, Andre Baghdassarian, Noah Besina and Makayla Vicente pitched their idea called “CellShock,” a sheer thickening fluid case to better protect valuable electronics like phones, laptops, and medical devices.
“This competition provides a unique opportunity for my Nanoscience students to apply their imagination, scientific knowledge, communication skills, and business principles in a high stakes real world context,” said Daniella Duran, teacher of the Honors Nanoscience class from which the teams were created. “To prepare we partnered with Mr. Mifflin's entrepreneurship class to get feedback on the business aspects before the final pitch which helped students see the value in cross curricular collaboration. The chance to pitch an idea to a venture capitalist is an opportunity most of us adults never get, which makes it so exciting!”
Teams began this process back in January when they submitted a 450-word abstract summarizing the need that was being filled, the current state of the art for the need, and their new nanotechnology-based solution idea. Ten teams were then selected to participate in a kickoff event the following month at UCLA to meet their graduate student mentors and get a crash course in Design Thinking.