‘Thrown to the Wolves’ is New Innovation Competition Open to High School Students

JONESBORO – The Delta Center for Economic Development, based at Arkansas State University, is announcing A-State’s first innovation competition for high school students.

With a concept based on the popular “Shark Tank” television series, “Thrown to the Wolves” is a project-based learning challenge.

“This exciting program is designed to help students develop and demonstrate their creativity, collaboration and communication skills,” explained Andrea Allen, executive director of the Delta Center. “A-State will provide competitors and their teacher-sponsors with a curriculum and access to university faculty, staff and facilities for additional mentorship and support.”

Student teams who enter the competition will develop an innovative project as an entrepreneur, and prepare a pitch and business/marketing campaign for the innovation.

The participating schools and students will compete for cash, scholarships, membership in A-State Innovate, a marketing package mentoring session, patent help, prototype development and manufacturing advice.

High school sophomores, juniors or seniors from DCED’s 12-county University Center program operating region are eligible to enter. The counties are Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett, Randolph, Sharp and St. Francis counties. The sponsor of the student team must be a certified teacher currently employed by their school.

“A-State faculty will critique the initial proposal submitted by each student team,” Allen added. “Faculty and the Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) will host Zoom sessions about developing a pitch, developing a business plan, and other helpful topics.

Machining and woodworking facilities at The Shop and The Garage on the A-State campus will host weekend and weekday open houses so participants can use equipment for developing their prototypes.

The competition takes place in two rounds, the preliminary and the final. The preliminary, from Sept. 26 through Nov. 5, is at the school level, during which the students will prepare a three-minute video pitch for their idea, along with a business/marketing plan. Faculty and staff can assist the schools with developing evaluation forms and rubrics. Each school will judge submissions, using in-house judges, and choose one winner to forward to the final round.

“The final round will be held in the Reng Student Union Auditorium at A-State Saturday, Nov. 19,” Allen also said. “Winners from the school-level competitions will present their pitch, prototype and marketing plan to the judges in front of a live audience, and awards will be presented for first, second and third place.

Interested student teams will need to complete the Thrown to the Wolves entry form and submit it to dced@AState.edu by Friday, Sept. 9. The form will include a description of the business idea and its unique features, along with a description of the problem to be solved and the value to the product consumer. The program guide is available online.

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