Grade 8 Entrepreneurs Pitch Their Big Ideas in the Tartan Tank

In a showcase of ingenuity and creative problem-solving, 13 Middle School students pitched their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of judges during an inspiring “Tartan Tank Demo Night” in McGregor Family Theater—an event that had all the drama of a hit TV show.

Tartan Tank is a grade 8 science program started by teacher Eric Harrington that builds entrepreneurial skills and encourages the creation of problem-solving ideas through the engineering design thinking process. Grade 8's capstone assignment is a science project, and students had the choice of a traditional project using the scientific method, or an entrepreneurial-based project using design thinking. The entrepreneurial projects were considered for the Tartan Tank.

Seven teams were chosen as finalists, and pitched their innovation to a panel of judges with prominent entrepreneurial backgrounds.

“The students did a wonderful job of not only coming up with solutions to everyday challenges in the world, but articulating their innovation in front of an audience and answering pointed questions from expert judges,” Mr. Harrington said. “I’m so proud of all their hard work, and it’s inspiring to see so many great ideas rooted in real-world needs.”

St. Margaret’s aspirational Strategic Plan calls for further development of innovative programs on campus, including entrepreneurial studies, experiential learning and community partnerships. Tartan Tank, now in its fourth year, has emerged as a shining combination of these initiatives.

“Tartan Tank is a vivid example of why these strategic priorities are so important to St. Margaret’s and our students,” said Ryan Dahlem, assistant head of school for strategic initiatives. “Seeing young Tartans at work on innovative solutions that develop their creativity and problem-solving skills, accelerated by guidance from alumni and community entrepreneurs, fosters a mindset that they can make an impact on this world – starting now.”

This year’s competition featured a partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and UCI’s groundbreaking Applied Innovation lab offered Tartan Tank winners an invitation into its Wayfinder Incubator--a highly selective program that provides support and access to resources and a network to help further develop ideas.

Initially, two spots were offered. But Applied Innovation Associate Director Carolyn Stephens, a St. Margaret’s parent and one of the Tartan Tank judges, was so impressed by the presentations that she immediately chose to offer spots to four different St. Margaret’s projects.

The projects invited into the Wayfinder Incubator included:
  • SwipeRescue, a project conceptualized by Maddie Milo, Mary Smith and Sasha Kuljis as an app that makes the adoption of rescue pets more efficient and streamlined. SwipeRescue also was named the grand prize winner of the Tartan Tank.
  • BlazeRunner, a project created by Parisa Khashayar, which was pitched as a “FitBit for firefighters.” It worked as a wristband with multiple sensors to better monitor the health and safety of first responders. BlazeRunner also won the Tartan Tank’s innovation prize, and previously won best overall project at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair.
  • Duble, a product by Cyrus Shirangi, Josh Buckanavage and Bobby Springer, conceptualized a radical redesign of an everyday toothbrush to be faster and easier for kids to use.
  • Bloo, a project by Gianna Montesano, Olivia Ostlund and Caroline Sele, is an app that helps identify harmful everyday chemicals that people are putting in their bodies through food and cosmetics.
In addition, Waterloop, a project by Tyler Matthews that offered a solution to decrease water consumption, received the Tartan Tank’s J. Newman Design Award. The other finalists that pitched their product was B.A.U.S.E. by Thalia Pollard, a blind spot detection and lane change assistance product for bicyclists, and Cryptosharks by Charles Whiting, which featured an innovative way to save dwindling shark populations in the world’s oceans through a cryptocurrency game.

Grade 8 student Holiday Jones emceed the event. After each team presented, they answered questions from the three judges: Dr. Stephens, David Perry, a St. Margaret’s trustee and longtime video game innovator, and Rob Healy, a St. Margaret’s parent and managing partner at L Squared Capital Partners.

Demo Night was the culmination of a full day of Tartan Tank activities. Earlier, all grade 8 students displayed their Tartan Tank projects in the Middle School courtyard, pitching their idea and answering questions from students, faculty and staff. For the finalists, it was a last chance to practice their presentation before the big night.

Mr. Harrington organized demo night and the showcase in partnership with St. Margaret’s alumnus Umar Bajwa ’05, himself an entrepreneur. Throughout the unit, students had the opportunity to build their skills through personal coaching with St. Margaret’s alumni, guest speakers and a field trip to UCI Applied Innovation to see entrepreneurship in action.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California