Desert Garden Montessori eighth-graders Anna Buchmann and Katie Ladewig won the top prize in a contest for high school entrepreneurs and walked away with $5,000.
Special to AFN

When it comes to competing as entrepreneurs, high school students don’t have a thing on eighth-graders at Desert Garden Montessori in Ahwatukee.

Four Desert Garden Montessori students took the top two awards recently in a national competition, defeating 21 high school finalists and 1,500 of their peers in a business incubator’s contest focusing on innovative ideas from young students

Seed Spot’s High School Demo Day attracted students from Virginia, New Jersey and Arizona for a daylong event in which participants were mentored by local investors and entrepreneurs.

Seed Spot is a nonprofit that calls itself “dedicated to supporting all social entrepreneurs creating a product, service or technology that improves lives or makes the world a better place. We support entrepreneurs by surrounding them with the right access to resources, mentors, business fundamentals, community partners, capital sources and anything they need to succeed.”

Anna Buchmann and Katie Ludwig won the $5,000 Cisco Innovation Challenge with a proposal for a device they call TempTrac, which is designed for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to detect body temperature using a system that helps prevent heatstroke.

“Unlike other products on the market, this device predicts warning signs through artificial intelligence and alerts the user before it is too late,” a spokeswoman for the Ahwatukee school said.

Ember Perez and Bella Pio took the $3,000 second-place award with their invention, called Safe Soles.

That venture focused on helping parents locate missing children through a gel-shoe insert with tracking technology. “Unlike other wearable devices that are easy to see or remove, the covert nature of this device makes it difficult to know a child is wearing a tracking device,” the spokeswoman explained.

The startup community in Arizona rallied with additional prizes, including summer office space from Workuity, one-on-one mentorship with leaders from EY and GoDaddy and the opportunity to prototype and learn additional skills at the University of Advanced Technology.

The four Desert Garden Montessori students and their counterparts have been working on their projects for a year.

Working in two-person teams, they explored how to interview potential customers, validate the demand, properly size a market, project cost and revenues, measure impact and, “most importantly change the world for the better,” Seed Spot said.

The student program was adapted from Seed Spot’s adult incubator, which has raised $8.4 million in capital for 288 ventures.

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