Has this ever happened to you?
You’re at a ball game. It’s chilly. You’re wearing gloves, cheering on your favorite team. But instead of a loud clap, your hands go “thud, thud, thud.”
Pioneer Elementary School student Kai Sandoval has the solution for you: The Cold Clapper. It consists of two plastic disks you wear over your gloves to applaud loud and proud while staying warm.
Or how about this?
You go to squeeze some lemons for lemonade, and the juice gets on your hangnail.
“It hurts super-duper bad,” said student Lily Raymond.
That’s why she and Lola Truttmann designed the Squeeze with a Breeze, which lets you squeeze a lemon without having to hold the fruit. The juice is filtered at the bottom of a collection tube, which pours out into a cup.
Pioneer Elementary students Lola Truttmann (left) and Lily Raymond demonstrate their Squeeze with a Breeze lemon-squeezing device to judges in the school’s Shark Tank competition May 27, 2022. Vince Dice
The Cold Clapper and Squeeze with a Breeze were just two of the 125 bright ideas that came from Pioneer students as part of a recent unit on 3D design and printing.
Justin Towner, the school’s “innovation specialist,” challenged all 125 of his fourth- and fifth-grade students to design and build prototypes for inventions or innovations that would address real-world problems.
Students used Tinkercad, a free web app for CAD (computer assisted design), and the school’s two 3D printers, one of which was donated by Gig Harbor Rotary.
Students’ designs tackled big ideas and small, from removing microplastics in the ocean to saving your melting ice cream cone.
Everyone had the option to enter their prototypes in a Shark Tank-themed competition, and 44 individuals or teams took the challenge. Students voted for their favorite design, and six finalists pitched their creations before a panel of judges.
Shark Tank, for those unfamiliar, is a reality TV show in which entrepreneurs present their business plans to a panel of potential investors. There weren’t big bucks involved at Pioneer like on the show, but there were prizes donated by the Seattle Museum of Flight, Ocean5 event space in Gig Harbor and Big Nate’s Trading Cards, another local business.
Besides the Cold Clapper and Squeeze with a Breeze, the top six included:
Students, in presenting their designs, had to show that their products could actually be engineered to function as advertised. No “Hogwarts magic,” their teacher said. And they had to sell their product.
Marshman said the problem of cats knocking over drink glasses is insidious. Asked why someone would buy her invention, she wrote: “Because they know the pain of having to clean up a mess their cat made a thousand times.”
Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention.
“Basically, we were kind of desperate to find an idea,” said Mullins of her team’s light bulb moment. “And when we found the ice cream shield, we just thought it was a good idea because, like, ice cream melting on your finger, we thought it was a big problem, and we wanted to change it.”
Students learned the difference between invention and innovation, and they discussed copyright laws.
Jensen took the idea of a dog collar with a GPS locator and added a camcorder.
“I know neighbors and friends who, their pets, like, run away,” said Jensen, who has indoor cats and no dog. “And I also thought it’d be kind of cool if you could see where your pets are.”
Pioneer Elementary student Elodie Jensen was a finalist in the school’s Shark Tank competition May 27, 2022, for her prototype Cam Collar, made on a 3D Printer. It’s a pet collar with a GPS and a camera. Christina T Henry
Raymond and Truttmann, pitching the Squeeze with a Breeze for just $9.99, said: “Yes, there are many other lemon products. But ours is the best.”
The pair hasn’t seen anything quite like it online.
The Ultimate Dog Exerciser is for when “your dog won’t bring the ball back to you, and lack of exercise, which means fat, unhealthy pets,” Ewald said.
She was inspired by her golden retriever, Buck. He does not live up to his breed’s name and is “all heart, no brains.”
Instead of making a 3D model, Ewald made a life-sized prototype. She attached a tennis ball to the end of a horse training lunge whip. The result looks like a giant cat toy. You can spin it around for the chase, and you’ll never have to look for a lost ball.
Towner helped the students make promotional videos for the competition, and they fielded questions from the judges, who gave largely positive feedback.
Justin Himenes, a local entrepreneur who owns Round Table Pizza and Cutter’s Point Uptown, suggested a QR code for the cam collar. Other than that, he said, “I think it would sell like crazy.”
“I feel like my cat purposely tries to come over and look for the cup when I sit down and knock it over,” said Mike Schmid, formerly with Apple, who works for the popular Rec Room video game studio in Seattle, commenting on the Cat Cup. “Finally, I can fight back.”
And they had plenty of advice.
“Failure is just part of the process,” Schmid said. “It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the process. As long as you’re learning, you’re doing the right thing, you’re going to get there.”
The other judges were Peninsula schools’ Superintendent Krestin Bahr, Diego Opalka with Engitype, a local company that sells 3D printers, and Kris Hagel, the district’s director of digital learning.
The inventors were scored on a rubric evaluating product features, including sales potential.
Towner proclaimed all 44 entries to be winners. But only one could go home with the grand prize.
The audience gave a drumroll. And the winner was: Zoie’s Ultimate Dog Exerciser.
Ewald was unable to be present at the competition but attended by Zoom. Her parents told Towner, “She hasn’t stopped smiling.”
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