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Thursday, September 21, 2023
Sept. 21, 2023

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Gig Harbor fifth-grader swims to top of ‘Shark Tank’


GIG HARBOR — Nine students at Pioneer Elementary entered the “Shark Tank” on May 5, and the sharks bit at a product to keep disabled pets happy.

All 161 fourth- and fifth-graders at Pioneer participated in a weeklong unit in Innovation on 3D Printing and Design.

Pioneer is the only STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) project-based learning school in the Peninsula School District.

The unit was taught by Justin Towners, the school’s innovation specialist.

Students used Tinkercad, a free web app for computer-assisted design to create a prototype of an invention or innovation to solve real-world problems.

“This software allows students to plan out their thinking in a 3D way, even if they are not planning on printing their design with a 3D printer,” Towner told the Gateway.

Students had a few requirements when it came to their creations.

Each invention or innovation needed to be a modification of something that already exists or something brand new — no magic.

“They had to be able to create something they could explain through engineering and science,” Towner said.

All 161 students who created prototypes received a 3D print of their designs from the Pioneer 3D printers.

Towner gave his students the option to enter their prototypes into Pioneer’s second annual “Shark Tank” competition, and 29 students took on the challenge.

The event mimicked the reality TV show where entrepreneurs present their business plans to a panel of potential investors.

Students and staff voted for their favorite creations via a Google doc sent out by Towner. The top five creations advanced to the “Shark Tank” on May 5, where they presented their prototypes in front of the entire school and six sharks (the judges).

Sharks were Krestin Bahr, PSD superintendent; Natalie Wimberly, PSD school board president; John Savage, owner of Egnyte Gig Harbor; Diego Opalka, application engineer at Egnyte; Mike Schmid, head of publishing at Rec Room and a Pioneer dad; and Amy Flippo, who is a Realtor, owner of Harbor Nest and Pioneer mom.

At the end of the competition, the sharks crowned Jeremy N., a fifth-grader at Pioneer, innovator of the year for his invention, Pet Car.

Pet Car is a motorized car for injured and disabled pets. Pets can get inside the car and move around the house.

“Pets need to be happy, and pet car helps with that,” Jeremy N. said in front of the school. “Pets like to move around the house and not stay in one spot.”

He suggested the car only be used for dogs, cats and possibly birds.

Jeremy N. said he would produce three different Pet Car sizes: small ($349), medium ($549) and large ($749).

The car could be controlled by the pet or by the owner with an app.

Pet Car has sensors and cameras that, combined with the pets head movement, tell the car to move in the desired direction.

He told the audience to think of Pet Car like the robotic vacuum, Roomba, moving around the house, avoiding bumping into things.

The car moves about the same speed as your walking pet.

The powerful motor will allow the car to go over small bumps, Jeremy N. said.

Jeremy N. build a replica to show the sharks. He used a remote control car he had at home, added walls to the sides and placed a stuffed animal inside. The model was just a bit smaller than the small size Pet Car customers could purchase.

Bahr was curious if she could take Pet Car to dog parks.

“It’s not exactly made for taking to a dog park,” Jeremy N. replied. “It doesn’t have much suspension, so it would just bounce, and your pet wouldn’t like that.”

Jeremy N. told the Gateway he couldn’t believe it when he was named innovator of the year.

He felt happy and excited, he said.

Other students entered the “Shark Tank” with a variety of products.

The finalists all screen-shotted their prototypes from Tinkercad and dropped the images into iMovie to create a marketing trailer played at the assembly after their pitch.

In second place was Katy S. and Abigail G., who created a Portable Utensil Weight for people who may experiences shakiness or tremors. You can attach the weight to any utensil instead of having to carry around an entire weighted utensil pack.

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In third place was Magnet Soccer Ball created by Piper S. and Sydney A.

They combined science and soccer by placing magnets inside a soccer ball and the bottom of cleats to create a way to still pass at times when you might not have another person to play with. If you were to place your foot on the ground, magnetic connection would be lost. But when you lift it back up the ball would come back to you, they said.

Quinn G. came in fourth place with her Dog Treat Pack, a backpack for pet owners that holds all your pet treats, water and toys allowing you to be hands free when out with your pet.

Ella J., Penelope B., and Ellia C. placed fifth. They created Flower Pot Key Hider, a flower pot with a secret compartment to hide a house key, so you never have to worry about getting locked out.

Each finalist got to 3D print larger prototypes that take five to seven hours, Towner said.

Pioneer had a handful of sponsors for the event including Ocean 5, Big Nate’s Trading Cards, Rec Room, and Round Table Pizza, which all donated prizes for the finalists.