Camp Mentors Tomorrow’s Captains of Industry

Program Introduces High School Students to World of Entrepreneurship

July 13, 2009

Titan Technology’s top managers talk excitedly and effusively about their new business. Their days start early, and their schedules are filled with meetings, budgets and business plans.

But they’re not high-powered executives; they’re high school students with an intuition for business who participated in a two-week Innovation Opportunity Camp held in June at the School of Management.

While some teenagers slumber away half of summer and spend the rest playing Xbox, texting and hanging out with friends, these students filled their days learning about angel investors, price-earnings ratios, supply and demand, teamwork and marketing.

One student even took a DART train and two buses every day to get to camp.

Twenty-three high school students from the Dallas area, Oklahoma and Kansas attended the camp, sponsored by the university’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) and partially underwritten by a grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation.

“Before this camp, I always wondered how to get started with a business,” said Glenda Castro, a junior at the Harmony Science Academy in Dallas. “Now I feel pretty confident about making a pitch, and I know I want to be an entrepreneur.”

After hearing several student teams present their ideas, Chuck McCoy, director of the North Texas Angel Network, said jokingly, “Can you age quickly? The world needs you.”

Throughout the camp, the students worked in teams under the direction of UT Dallas student mentors to develop a business idea, polish their presentation skills and pitch the ideas to a panel of judges in an “elevator pitch” competition and a full business idea competition.

Pitching in an elevator

Funding is essential to the startup of most businesses, and many investors believe that entrepreneurs should be able to describe their business ideas within the span of a one-minute elevator ride. To perfect a product sales pitch, each camper worked on an “elevator speech” that included such key elements as their company’s name, the problem their product solved, how it provided a better solution than any alternatives and the kind of customer they were targeting.

Instruction included pitfalls the pitchmen were to avoid, such as “no cussing,” said camper Nick Wassmer of Shawnee Mission, Kan., and “no ‘uhms, likes or buts.’”

The would-be entrepreneurs also watched infomercials “for inspiration,” added Wassmer, working on behalf of the fictitious – and facetiously named – False Advertising. The students were judged on content and delivery – how clear, enthusiastic and compelling their presentations were – and the overall impression each speech made.

At one point an enthusiastic Wassmer leapt atop a table to endorse his team’s product, the Indoor Product Locator – a GPS-style system for self-contained settings like malls.

Announcing “I am not going to be jumping on any tables,” a more soft-spoken Elise Pedigo of Lovejoy (Texas) High School opened her final pitch for Titan Technology. Pedigo clearly won points by thoroughly covering all the key message elements. Still, her model-of-decorum delivery for the Atlas Universal Translator, which she described as a portable, digital language decipherer aimed at middle- to upper-class travelers, culminated in a high-energy close. “It’s going to be awesome!” she gushed.

 

Business Idea Competition

Ranging from “Shox,” socks with changeable insoles to a portable device to track personal items, the campers’ products proved to be shining examples of creative thinking. Drawing on their newly acquired knowhow, each of the five teams gave a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to judges that outlined their businesses’ goals, market opportunity, production costs and return on investments. They also identified competitors and described their marketing plans.

“I go to the mall with my hypothetical girlfriend. The problem is I get lost, and I don’t have a clue where Victoria Secret is …” Louis Lu, a junior at Plano west Senior High School, said as he opened the presentation for False Advertising’s Indoor Product Locator.

The judges sang praises. “I like the confidence, enthusiasm and passion you have about what you’re doing. When you’re selling, that enthusiasm will carry you through,” one of the judges, Robert Robb, IIE’s director of venture development, said.

In the end, Titan Technology’s Atlas Global Translator won the judges’ top vote, earning each of the four team members $75 each.

“The kids did a fantastic job. They were all really good and had some great ideas. When the presentations were finished, the judges took an hour and a half to decide the winners. It was a really, really tough decision,” said Dr. Joseph Picken, IIE executive director.


Media Contact: Jill Glass or Kris Imherr, UT Dallas, (972) 883-5989, jglass@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Twenty-three high school students from the Dallas area, Oklahoma and Kansas attended the camp, sponsored by the university’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) and partially underwritten by a grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation.

 

 

Elevator Pitch Winners

1st place – Nick Wassmer, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, Kansas City, Kan.

2nd place – Louis Lu, a junior at Plano West Senior High School

3rd place – (Tie) Tony Lian, a senior at Plano Senior High School; and Elise Pedigo, a senior at Lovejoy High School

 

 

Business Idea
Competition Winners

1st place – Titan Technology, Atlas Global Translator: Meichen Ge, Plano Senior High School; Claudia Lopez Romo, Plano East Senior High School; Thomas Lo, Plano West Senior High School; and Elise Pedigo, Lovejoy High School

2nd place – Smart Fellas, Shox: Stephanie Rodriguez, Harmony Science Academy; Andrea Gibson, J.J. Pearce High School; Raymond Hung, Plano West Senior High School; Jeremy Chang, Plano East Senior High School; and Kalissa Armstrong, David Carter High School

3rd place – Decepticorp (Eagle GPS Tracker to protect personal mobile devices from theft): Alana Hopper, Casady School; Kevin Chiou, Plano West Senior High School; Daniel Borejdo, Greenhill High School; Glenda Castro, Harmony Science Academy; and Lilleat McClendon, Plano East Senior High School

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