Imagine having arthritis and being a patient on kidney dialysis. You must squeeze a ball repeatedly to develop a fistula (an access point for the dialysis machine), but that activity is just too strenuous for you. Now imagine two incredibly bright and inventive high school students in northeastern Pennsylvania who have family members with kidney issues, and they’re motivated to solve this problem. That’s ingenuity!
There is no better audience to appreciate and celebrate U.S. National Inventors Month, observed each May to celebrate ingenuity, than TecBRIDGE Nation—people who value, encourage, and promote innovation all year.
It is vital to our future that we foster the spirit of creativity, ingenuity, and passion to make life better for others through invention. We are fortunate to have many curious and clever young entrepreneurs throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.
We had the pleasure of working with Sara Ross, a recent summa cum laude graduate from Wilkes University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies, who completed an internship with TecBRIDGE this Spring. During her internship, she had the opportunity to observe high school entrepreneurs at work at TecBRIDGE’s High Business Plan Competition that took place on April 2 at Wilkes-Barre’s THINK Center, owned, and maintained by the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce. She shared her reflections with us.
Reflections on the HSBPC Presentations by Sara Ross
This event was a rewarding experience, as it allowed me to see students’ entrepreneurial ambitions at a high-school level.
When first arriving at the competition, I was impressed by the setup of the THINK Center. Tucked into South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, you might not expect the location to house such a facility meant for innovation and creativity. As students were arriving, they were filled with anticipation and excitement, the happy feeling you get about what’s coming next.
Six teams participated in the competition representing the following schools: Abington Heights, Wilkes-Barre Area STEM Academy, and the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences. The teams had unique ideas, with each varying in content and background. I was blown away by how many freshmen and sophomore high school students were inspired to be part of the competition. They demonstrated inventive and passionate mindsets, and they exceeded expectations.
Student Presentations Astounded Sara
The students’ pitches were compelling as they illustrated how their products connected to their own lives, even offering anecdotes that left many of the judges, and myself, with favorable impressions. I loved how their ideas aligned with their passions and areas of interest. Two young students presented their project called Lupinus Learners, explaining how it related to their experiences as Girl Scouts. The Fistula Stimulator group discussed how one of their fathers suffered from a fistula, and their products intended to assist with fistula treatment to prevent further harm from the infection.
Other groups aimed to resolve problems that high school students face with applications. For instance, the OnTrack app encouraged organization among students when balancing projects, homework, and co-curricular activities. The PlanIT app focused on assisting high school students with planning and finding more orderly ways to put together school events for their clubs and organizations. These groups knew their potential consumer audience, as both applications could be adopted by school boards and administrators throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Entrepreneurs Seek to Provide Solutions
Further, all the presentations had clearly defined problems that their ideas intended to address along with approximate financial outlines and future projections of product development. They did research on their competitors in their industry and explained how their ideas contrasted with others currently in the market. Their plans were thorough, appearing to have considered almost every avenue that could affect their product.
As leaders in the community of local businesses and organizations, the judges noted their favorite elements of each presentation and offered their recommendations for the students to advance their ideas to the next level.
I was honored to be an audience member, and I was overcome by the students’ problem-solving skills, out-of-the-box thinking, and excitement and drive for their innovations. All students should strive to continue their entrepreneurial dreams.
The Mission of the Winner of the HSBPC, “Fistula Stimulator”
On April 21 at TecBRIDGE’s 20th Anniversary Business Plan Competition, Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences students Jacob Marinock and Kaitlyn Marley, were named winners of the High School Business Plan Competition with their Fistula Stimulator submission. The following is an excerpt from Jacob and Kaitlyn’s winning submission.
“The mission of our business is to take pain and suffering away from dialysis patients when they are developing their fistulas. The current method is to receive surgery. Then, patients squeeze a ball repeatedly over a set period of time, which can go for months, days, or years. This is the only way that patients can currently develop their fistulas, meaning that this is the only competition for the Fistula Stimulator. Squeezing a ball is a very strenuous exercise, especially for patients who have orthopedic problems. For example, patients with arthritis are unsuccessful with this because they are unable to squeeze a ball repeatedly. We want to create our Fistula Stimulator cuff to develop patients’ fistulas without them having to perform strenuous exercises.
We hope our motivation and passion to fix this medical issue can help dialysis patients around the world. We both are extremely passionate about helping others, and our product is meant to make the lives of dialysis patients easier. By developing this product, we want to promise dialysis patients that they will be able to develop their fistulas easier than ever before.”