The Heart of Stark: Stark Tank competition awards $33,000 for student ideas

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In collaboration with Stark Education Partnership, local business leaders recently awarded $33,000 to middle school, high school and college students participating in Stark Tank – the community’s version of the popular TV show "Shark Tank" – where students pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, aka “sharks.”

This is the third year Stark Education Partnership has organized the competition, and there are now eight sharks who judge and provide each team with constructive feedback.

Ken Brott is the lead shark, along with Dr. Dominic Bagnoli, Mark Fedor, Sue Grabowski, Bill Morgenstern, Todd Pugh, Charles Mullen and Dick Maggiore. In total, $1,200 was awarded at the middle school level, $3,000 to the high school established business competition teams, $7,800 to the high school conceptual competition teams and $21,000 at the collegiate level.

A total of 140 high school students entered the competition with six teams selected to move forward to the established business finals.

Innovistics, a team from Hoover High School, won the competition and $1,500 with the game they developed to improve public speaking. Eight teams from the student entries were also selected to take part in the conceptual competition the next day. The winner of that round was Grayden Clark of East Canton who developed an automated watering system for chickens called FoodMon and was awarded $2,500.

“The opportunity I received to compete in this year’s Stark Tank event was one of the scariest and most exciting things that I’ve done,” said Clark. “The process of speaking to the sharks and explaining my project and the experience I gained from presenting my project at Stark Tank is second to none. It was the first assignment I received that truly felt like a college level assessment that prepared me for the future. Not only did they reward all of their hard-working contestants with money, they also provided me with helpful advice and connections that have already helped me further my career.”

Additionally, 40 college students representing Stark State, Kent State Stark, Walsh, Mount Union and the University of Akron entered the college-level competition. Austin Brooks from Kent State Stark campus and his Automatic Drum Tuner business had the winning pitch and won $10,000. Among other winners were Mount Union's Camden Caizzo, who won $7,500 for his Clean Catch business pitch; University of Akron's Elia Meltzer, who won $2,500 for her Chartam LLC business pitch; and Walsh's Hannah Peterson, who won $1,000 for her Design Herbs business pitch.

“For me, this was an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Brooks. “This competition that the Sharks put on is amazing, not only for the community but the students as well. It encourages growth and innovation while providing us with an opportunity that we otherwise would not have been awarded."

Stark Tank aligns with Stark Education Partnership’s new Strategic Plan for talent development and growing the next generation of business leaders by fostering entrepreneurship. The organization engages and collaborates with education, business, civic and community stakeholders to drive sustainable improvement and innovation to provide all students with education and career success. Learn more about their other initiatives at

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This article originally appeared on The Repository: Hoover High's Innovistics, Grayden Clark win Stark Tank competition