CCSD93 Middle Schoolers Collaborate with Local Manufacturers on Shark Tank Project

  • CCSD93’s recent District-Wide Shark Tank project aligned directly with the 2018-23 Strategic Plan. It required 8th graders in Information & Media Literacy (IML) classes at Jay Stream and Stratford middle schools to collaborate in small groups to form “companies” tasked to create and market prototypes of useful inventions or products to peers and then eventually pitch them real business leaders from CCSD93’s community. As the students developed their projects, they collaborated with Prince Castle, LLC Engineering Manager Lizzie Bertness, an expert in the manufacturing field, who visited all IML classes multiple times to push students to think critically about their products and embrace advanced design thinking concepts currently used in manufacturing.

    In addition to building prototypes, students created websites and promotional videos for their inventions to help sell peers on the concepts. Each class held a competition to establish a classroom winner, and each winning classroom team then competed in the inaugural CCSD93 District-Wide Shark Tank Competition at Stratford Middle School’s newly renovated Innovation Center, utilizing the facility’s advanced audio/visual features to present to the “Sharks” and the dozens of peers, parents, and community members in attendance.

    Local community business leaders in the manufacturing field, Steve Romanelli, President and COO of Core Pipe Products, and Steve Shei, Vice President of Strategy & Innovation at Prince Castle, served as the Sharks for the event, rating each team on originality of idea, quality of prototype, product of promotion, and presentation of the product. After each group’s presentation, the Sharks asked questions to challenge students to think further and provide greater clarity on their product’s purpose and functionality.

    Jay Stream students from HEAP Inc. were declared the winner for their product, The Craig Backpack, which helps to lighten the load by making it easier and more comfortable for students to carry heavy backpacks. Runner-up products included a vending machine that takes student-earned tokens instead of money, a marker that enables its user to choose from several different colors of ink, an app for well-behaved students to earn rewards from their teachers, and scrunchies that help raise money for cancer research.

    Following the project, all IML students visited both Core Pipe and Prince Castle to learn firsthand about the manufacturing process. Leaders from both businesses took students on tours of the facilities, including manufacturing floors, to teach students how their products are made from design and inception to finished product.

    This engaging and relevant learning experience required CCSD93 students to apply crucial 21st century skills like adaptability, entrepreneurship, communication, creativity, analysis and curiosity while enabling them to gain real world knowledge from two world-class manufacturers right in their community’s backyard. Special thanks to both companies and to the Carol Stream Chamber for partnering with CCSD93 on this project.


    Find out more about CCSD93's partnership with community manufacturers for the middle school Shark Tank project in this video!


    Find out more about the District-Wide Shark Tank Competition here!