‘Shark Tank’ event shows student inventions

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published December 5, 2017

 Cyrus Schoneman shows off his product, the Fan Watch, at the first-ever “Shark Tank” event at Roosevelt Elementary School Nov. 20.

Cyrus Schoneman shows off his product, the Fan Watch, at the first-ever “Shark Tank” event at Roosevelt Elementary School Nov. 20.

Photo provided by Pamela Zajac

 Sarah Lauerman, back, and Hallie Champa, show off their product, the Zip ‘n’ Flip, a zip line for dolls.

Sarah Lauerman, back, and Hallie Champa, show off their product, the Zip ‘n’ Flip, a zip line for dolls.

Photo provided by Pamela Zajac

KEEGO HARBOR — Roosevelt Elementary School students got the chance to promote their own inventions at the school’s first-ever “Shark Tank” event. 

The school hosted the science, technology, engineering, arts and math event Nov. 20 for students to present their product ideas to community leaders and business owners in a format similar to the hit TV show “Shark Tank.”

“We’re a STEAM school. We focus a lot on engineering, problem solving and creativity,” said Carrie Roth, a librarian and specialist in Roosevelt’s Design Center. “We were really excited to give the opportunity for them to use that creativity.”

Roth teamed up with Aric Klar, the owner of Toyology Toys, a metro Detroit-based toy retailer. Toyology Toys works with schools to provide toys and tools for students to creatively solve problems and learn by doing. 

Klar said he has done “Shark Tank” programs in other schools, but not at Roosevelt, even though he works with the school often. 

“Over the past couple years, we’ve worked with 25 to 50 schools and organizations to do an empowerment program,” he said. “The main focus is to get kids to realize their ideas are worth something and that they (can be) more than just ideas.” 

About 150 students from Roosevelt — including all third-grade students and students in the school’s Magnet Program, which is for academically gifted students in grades three through five — took part in a preliminary “Minnow Tank,” where individual students could develop a product idea and show it off to the school during a showcase. 

From the “Minnow Tank,” 24 teams of students were formed to work together on an idea for the “Shark Tank.” 

The “Shark Tank” saw creations like a doll zip line, a heated dog collar with a microchip in it, a solar panel window, soft Legos compatible with regular Legos, and a fidget desk.

“The reward at the end of the day is to get these kids to realize that if they put their mind to something, people are going to listen to you,” said Klar. “These kids felt valued and listened to. There was no grade, no right or wrong answer.”

The “sharks,” or panelists, included community leaders like former Keego Harbor Mayor Sid Rubin and Oakland County Commissioner Tom Berman. 

Toyology also brought in staff members to sit as panelists.

“Some of the best stuff we’ve seen on the invention side comes from kids,” said Klar. “It’s very important to … constantly give back so (schools) can be confidently empowering kids’ minds the same way we are with toys.” 

There were no winners or losers like there are on the show that inspired the event, just real-world feedback for the students.

“It was really just about the experience and the kids getting the chance to present,” said Roth. “We just get really excited when our kids get the chance to push themselves and to be creative.”

Roosevelt Elementary plans on hosting a “Shark Tank” event annually.