Seventh graders compete in Shark Tank-style competition

Last month, members of the seventh grade green team at Middlebrook School completed a unit on Latin America with their own version of the ABC show Shark Tank.

“Students started out with independent research from a variety of sources to identify areas of abundance in countries throughout Latin America,” said social studies teacher Cynthia Beck-Moore.

Groups of students then chose countries for their “corporations” to focus on for the project.

“Further research in the economic abundances, including natural resources, industries and crops, allowed students to choose one abundance to develop into a product or experience to increase the economic value of exports in the country, and to add jobs for citizens of the country,” said Beck-Moore.

“The products and experiences had to be realistic, logically, fit a need or want, and benefit the country in some way.”

Once their product was designed on a blueprint, the corporations each created a prototype and a business plan before preparing a “deal” for investors that involved equity, stake or a royalty investment, said Beck-Moore.

For the final phase of the Shark Tank Competition, Beck-Moore said, students entered the “tank.”

Six classes presented business ideas to a panel of "sharks." In the first round, eighth graders served as shark investors, and parent volunteers determined the class finalist in the second round.

“The final round was held the day before Thanksgiving, and involved two shark investors, with all the Seven Green team staff and students also voting for an overall winner,” said Beck-Moore.

Seventh graders Matthew Forman, Anika Bhagavatula, Samantha Nichols and Elizabeth Johnson's Banablet — a tablet made from banana skins used to purify metals from drinking water — won the competition.

"They asked the sharks for an equity investment of $200, 000 for 10% of their company. The sharks offered $400,000 for 20%. They accepted," said Beck-Moore.

“There is actual scientific backing of the idea, but currently this product does not exist. We are waiting for a real shark to back this idea.”

Beck-Moore said all the students came up with “terrific products ideas,” such as a river trawling device for fishing and binoculars that take pictures of wildlife, and experiences like a spa with a glass floor so patrons can see marine life during massages.

“There were even products to address social issues, such as a drone that observers illicit drug trade in Colombia in order to stop the dealers,” said Beck-Moore. “Overall, the ideas were truly terrific.”