Teen Titans: Westfield High School entrepreneurs showcase their inventions


Young entrepreneurs from Westfield High School showcased their ideas-turned-inventions at the April 18 Westfield Chamber of Commerce Innovation Luncheon.

WHS educator John Moore teaches entrepreneurship and business at the high school. Moore sponsors the innovation competition, where students show off their prototypes seeking funding to bring their inventions to the next step.

“The main focus is, I don’t want to have complainers in the world,” Moore said. “We want kids to look at problems as opportunities.”

Moore said the students begin the school year with projects designed to spark ideas for how to fix the types of problems they or their family members might face daily.

“They go through the process, here is a solution. Is it something that we can create a business around? So, they do market research to see if the problem is really a problem other than just in their world,” Moore said. “If it is, they start to look at how to get money to actually solve this problem, then they start the process to create it. All the kids (in the competition) have working prototypes. Some of them are even ready to launch.”

WHS innovation charlotte and ellen
WHS entrepreneur students Charlotte Willhite and Ellen Volz developed A La Bark, a vending machine for dog treats. (Photos by Marney Simon)

The result is a classroom full of inventions. Throughout the school year, the students engage in all aspects of turning those inventions from ideas on paper to workable prototypes, including creating and implementing plans for market research, cost breakdowns, revenue models, advertising and marketing budgets, allocations for labor and inventory needs. They then make a pitch to potential investors similar to the popular reality show “Shark Tank.”

Of the 150 students in the entrepreneurship pathway, 65 inventions were entered into this year’s competition. After three initial rounds at the high school, the top 15 were showcased at the Chamber luncheon. Inventions this year ranged from mobile applications to vending machines for dogs to a wireless umpire clicker.

Juniors Nick Gerow and C.J. Fox and sophomore Ryan Cesare won the $1,000 top prize at the contest with their invention the Fridge Bridge, a straw-like tube that attaches to the water dispenser of a refrigerator and makes it easier to fill water bottles.

“We’re all athletes, and we all experience this problem every day,” Gerow said. “We just knew there was an easier way and we worked on building that.”

The trio said the class has given them the confidence to try something new.

“What I like the most about class is the freedom to do whatever you want and do something that is useful outside of the classroom in the real world,” Gerow said.

Fox said the class extends beyond the school walls.

“It really benefits us in the future,” Fox said. “It’s not just a grade, it’s more about helping us pursue what we want to and what we want to be in the future.”

All three said they will likely pursue development of their project again next year, and maybe beyond.

“I have liked business in general since a young age,” Cesare said. “I’ve always been interested in the field of entrepreneurship as well, just being in the class.”

Moore said the students work with each other to make sure that their ideas are realistic.

“One of the nice things about working with high school kids is that they are very honest,” Moore said. “They’ll all poke holes in each other’s products. At the beginning of the year, it can be very frustrating but… then they realize this is a problem that other people are going to ask and needs to be fixed. It’s a very open classroom and their very open conversations make it all the better.”

Moore added that the class is designed to be fun and informative while also developing critical skills for long term success.

“We’re hoping to steer them on the right track,” Moore said. “I make it very clear on the first day of class. We’re here to set you up for (success). I think a lot of students come in with the mindset that they can do this, and they see the real-world implications, this is a class that could help them get somewhere.”

The top five groups will now move on to the final competition May 8 at the WHS auditorium to give their pitches to investors and compete for a $10,000 prize, provided by a variety of sponsors, to develop their inventions.

WHS innovation Ella McGrath
Junior Ella McGrath explains her invention LitMatch, an app that recommends books based on the user’s previously read books and liked genres, to an attendee.

Business Savvy Shamrocks

For students in John Moore’s entrepreneurship classes at Westfield High School, the education adds up to more than just time in a classroom.

Students participating in the Westfield Chamber Innovation Luncheon competition April 18 said the classroom is equal parts education and real-life experience.

Junior Ella McGrath’s invention is an app called LitMatch that makes a book recommendation based on previously read books and liked genres. McGrath said the class has helped her find new perspectives when problem solving.

“My entrepreneurship class gave me that ability to think outside the box and it gave me new ideas, we bounce ideas off of each other,” McGrath said. “Mr. Moore really gave us that opportunity to branch out from something outworldly and turn it into something real.”

Juniors Andrew Westra and Quinn Provost invented RefReel, a video system that allows users to see athletic events from the perspective of officials on the field or court. The pair were back at the innovation luncheon with the same idea they brought to the table last year, with new tweaks and fixes.

“We’ve done a lot more research with the help of the amazing staff and students here,” Westra said. “We made some plans and we went to (the Distributive Education Clubs of America) and got third in the innovation competition. It’s been gaining traction, making a name for ourselves.

Learn more about the WHS extracurricular entrepreneur club at tinyurl.com/yv3ct48b.