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Creativity surfaces in Shark Tank at Youth Center

By Skip Vaughn, Rocket editor

The youngsters wore red T-shirts that said, “I survived the FlexFactor® Shark Tank.” Their presentations Friday before a panel of four judges – like the popular television show Shark Tank – culminated STEM Week at the Youth Center. Six groups of youngsters presented the respective product they devised to solve a problem using technology called flexible hybrid electronics. Carrie Buss of Calhoun Community College, the FlexFactor program coordinator, briefed the judges before the presentations in the Youth Center gym. FlexFactor is part of NextFlex, a manufacturing U.S.A. group focused on advanced manufacturing. “And it’s a cooperative agreement with the Department of Defense with the support of Boeing,” Buss said. “And we all share the goal of developing or sparking the kids’ interest in STEM with a particular focus on careers in advanced manufacturing.” STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Members of group No. 1 make their presentation before the FlexFactor Shark Tank judges. They include, from left, Alexis Evans, Gianna McDowell, Hunter Segura and Timothy Ayers. Photo by Skip Vaughn.

The winning group No. 4 includes, from left, Kaleb Loadholt, Jonathan Wayland, Patience Nesbit, Savannah Meyers and Jamin Mason. Photo by Skip Vaughn.

Calhoun has been doing FlexFactor Shark Tank in middle schools and high schools but this was its first such presentation on a military installation. “And we’re really hoping to come back and do some more programming,” Buss said. Before the six groups filed into the gym bleachers, Buss told the judges – Erica Lewis, Cherie Cain, Kamecya Carter and Sheryn Moore–what to expect from the youngsters. “They have some really great ideas. It’s really neat to watch them come up with them,” she said. After the presentations and the judging, first-place medals were awarded to members of the winning group No. 4: Kaleb Loadholt, Jonathan Wayland, Patience Nesbit, Savannah Meyers and Jamin Mason. “It was fun,” Nesbit, 12, said. “And I learned a lot of things.” Jeanine Bailey, Youth Center director, presented participation medals to all the youngsters. Derrick Gould, director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, was among the spectators. “I thought it was a tremendous opportunity,” Bailey said of this STEM camp week. “And it really showcased their imagination and creativity.”

Article originally posted in the July 27, 2022 issue of Redstone Rocket