Inventive thinking at Apache Junction Unified School District class

(Photo courtesy of AJUSD)

(Photo courtesy of AJUSD)


Apache Junction High School students in Alec McDaniel’s Advanced Placement U.S. history class combined history with a popular reality television show, “Shark Tank,” to create an engaging method for students to receive an in-depth understanding of the inventions and new technologies of the Industrial Revolution.

“Shark Tank” is an American reality television show on ABC that features a panel of business executives and investors (called ‘Sharks’) who consider offers and listen to pitches from entrepreneurs and small business owners seeking funding for their business, products or services.

“This simulation was created to help my Advanced Placement U.S. history students study the advancements created to allow America to become the advanced industrialized nation it is today,” said Mr. McDaniel, who has taught at the high school, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive, for the past five years. “Students were assigned a topic such as the Cotton Gin, Steel Plow, Telegraph, the Erie Canal, and the Steamboat. Students created a pitch to sell their invention and negotiated with investors (Sharks).

On Nov. 13, Shark Tank members (consisting of Tanya Loftis, AJHS assistant principal; Dr. Krista Anderson, superintendent of AJUSD; Dr. Jennifer Cruz, AJUSD assistant superintendent; and the students’ teacher, Mr. McDaniel) questioned the students about the inventions, the marketplace, the anticipated return-on-investment and more. On other days students could choose to be a member of the Shark Tank and were required to do initial research on the 10 inventions and record their findings and identify two questions per invention that they would ask each investor. Sharks had $10 million to invest in companies/inventions.

Students were able to use pictures, sound, film or props for pitching their inventions, In addition to understanding their topic and its value to society, students had to present a convincing case as to why it would be a sound investment for the Sharks. Each pitch had to state how much money they needed from the Sharks and the percentage of equity that they were willing to give up in return for their investment.

Editor’s note: Sally Marks is a public relations specialist for the Apache Junction Unified School District.

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