FORT SMITH — A Trinity Junior High School student pitched the idea of a COVID-related app and earned a top spot in the Fort Smith School District’s Peak Innovation Center 2020 Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition in November.
In his YouTube presentation for the competition, ninth-grader Carson Lane proposed a Chromebook app for school contact tracing.
“Using Bluetooth, it will constantly track which students are within 6 feet of each other and produce a daily heat map showing potential contact with any student who has tested positive for COVID-19,” he said in his pitch. “Administrators can push the app out to school Chromebooks, which are identified for each student by serial number.”
Lane said his goal was to find a solution to a current problem that everyone had to deal with, and in November the virus was near its peak.
Jeff Hines, who teaches technology and careers at Trinity, said the pitch “was kind of like the TV Show ‘Shark Tank.’ One reason why the judges liked Carson’s idea was because it was a technology solution that could be used by schools.”
Hines, a retired vice president of ABB Ltd./Baldor Electric, uses his business experience to challenge students to adapt technology to real-life career goals. In his Business Applications II classes, he had students make restaurant business plans that were judged by the management team of K-MAC Enterprises, a restaurant operator. One of his recent graduates, Hayley Hadley, developed a business plan and opened Hummingbird Boutique, co-owned with her parents.
For his third-place finish, Lane received a $500 scholarship to the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. The contact tracing app was a proposal, and Lane has no immediate plans to develop it.
Trinity graduates took the top two places in the competition. Anna Cobb, Trinity Class of 2019, earned first place and a $2,000 scholarship for a proposal for The Fort App. Austin Hughes, also Class of 2019, came in second with his proposal for the ViVi app. Two teams of Trinity eighth-graders placed in the top 10.
In response to the public school district’s reconfiguration, Trinity will become a middle school this fall, serving grades 6-8.
Trinity’s strong technology program will put students in a good position to take advantage of all the educational opportunities offered by the district’s Peak Innovation Center, opening in August. The high school program will teach career and academic tracks with the opportunity to be taught by industry leaders using state-of-the-art equipment. Classes will be offered in advanced manufacturing, health care sciences, information technology and visual arts, including specialties such as robotic automation and unmanned aerial systems. In the health care sciences curriculum, students will be able to graduate from high school as licensed practical nurses and emergency medical technicians.
“Although the details haven’t been fully worked out, students will be transported from high school to access the specialized classes at Peak,” Hines said.
Dr. Gary Udouj Jr., director of Peak Innovation Center, said the school district has always fostered entrepreneurship.
“The judges were so impressed with the entrepreneurial ideas and spirit from Trinity student Carson Lane and the other Trinity students and graduates. Mr. Hines does a fantastic job preparing students for future careers and fostering creativity … We added a Marketing Business Enterprise class this year that teaches students the skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs in their communities as well as in the global marketplace, and we partner with local entrepreneurs to give our students opportunities for work-based learning and mentorship.”
Lane, who admits to having an interest in developing apps but little experience in doing so, feels fortunate to have been mentored by Hines and is looking forward to high school.
“My career goal right now is to get as much AP credit as I can because I’d really like to have a scholarship,” he said.
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