Local Shark Tanker’s Go Before the Board

Creativity to cope with aging brings out local entrepreneurs.

When a product or service idea comes to mind, forget about the patent office or a rich relative to back it, bring it up to the sharks on the hit reality show “Shark Tank.” Fairfax County has its own shark program for local entrepreneurs and a few of these students took their product to a Board of Supervisors meeting as part of the Fairfax County Shark Tank Challenge hosted by Department of Family Services Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, Neighborhood & Community Services, George Mason’s Kellar Institute, Fairfax County Public Schools, and INTEGRITYOne Partners.

These entrepreneurs from Chantilly High School, Oakton High School, and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology all had products aimed at the senior population seeking to age in place. Student innovations included an app interface specialized for visual and audio impairment for medication access; an interactive web application to incentivize physical activity and creative activity; and the winning team from Chantilly, “AutoTrem,” created a walker that can move automatically, causing less stress on the user’s muscles and allowing them to gradually gain their strength and confidence back.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) was the county sponsor for these “sharks.” Herrity chairs the Fairfax County Older Adults Committee that focuses on helping residents age in place, so he was supportive of the students and their ideas. 

"This is one of my favorite events each year because our bright, young students get to engage in this intergenerational challenge where they learn about the challenges our older adults face and come up with solutions to help them. I was truly impressed with the innovations the students developed and their presentations at the Shark Tank Challenge," Herrity said.

At the meeting, the Board presented plaques honoring the teams as well as individual certificates. INTEGRITYOne Partners provided monetary awards for the winning students, totaling $5,750. Prior to recognizing the students at the Board of Supervisors meeting, students and their families were invited to attend a reception honoring their innovations. Judges, members of the Board of Supervisors, as well as TJHSST Principal Ann Bonitatibus and Springfield School Board member Laura Jane Cohen were in attendance.

“These students get to go in front of business leaders who challenge them on how their proposed technology could be marketed and sold as well as produced,” Herrity said. “We have had at least one of the winning teams apply for a patent for their technology,” he added.

Herrity turned it into a Board matter to recognize these Shark Tank winners. The Fairfax County High School Student Shark Tank Challenge competition started in 2015 and returned this year after being halted for two years by the pandemic.

Sharks with Financial Fins

 The original "Shark Tank," is a show on ABC that features tough, self-made, multimillionaire and billionaire tycoons who continue their search to invest in the best businesses and products that America has to offer. On the show, there are explanations, arguments and tears setting the stage for good reality show. Products from the show vary widely from edibles, and each shark tastes a sample, or services and everything has a twist that provides a surprise.

Springfield had a real Shark Tank success recently when Nahum Jeannot started "Go Oats," in the winter of 2021 and presented the breakfast food to the Sharks, getting support from Barbara Corcoran, a food shark, who provided a financial backing.

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