Georgia Startups Inspire Middle Schoolers in Calhoun to Dream Big

What’s the secret to getting more students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)? A big key is igniting their imaginations at a younger age and introducing them to future possibilities.

In honor of National Manufacturing Day on October 2, the Center of Innovation for Manufacturing hosted an interactive event at Calhoun Middle School focused on student start-ups and entrepreneurship. The Center brought together three Georgia student start-up companies – Ichor, Gimme Vending, and Wish for WASH – to showcase the creativity, challenges, and success of developing an innovative product and launching that into a viable business.Shark Tank judges 2

“The goal of the day was to show these middle school students that they can become like these entrepreneurs—that they can come up with great ideas that can turn into big business,” said Meredith Britt, project manager for the Center of Innovation for Manufacturing.

When Meredith pitched the idea of the event to the school, Principal Michelle Knight saw it as big opportunity for her students. “I knew that putting our kids in front of these entrepreneurs would show them that they aren’t too young to dream big and ultimately find the same success in Georgia and beyond.”

Lauren Aycock (current Georgia Tech student) of Wish for WASH, Ty Frix (University of Georgia graduate) of Ichor and Cory Hewett (current Georgia Tech student) of Gimme Vending took the reins and shared with students their process in becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Girl on Safichoo toilet

Each entrepreneur gave an overview of their company and discussed how they turned their dreams into reality. The spotlight then turned to the students, who split into groups with each entrepreneur to ideate products that would solve a problem in healthcare, education or the community. At the end, each group took the stage and presented their ideas in a Shark Tank format, having to convince the entrepreneurs why their idea was worth investing in.

Showing that you have confidence in students’ ideas does so much for them, and it’s important to invest in them at this young age and really encourage that entrepreneurial spirit.” – Lauren Aycock, Wish for WASH, LLC.


Students’ ideas ranged from a Bluetooth air charger that eliminates pollution, a smart chip-infused basketball that tracks a player’s progress, facial recognition software that unlocks car doors, and a build-your-own dollhouse that gets girls excited about engineering.Group presenting

“It was awesome to see how ingenious kids are. Their imaginations are unbelievable albeit very applicable,” said Ty. “Several student-generated concepts could actually become successful companies with the right guidance.”

The kids were spurred on to continue dreaming up and developing ideas for solving real-world problems and were encouraged to apply for Georgia Tech’s annual K-12 Inventure Challenge.

“Student involvement in STEM should continue to be an educational focus,” said Cory. “It’s wonderful to see Calhoun City Schools introducing students to activities that promote entrepreneurial thinking and facilitate hands-on learning experiences – an excellent example of the STEM initiatives in Georgia.”

“Entrepreneurship is the future. The economy of old and the jobs that went along with it are being replaced by technology at an ever-increasing rate,” added Ty. “Because of that, unlocking the ingenuity of these kids is critical to the success of future economies.”

For more information on the Center of Innovation for Manufacturing and how they help Georgia manufacturers connect, compete and grow, please click here.

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For more information on Georgia’s public-private business partnerships, contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development at 404.962.4000.

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