Swimming with Sharks

Eighth grade students Justin Altman ’24 and Aaron Van Genderen ’24 pitched their board game concept to Milwaukee moguls on “Project Pitch It.”

When Justin Altman ’24 and Aaron Van Genderen ’24 developed the board game Down the Rabbit Hole last year, it’s unlikely they could have predicted presenting it to a panel of Milwaukee business moguls while being filmed for a television show. But that’s where they found themselves almost a year later, after being selected to present on a special student-edition episode of “Project Pitch It,” a “Shark Tank”-style television show that airs on WISN channel 12 in Milwaukee. They competed against other middle- and high-school students from the Milwaukee area for a chance to win prizes and get advice and feedback directly from the moguls themselves.

The inspiration for the board game, which they developed as part of their 7th grade economics course last year, came from Van Genderen’s love of detective novels as a child. “I used to read a lot of ‘Hardy Boys’ and we realized there weren’t a lot of games for little kids that used deductive reasoning,” he said. Players pick a card and work as a team to go around the board and uncover tiles, and check to see if the card matches that tile. The goal is to find a card with no matching tile, which is the one the rabbit took.

The game was part of the entrepreneurship project in the 7th grade economics course, in which students create an idea for a new toy or significantly alter an existing toy. The project teaches students about entrepreneurship, including developing an idea and producing a prototype, but it also incorporates a written and verbal “pitch,” requiring all students to present their projects to parent volunteers, much like what Altman and Van Genderen did for the show.

“This is a great opportunity to practice public speaking and get that experience they need to be confident speakers,” said Brian Markwald, 7th grade social studies teacher. “When they’re giving their pitch, there’s nowhere to hide.”

To see the outcome of Altman and Van Genderen’s pitch to the moguls, you’ll have to tune in to season four of “Project Pitch It,” starting on Saturday, Feb. 8. It airs in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin at 10:30 p.m. on WISN TV channel 12, for nine weeks. Episodes are also available at www.ProjectPitchIt.com.

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