Innovation will lead us into the future, and sometimes the greatest idea can come from the youngest minds, according to Shefali Breitbach.
Breitbach, a West Ranch High School junior, founded Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Competition in her sophomore year. It’s a competition meant to challenge elementary school students to create a product or service for either Central Park, Six Flags Magic Mountain or Main Street in Newhall.
“The point of the competition was to get students to think, to innovate, and be creative,” Breitbach said. “That’s kind of what entrepreneurship is about.”
TEC was modeled after a few competitions Breitbach submitted projects for. Those competitions made her think there wasn’t anything like that for elementary school kids, who are some of the most creative and innovative people, she added.
According to Breitbach, the competition was first opened to students of Stevenson Ranch Elementary School, where she attended. This year, with help from Chad Rose, the learning recovery and instructional technology support administrator for the Newhall School District, TEC went districtwide and was hosted at NSD’s office.
Approximately 30 students across 10 NSD elementary schools participated in TEC, Breitbach said.
“This is a great program. I am looking forward to this program and any other programs for our children to participate in,” Rose said.
It’s important to challenge students and inspire students in ways to improve, Rose added.
Danielle Hwang, a West Ranch High School junior who helped Breitbach organize TEC, noted this year’s student winners came up with phenomenal projects. The winner received a drone.
“The grand prize winner was in the Six Flags category. He [the student] created a project that he named it, something like, ‘Poly the Robot,’” Hwang said.
According to Hwang, the student was thinking about preventing young park goers from choking on the rides, if they had gum. The robot would dispose of the gum by recycling it and turning it into pins.
Another project or service, “The Giving Tree of Central Park,” was created by a young girl, Hwang said. Park goers who didn’t bring their own equipment to play at the park could rent out equipment and return it before they left.
According to Breitbach, her team judged each project on three criteria: feasibility, creativity and approach. The students also presented their ideas to NSD’s governing board.
“Growing up in a traditional education, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on creativity,” Breitbach said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on math, English, but some kids think more creatively. I wanted to give an opportunity to those students to express themselves where they might not usually get to in a traditional science fair.”
Next time they host Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Competition, Breitbach said, her team will change it up. They hope to include a preliminary level then select the top submissions to compete at the district competition.
Breitbach said she couldn’t have organized TEC without the help of her friends Caroline Dolce, Samantha Amorsolo and Hwang; and Rose, who played a pivotal role in making TEC a district-wide competition.
“I would really encourage other high school students to step out of their comfort zone and take on a project like this and be impactful in their community, other than traditional ways of community service such as volunteering,” Breitbach said.