Manufacturing Class swims among Sharks
Shark Tank is a popular television series where entrepreneurs make business pitches on their company or product in front of a panel of investors known as sharks. Based on their presentations, the sharks will identify weaknesses and strengths in their ideas and decide whether or not to invest.
The Middle School Manufacturing Class is a new class this year where they simulated Shark Tank. Our “sharks” were members of the ASH community – parents and employees – who have world experience in areas like product design, marketing, and supply chain. Focused on developing hard skills, like technical abilities, and soft skills, like communication and collaboration the class is designed in three phases:
1. Developing an Innovator’s Mindset: There are eight skills that students work on to be thinking like an innovator. They use these skills to identify a variety of possible products or problems. Using an iterative design cycle, they create their product and present it to the panel of ‘’sharks’’.
2. Communication: Each student pitches their product through a presentation to the “sharks”. Here, students use their presentation and communication skills to convince their audience to invest in their product, highlighting their design process and identifying potential customers’ pain points.
3. Becoming an entrepreneur: Based on the sharks’ recommendations, some products will be taken into consideration to take into production. This is when the students truly become entrepreneurs and come together to learn and take on different roles for a business such as production, marketing, sales and consumer satisfaction. For about 6 weeks, students will run this business among our own community and discover how much of a profit they can make.
When talking to the Manufacturing Class, teacher Gary, he shared:
“One of the skills that are developed in this class is becoming a problem-finder,” says Manufacturing Class teacher Gary. “With close observation and critical thinking, they used existing objects to identify their problems, and think of ways they can improve it.
We want them to feel empowered so they can identify and solve any problem. Regardless of what field they go into, those problem-solving skills are probably ones they’ll use almost on a daily basis.
I was surprised about the variety of products and problems that the students tackled. There were many creative ideas: for people who are left handed, a student designed a shield that would protect their hands from getting smudged by ink when they write on paper. There were also electric cable organizers, locker organizers, sports equipment to improve precision… ”
In the Manufacturing classrooms, students can imagine beyond the possibilities with the wide range of available machines and materials; from 3D printers, to laser cutters, to band saws, to spindle sanders. Gary shared that after students have demonstrated basic safety knowledge and skill for using the machines, he is comfortable acting as a facilitator, and simply observes students transition their ideas into creations.