Young innovators swim with sharks

HARLINGEN — “Do you have tired legs? We have a solution! Sock it to the Pain!”

That video clip by three young innovators from Crockett Elementary School — Itzel Ruiz, Antoinette Juarez and Frida Ramirez — started out their presentation before a panel of judges yesterday morning.

The judges spent about three hours listening to presentations by 16 teams from elementary schools in the Harlingen district.

“They get better and better,” said Richard Galvan, owner and CEO of G5 Internet Services. This is the third year he’s served as judge for the event, titled, “HCISD Little Innovators.”

“I think because they had a little bit more time, their thought process is definitely there,” he said. “The inventions and the thoughts and the ideas are great and they’re pretty fantastic. I think there’s a lot more practicality in that.”

HCISD Little Innovators is a sort of scaled down version of the popular TV show “Shark Tank.” The teams, made up of two or three fifth graders, presented their projects. Then they answered questions about cost/benefit, marketing, demand and other practical business matters.

“We are proud to introduce to you our product, Screen Saver,” announced Matthias Meneses, 10, a fifth grader at Sam Houston Elementary.

“You might think it’s about computers or iPads or a phone, but you are incorrect,” Matthias continued. “It’s way more to save lives. It’s something that can save kids from intruders for the lockdowns by basically making a fake wall and they can hide in it.”

“It’s protecting our future, it’s quick and safe,” finished Jaylun Bravo, 10, a fifth grader at Sam Houston.

He then passed to Ezzie Cortez, 11.

“The Screen Saver, there’s no more hiding under desks,” Ezzie said. “There’s an air vent inside. The teacher will press the button and the Screen Saver will open up. The little kids will get inside along with the teacher inside.”

The event was going very well, said Jessica Hruska, coordinator of instructional technology and special projects for the Harlingen district.

“The kids are amazing,” she said. “They’re really thinking outside the box. There are no limitations with them and I think every year we see a little bit more of that.”

The purpose of the event is to provide a real world, authentic learning experience for the kids as outlined in the district’s Strategic Plan. That plan includes teaching the four Cs: creativity, communication, critical thinking and communication, and Little Innovators does just that, Hruska said.

“It’s a culminating product incorporating all of those skills,” she said.

The team from Crockett gave thorough details about its sock complete with battery-powered massager to relieve tired legs, migraines, shin splints and other painful conditions.

“We’re asking for a $5,000 initial investment and in return we will give you 10 percent of our company,” said Itzel. “We came up with this idea after surveying our campus and finding out that there was a need for this type of product.”

“In doing this research,” continued Antoinette, “I came across acupuncture points and found out there are certain parts of the body that can help not only relieve tired legs but migraine headaches and dizziness.”

Frida then explained the economic side of it.

“Each sock that is made, we make a $30 profit,” she said. “With your initial investment we are able to produce 125 pairs of socks. You stand to make a total of $875 in the first month alone.”

Judges were impressed with the presentations.

“These kids have so many innovative ideas, so many creative projects,” said Maru De La Paz, a member of the business development team at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

“The kids, their introductions are very on point,” she said. “The projects are very well put together.”

Perhaps these young innovators, brainstorming ideas and forming practical solutions, will follow the leaders they look to for support and inspiration.