WMS students envision new products in Junior Achievement class

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Students from Jeanne Brist’s sixth grade class presented product ideas to a judge panel as part of the Junior Achievement “It’s My Business” program. NXGEN donated checks of $50, $100 and $150 for winners to give to a charity of their choice.

A smartphone-enabled pet food dish, an automated laundry gadget and a non-lethal home defense system topped the list of ideas presented on a recent afternoon by Whitefish Middle School sixth-graders for the Junior Achievement program.

The class split into teams of three or four for the “It’s My Business” program and developed the ideas they would eventually present to a panel of judges.

Feed-a-Pet, developed by Sienna Thrasher, Ella Walker, Aspen Yaeck and Brooke Zetooney, was created because they identified keeping pets fed while away as the problem they wanted to tackle.

“Our solution is to let you feed your pet when you’re away,” they said during their presentation. “This is always a problem. You can set the time of day, amount of food you want and how many days you’re going to be gone.”

“Say you needed a pet sitter, this basically does it for you.”

Listening to the student pitches were a panel that included Whitefish Schools Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt, NXGEN Chief Financial Officer Tim Rossol and NXGEN Marketing and Communications Director Lorena Kirkby.

The top three groups were awarded checks from NXGEN to be sent to a nonprofit of the students’ choice.

The class was taught by NXGEN International President Giuseppe Caltabiano alongside Jeanne Brist, business teacher at the middle school.

Through the six-week course, students worked through an entrepreneurial process to develop a product to pitch to a panel of “investors.” The process focused on empathizing with a problem, defining a solution, developing that idea, making a prototype and testing it and implementing the final product.

Following the presentations, Kirkby congratulated the students and gave them a few tips on presenting in the future.

“First of all I want to congratulate you, because it can be overwhelming to stand up in front of a group of your peers and have to talk about something that you are invested in. You’ve spent a lot of time and energy and you feel like everyone is looking at you and noticing all this stuff that isn’t right,” she said. “You guys did a great job.”

The Feed-a-Pet team envisioned their device as a dog or cat food and water dish that automates the volume and frequency for feeding a pet while the owner is gone. The parameters can be set through a smartphone, and between the food and water dishes would be connected to a camera to allow the owner to check in.

Through market research, the students determined prices of $50 and $100 for small and large versions of the Feed-a-Pet.

Kirkby asked the students if this was a unique product or if there is already a similar product out there.

“The Feed-a-Pet was a unique idea that we all came up with. We kind of smushed all our ideas together,” the group said.

The team won first place earning a $150 award that they donated to the Humane Society of Northwest Montana.

Second place was awarded to Laundry Gadget, developed by Katherine Eckstrom, Olivia Genovese, Kaci Hill and Luz Manzo, who chose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for their $100 donation.

The Laundry Gadget takes all the trouble out of cleaning clothes, the students said.

“This machine makes it so you don’t have to do all the work. All you have to do is feed your clothes into the machine, and the machine does all the work,” the group told the judges. “It’s clear action brings clean satisfaction. Make your day less stressful and invest in the Laundry Gadget, a four-in-one machine that washes, dries, scents and folds.”

The gadget, which uses touchscreen controls to automate every aspect of doing laundry, would sort and fold laundry automatically.

The students’ market research put a price tag of $1,000 on the gadget.

Davis Schmidt said the price seemed like a steal.

“I’d pay way more than $1,000, I don’t know who you asked,” she said laughing.

Shot Magic, a rubber cement bullet that would freeze home invaders in their tracks, won third place. The product was created by Wyatt Akey, Axel Barker and Nicholas Bruce, who chose the Make-a-Wish Foundation for their $50 donation.

“Instead of killing an attacker, you disable them. The round will explode with a fast-hardening solution that leaves them immobile for up to 24 hours. That’s enough time for the cops to arrive,” the group said.

Plus, the product would eliminate the hassle of the consequences that come with defending your home, the students claimed.

“Shooting someone is expensive and you have to go to court, so use Shot Magic and lose the hassle,” they said.

Shot Magic would retail for $12.99 per box, and could be used in any gun.

The “It’s My Business” program teaches entrepreneurship skills, giving students the opportunity to start a business from its ideation, innovation and market research phases through design and prototyping.

All of the Junior Achievement programming is implemented by local business professionals and community members.

To learn more about how to volunteer, please contact Carrie Pontzius by email at cpontzius@jaeasterniowa.org, or by phone at (319) 274-0760.

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for the future, and make smart academic and economic choices. For more information, visit www.ja.org.

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