WOOD RIVER JCT. — Loosely modeled on the "Shark Tank" television show, Chariho’s Incubator program started as a way to keep seniors engaged in their final year and now involves representatives from businesses throughout the Chariho area.
The program, in its second year, is sponsored by the Community 2000 Foundation, the Chariho Rotary, the Rhode Island Office of Innovation and the Kimball Foundation.
With guidance from mentors and coaches from diverse businesses and organizations, students developed ideas for products and services and presented them to a panel of judges.
Chariho STEM specialist Susie Scanapieco, who facilitates the Incubator program, welcomed guests, mentors and students to the library on May 30, when seven groups of finalists presented their ideas.
“Many adults are just learning this in the entrepreneurial world and we are graduating our students with this knowledge and we really feel that’s a huge piece to their resume,” she said.
Students had 15 minutes each to present their products.
Dehlia Beaudry and Noah Rogers talked about their idea, called H.O.A.D., which stands for Hands On All Day. The objective, they explained, is to prepare high school students for success in the workforce.
“Our company is going to be a not-for-profit school that will bring the kids into the workforce directly,” Rogers said. “This school will be for kids who want to go into the workforce right out of his school, not the kids who are planning to go to a traditional college.”
The program would offer a school building adjacent to businesses such as Electric Boat and South County Nursing and Rehabilitation, where the job training would take place.
Tyler Chalifoux pitched a basic, user-friendly cellphone he called the Easy Phone, which would be marketed to seniors who have difficulty using complicated smartphones.
Aiden Parman presented his idea, Pinky Promise Solutions, which pays people when they recycle single use plastic bottles.
“Here’s my solution, the pink can,” he said as an image appeared on the screen behind him. “It’s really simple. All you have to do is, you go up to a can, you swipe your pinkie, and then you’re going to deposit your bottle and you’re going to get paid for it. It’s a way to incentivize recycling for all of us.”
Westerly Community Credit Union President Stephen White mentored Parman.
“I think all the ideas have been very innovative, very creative, and what I like most about it is, all these people are thinking big — I mean, really big. It’s interesting the numbers aren’t 50 units here or 1,000 units there. They’re talking in the hundreds of thousands of units, so I think it’s quite amazing to see this happen that way,” he said.
Dodie Ladd, a credit analyst with WCCU, volunteered as Parman’s coach. “We taught them business analyses like what gross profit margin is, what they should look for in numbers,” she said.
Jennifer Rogers was on hand for her son Noah’s H.O.A.D. pitch.
“I actually didn’t know what he was presenting exactly. I knew he had a product to present but I didn’t know what it was,” she said.
Noah said, “I thought we did well.”
Matthew Brady, Joseph Silvia and Maxwell Willett pitched their Personal Observatory, which uses a computer controller to move a telescope to a selected constellation, making it easier for amateur astronomers to navigate the night sky.
“I’ve never presented in front of this many people, because I’ve just been in a classroom,” Willett said. “This taught me great presentation skills, Mrs. Scanapieco taught me good business practice, how to start up a business. We could not have done this without her.”
“It was very interesting,” said Willett’s mother, Christine. "I teach fourth grade and I was thinking ‘How cool would it be for a classroom to have a set-up like that as part of the STEM program in our schools.’”
Judging the presentations were VIBCO President and CEO Karl Wadensten and Regina DeAngelo and Scott Keeley, owners of the intellectual property firm Keeley, DeAngelo LLP. The judges chose Pinky Promise Plastic Solutions as the best pitch of the day.
“This one will be great when you vet it out a little bit more,” Wadensten said. “We’re inundated with plastics, and what do we do?”
The second prize was awarded to H.O.A.D.
Wadensten congratulated all the participating students for their creative thinking.
“You guys are way ahead of the curve, because you took something that was in your brain and in your heart and you put some deep thought into it and put some time into it,” he said. “Don’t stop that kind of creative thinking and passionate thinking.”
The winning team received a prize of $300 and the second prize was $150. The seed money is intended to help the teams further develop their ideas.
Keeley and DeAngelo said they were impressed with the students' business ideas.
“I think every one has done a great job at assessing a problem and coming up with a solution,” he said. “They all had steps toward the execution and some of them even had real prototypes.”
“I myself was inspired by the breadth of their thinking, the breadth of their research and their forward-thinking, “ DeAngelo added. “They weren’t just thinking of things and products, they were thinking about actual problems and solutions.”
Scanapieco said she was proud of the students’ pitches.
“The judges spoke so highly of them and were really able to understand the breadth of work that these students did in such a short time,” she said. “They’re leaving high school with this type of resource and education behind them. We really hope we’ve connected them to community members and that that’s a lifelong benefit to the students.”