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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2019 2 months ago

SunRidge students place second in 'Shark Tank' competition

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The team of six placed second in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s Shark Tank event for a device they designed that blocks harmful radiation from laptops.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Snap. Lap. Relax.

That’s the slogan six SunRidge Middle School students created for a device they designed that blocks harmful radiation emitted from laptops. The device is called SafeLap, which is an attachment that snaps onto the bottom of a laptop to protect its user from radiation.

SafeLap earned its six designers second place in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s Sixth Annual Shark Tank Young Entrepreneur event held April 10. Those students are eighth-grader Donovan Francois, 14, and seventh-graders Natalia Still, 13; Melina Sonntag, 12; Valentina Agudelo, 13; Melanie Toledo, 12; and Katridiushkalee Cintron, 13. They all got involved with the BGCCF Young Entrepreneur program through the Orange County After School Zone program. 

“Our device protects you from the harmful radiation that comes from your (laptop) computer when you put it on your lap,” Agudelo said. “It also wirelessly charges your computer, and it’s comfortable. … We used a special material inside of the protective case that protects the computer from falling if it does, because it’s basically a case that snaps onto the bottom (of a laptop) that protects you from the radiation, and it also protects it from falling down. It has an inner lining with a material that helps protect from the radiation.”

Still said SafeLap would cost about $10 to make, but would be marketed for $64.99. 

The annual Shark Tank competition is the culminating event of the BGCCF Young Entrepreneur Program. Teams representing a total of 14 Orange County middle schools participate in the event, said Michelle Ramos, assistant director of middle-school programs with BGCCF.

“The teams learn about entrepreneurship, develop a business plan and create a prototype of their product or service,” Ramos said. “All of our 14 Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida After School Zone locations participate in the (Young Entrepreneur) program and the culminating (Shark Tank) event. ... The event is broken into two platforms to showcase the members’ businesses. Seven sites are selected to pitch to the judges, and seven sites are selected to showcase their businesses exhibit style in our ‘Entrepreneurship Exhibit.’”

Francois originally suggested the idea of creating a device that protects laptop users from radiation.

“What inspired our idea was that a common problem was that everybody puts their (laptop) computers on their laps, so we thought of what could be a way to try to … stop that harmful (radiation emitted from laptop),” Francois said. “What led me to (the idea) is because now that all the schools are becoming technology schools, and everybody has their laptop on their lap when they’re at home working on homework or just doing different things. I was like, ‘What could be a way to stop the harmful radiation getting into your body without stopping the fun of using your laptop?’”

Emily Hart is a program assistant who oversaw the students throughout the development of SafeLap. She said they worked on the product for about three months. It originally started as a small table but later changed into a laptop attachment.

Agudelo said the SafeLap could appeal to many different types of potential buyers but decided to market specifically to schools and teens.

“A lot of schools are becoming technology (based) schools,” Agudelo said. “We were also thinking of marketing it to big technology companies, like, for example, Apple.”

Toledo added they created a prototype model device that they used to present SafeLap at the Shark Tank competition.

“We built a prototype (of SafeLap),” Toledo said. “It wasn’t fully functioning, but we had our ideas and we knew what it was for and what to use it for.”

Sonntag said they all worked hard on rehearsing the presentation of their product for the competition, and had help from Hart as well as other teachers.

“We would practice in front of Ms. Hart, and she would pretend to be the judge, and other times, we would have other teachers and workers here at the school come and judge us as well,” Sonntag said. “They all asked questions and gave us advice.”

Still added that participating in the Shark Tank competition taught her a lot about entrepreneurship.

“I really learned (about) what it really takes to make a product and all you have to do to put in to make that product good,” Still said. “My favorite part was presenting (SafeLap) to the Sharks, and to see how (they reacted to it). … It was a really good feeling.” 

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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