It starts with a “bug me” list.
Everyone has these pet peeves — the everyday things that irritate and make us wonder if there is a better way.
Now students at Baker High School are turning those annoyances into real-life solutions.
The program is called INCubator
edu. It is the first such program to be offered in Oregon, said Toni Zikmund, who teaches business classes at BHS.
She heard about the program at a conference in San Antonio, Texas, and saw real examples of what students have created.
For example, a team from Arlington Heights, Illinois, created a Hoodie Hoop to help rethread hoodie ties that come out in the wash.
Eight students signed up for the year-long class at BHS. To begin, they form those bug me lists and narrow it down to one project. At the end of the first semester, team members present their idea — their “Most Valuable Product” — to a board of advisers in search of funding to build a prototype.
The second semester is spent designing the product and creating a marketing plan. The class culminates with a pitch to the advisory board for start-up funding.
“They’ll do a whole Shark Tank-type pitch that night,” Zikmund said. “It’ll be a big event.”
The students are divided into four teams. Throughout the year, Zikmund provides business-centered lessons on accounting, marketing, material supplies, and patent law. Sixteen of the lessons are designed to be taught by coaches from the community, such as accountants and lawyers.
Community members also serve as mentors who meet with the teams every two weeks. Zikmund still needs one or two mentors willing to work with the students.
“They really push working with your community and bringing in the experts,” Zikmund said of the program. “We’re looking for people to help us build these entrepreneurs and help them be successful.”
Bryan Tweit is the program’s “community champion.” Tweit runs the business mentorship program Launch Pad Baker. In his role with Incubatoredu he contacted business owners to recruit coaches and mentors.
“There are a lot of people who can bring a lot to the table,” Tweit said.
He sees value in this program that inspires the next generation of workforce.
“The value it gives them later on is priceless,” he said. “Imagine if your kids had the mindset of a business owner. Think of how valuable that is as a person.”
He has filled one of the mentor roles. Working with the students, he said, requires the ability to give advice but let them find their own way.
“To never give them the answer but direct them to find the answer,” he said.
Mentors also help the teams work through apparent roadblocks.
“Realizing that walls aren’t cliffs — there’s another path,” he said.
Here is a look at the product ideas that are in the works:
Hunter Long has spent quite a bit of time with chemistry teacher Robert Barrington to figure out his product, a fire-suppression foam that activates at 120 degrees Celsius.
“Which is the temperature of fire,” Long said.
In his research, Long interviewed Baker City Fire Chief John Clark.
“He said half the fires he sees on the interstate are on semis,” Long said.
His initial target market will be semi-trucks.
“It’s a market that needs the product rather than wants it,” he said.
The product will contain both baking soda and propionic acid that are separated by a barrier that melts at extreme heat. The two substances mix to create a foam that fills the engine cavity and smothers the fire.
He still has to do some math to determine the proper proportions.
The team of Hayden Owen, Spencer Smith and Nico Helmreich have devised a harness system that combats the annoyance of a rifle slipping off one shoulder while hunting.
Existing systems, they said, consist of one strap which means one hand is always occupied by steadying the gun.
“It distributes the weight evenly as well as frees up hands,” Owen said. “It’s quick, convenient and comfortable.”
Their design includes a quick-release buckle.
“Softer than normal plastic so the click is quieter,” Smith said.
To determine their market the team turned to state departments of fish and wildlife. They found that 13.7 million people bought hunting licenses, and of those, 11.6 million hunt big game.
They narrowed their target audience to 2,000 hunters in Oregon and Idaho.
They’ve named their idea HSN Straps (the initials of their first names). Their next plan is to work with Baker Technical Institute’s 3-D printing program to build a prototype.
“They’ve done their research,” said Lea Gettle, the team’s mentor.
Eric Bunarith and Taya Riley decided to explore the world of tea infusers — a bottle insert made for loose-leaf tea.
Their irritation is that infusers are specific to one type of bottle. They are creating a universal design that can fit a variety of bottles.
Eco-friendly hygiene items
Gracie Farber and Payton Jones are working on packaging ideas that are more friendly to the environment. Their ideas include refills on liquids such as shampoo, conditioner and face wash at a discounted price.