Sharks Descend On Barranca Mesa Elementary

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo


A fourth grade class at Barranca Mesa Elementary School gained first-hand experience in product development and marketing during a May 18 event. The students, guided by classroom teacher Katrina Schmidt, spent a week dreaming up new products, then designing marketing pitches for them as part of their economics unit.
In the style of the popular TV show Shark Tank, the final stage of the project was presented to a board of potential investors. Four local “Sharks” came to the school to represent the local business community. The panel consisted of Tim Morrison, general manager of the Los Alamos Cooperative Market and County Council candidate; Kate Gallaugher, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator of the Los Alamos Cooperative Market; Dr. Prashant Jain, CEO of Sirphey and UnQuarked; and Neal Martin, a veteran of multiple tech start-ups, most recently Tibbar Plasma Technologies.
The panel listened to the students’ pitches and gave feedback on the products and business models, then interested individuals negotiated their investment deals. Although no real money exchanged hands, the students finalized their deals with the individual or individuals who opted to invest by shaking hands, or in the case of Dr. Jain, giving high-fives.
Ideas ranged from novel variations of established product lines such as a glitterized variant of stretchy slime to more ambitious products such as a jet-powered Lamborghini monster truck.
Both the students and the local business leaders reported enjoying the project. Fourth-grader John Kang voiced his experience by saying, “It was a nice project to do, and it helped me relate to real life and the economy.”
One of the big things students learned was that starting a business is more difficult than they initially expected. Classmate Alessandra Valencia summarized what she learned with the words, “To run your own company, you need to be focused and have a lot of money, and it’s hard to run your own business.”
Students also learned the difference between good investment offers and bad investment offers, as well as how to negotiate a better deal for themselves.
After Dr. Jain gave his investment offer to Andrea Dominguez, she looked at the other panel members and without hesitated asked, “Are there any other offers?”
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