A ‘Shark Tank’ of their own

Explore Middle School students pursue innovation solutions

Explore Middle School hold their own Shark Tank competition
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Explore Middle School hold their own Shark Tank competition

Using the ABC prime time show “Shark Tank” as a model, students from Explore Middle School recently presented their second quarter projects to administrators at Hudson County Schools of Technology. The presentations all provided solutions to scientific phenomena and required students to thoroughly research, market, and answer questions about their topics.

In this case, the administrators played the role of “sharks” who consider these student projects in a critical but supportive way in order to promote student innovation in regards to some of the most pressing contemporary issues.

The administrator/sharks look at the details of each project as the student attempts to convince them of his or her project’s merits. The top three groups from each grade level presented a promotional video demonstrating how their product works, and made a proposal to a panel of five judges.

Projects included an acid spray that dissolves Styrofoam to prevent putting the material in landfills, a self-filtering water bottle to provide clean drinking water across the globe, and a robot to help prevent the devastating effects of hurricanes.

Acting Superintendent Amy Lin-Rodriguez, retired Superintendent Frank Gargiulo, Director of Planning Dr. Joseph Sirangelo, Business Administrator Nicholas Fargo and CTE Business Partner of the Year Andrew Campbell, President of Eastern Millwork Inc. acted as the investors.

A unique approach to learning

Explore 2000 is a unique kind of middle school within the Jersey City campus of the Hudson County Schools of Technology that uses a project-based method of education.

In Explore 2000, students learn Core Curriculum subjects by developing projects and through intense study of a particular subject, such as the environmental impact of pollution, or how the human body works.

Teachers there are called facilitators because they help students learn and investigate new information. Field trips related to their subjects allow them to seek information beyond the walls of the schools.

Groups of students work as teams, collectively deciding on what subjects to pursue, with each student taking responsibility to gather information in one aspect. When they come back together, they present a larger, more complete picture of the area of study.

“This second quarter project challenged Explore Middle School students to work together and think outside of the box to produce a successful project,” said Lin-Rodriguez. “Their projects were creative and a reflection of their countless hours of hard work and dedication.”

“It is important for us to provide students with fun and interactive ways to implement what they learn in the classroom.” — Amy Lin-Rodriguez

The first place winners — seventh graders Sara Khiri, Eva Ji, Sarosh Aboobakker and Ashley Gordillo — developed an app called “Skuber,” which allows students to track their school bus so they do not miss their ride or get stuck waiting in inclement weather.

“Essentially we saw a problem, that many students were being forced to get to class late, or miss school for missing the bus by just a minute of two,” said Sara Khiri. “We thought creating an app would be an easy way to solve this problem and that’s why we came up with this idea.”

The second place winners were sixth grade students Mikail Oflaz, Nicholas Davies, Sierra Garcia and Claire Murray, who designed the app “Fridge Scan.”

The app allows users to take a photo of the goods in their refrigerator or upload their grocery store receipts to automatically generate meal recipes based on the food they already have. One major goal of this is to avoid food waste; the app actually alerts you as to when food in your fridge is about to go bad.

Coming in third place were eighth grade students Jessica Malek, Joyce Bryant, Adrian DeJesus and Alexander Jiminez for their “Aqua Strips.” The strips, made from common household items, test the pH levels in water to determine if it is safe to drink.

Team “Skuber” will also be awarded an Amazon gift card and will visit Jersey City-based Eastern Millworks Inc. to meet with the company’s engineers.

Teacher Lauren Norcia and Mary Norcia organized the event and helped students develop their projects.

“Our Explore Middle School students presented the ‘sharks’ with nine impressive, high-quality projects, each with a unique solution to global issues ranging from natural disasters to safe drinking water,” said Explore Middle School Principal Allyson Krone. “The effort and enthusiasm our students displayed in their work was remarkable and I congratulate all of our students and faculty advisers on a job well done.”

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be contacted at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com