- This is Poly
by Reese Roaman ’25, Contributing Writer for The Polygon
Poly’s Shark Tank, a new student-run competition, gives young entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their inventions and ideas before a panel of judges and compete for an array of prizes.
Toward the end of the 2021-22 school year, sophomore Sadie Schoenberger ’25 and I were brainstorming ways to create a schoolwide event that would both engage the Poly community and bolster student leadership. At the time, we recognized various efforts from Poly to foster a student-driven campus. Aiming to build off this, Schoenberger and I designed an opportunity for students to make a difference within the Poly campus.
“Influenced by the hit ABC TV show Shark Tank, Reese and I drafted the idea of creating a student-led shark tank with three main objectives,” said Schoenberger. “One, to create a school-wide event that would be both engaging and meaningful; two, to allow student entrepreneurs to express themselves and their creativity, and lastly, to provide students with an opportunity to physically make an impact on Poly with their product or idea.”
We brought the concept to the Director of Student Life Jared Winston, who was an ardent supporter of bringing Shark Tank to life. “I dream of a school where kids develop ideas to help the Poly community and our society,” said Winston. “Giving students a platform to do so is a special way to instill a sense of agency and self-efficiency within our student body. I want students to feel and know they can make a difference.”
The Shark Tank had two categories: Blue Devil and Mainstream Madness. Blue Devil encompassed products that would benefit the Poly community, and Mainstream Madness was for any products that the creator felt would contribute to society at large.
“The objective of adding the Blue Devil category is to allow students to see their idea come to life. On top of that, it encourages students to create an idea that will help people and make a difference at Poly.”Sadie Schoenberger ’25
The winners of the two categories both received $100 of Chef Lou Bucks (money students can spend on Blue Devil Deli food), a Poly Merch Basket, and the Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Award. This award is an honor the student winners can carry on with them throughout their Poly career and include on future applications. The winner of the Blue Devil category will also be given the resources to make their product a reality at Poly.
On November 29, Upper School students gathered during an assembly to witness the first Shark Tank competition. Judges of the competition included student body president Julien Feuerman ’23, an array of faculty judges, senior Jesse Fisher ’23, leader of Poly’s Business and Entrepreneurship Club, along with faculty Douglas Wong, Stephen Bates, and Geeta Vir.
“The Shark Tank was by far one of the most entertaining assemblies we have had in a while,” said freshman Brooke Lawrence ’26. “Everyone was very intrigued and paying attention to the products and student presenters, which rarely occurs at all school assemblies.”
On December 27, the Shark Tank winners were announced during the winter assembly. The winner of the Blue Devil Category was junior Anjali Budhram ’24. Budhram created “Poly Pal,” a student-centered app that offers all the features of Veracross while also combining the student’s personal life, extracurriculars, and academics to create ultra-personal schedules and task lists. The app also offers new innovative features such as monthly updated grading and assignment-linked class chats that allow students and teachers to know when others are struggling.
“I am so excited to have the ability to create my app and use my voice for the bettering of my community,” said Budhram. “I am currently working with Mr. Winston to begin the process of creating ‘Poly Pal,’ and I know that with the support and collaboration from Poly faculty members, administration, and more, ‘Poly Pal’ will be a huge asset to the community.” There is no set timeline yet as to when the app will be released.
Junior Holden Pawlak ’24 won the Mainstream Madness category with “Trax Tax.” Trax Tax offers people an insight into where their taxpayer dollars are going. According to the Trax Tax website, their “mission is to connect people to their taxpayer dollars.” The website demonstrates this through a breakdown of how former mayor Bill de Blasio spends his taxpayer dollars.
Winston shared his excitement for the future of Shark Tank. “I like to think of this as the first annual Poly Shark Tank, that this becomes part of the culture,” he added. “It is a student-driven idea that we have breathed life into. It’s exactly the type of school community I love to be a part of as a school leader.”
Note: This article was originally published on February 16, 2023 on The Polygon website.