By Valarie Honeycutt Spears
The scene in an executive board room at Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark Friday resembled the television show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of potential investors.
William Wells Brown Elementary School fifth-grade students Rose Masingu and Jabari Fletcher showed a community panel their design for a hat that holds drinks and has detachable straws. It’s their idea for a promotional item to be given away to fans at a Lexington Legends home game during the 2016 baseball season.
The drinking hat, Jabari explained, is helpful “when people get tired of holding drinks.”
Rose said: “When you are talking on the phone and you are eating a hotdog or a burger and you want a drink and there’s no space for a drink, you have the hat on.”
Six groups of fifth-grade students from the Lexington school competed to have their idea turned into a product and used as a give-away item at a home game. Knee socks, miniature multicolored baseball bats, slap bracelets and sunglasses are among the other finalists’ ideas.
The competition is called Stache Tank, a reference to the Legends’ mustache logo.
Legends president/CEO Andy Shea said the winning product will be chosen in a few weeks, and 1,000 of them will be given away at a home game. After hearing the presentations Friday, Shea said more than one product might be produced.
After taking a trip to the ballpark last fall, students working in teams as part of an economics unit were asked to come up with ideas for a Legends giveaway. Students researched and designed products, and then created and conducted surveys of other students, faculty and administrators to get their reactions, Legends officials said.
The finalists who presented on Friday were determined by a vote of students after oral presentations were made at the school.
Friday’s panel was made up of Legends employees and representatives of community organizations and businesses. Students told them how much they thought the item would cost to make and what kind of profit the item could bring in the gift shop were it marketed.
One of the panelists listening to the students’ ideas was United Way of the Bluegrass President Bill Farmer, whose organization has been leading a volunteer effort to help raise academic achievement at the school and has promoted community engagement projects.
In 2013-14, William Wells Brown Elementary was ranked lowest among elementary schools in the state’s accountability system.
But in scores released last October, the school increased its score by 19.2 points and moved up 26 spots among all elementary schools.
“My position has always been that students at William Wells Brown are exceptional, extraordinary,” Farmer said.
He said the student presentations were a form of project-based learning and that the students showed skills in marketing and accounting.
“They understand business,” he said.
Scheduled next week are presentations by students from Fayette County’s STEAM Academy on ideas for an under-utilized area of Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
STEAM students will make presentations on a variety of potential uses for an area beyond the right-field fence that includes a basketball court.
Legends Director of Community Relations Rebecca Barnes said the organization wants to give back to Fayette County Public Schools “as much as we can” and engage students “in a meaningful way.”
Barnes and Mike Allison, Legends director of group sales, and other staff members went to fifth-grade classrooms last fall to help students develop their projects and show them what items had worked in the past.
“We saw a lot of excitement today,” Allison said.
Urban County Councilman James Brown, a former county PTA official, and Sharon Michael, KET’s corporate development officer, were among the members on the panel who listened to the student ideas.
“What impressed me the most was how articulate the kids were and knowledgeable about the products they were presenting,” Brown said. “All the kids were well spoken, knew what they were talking about and answered the questions we asked.”
“I was most impressed with how they put this whole concept together,” Michael said. “There was so much enthusiasm and passion. At that young age, it’s nice to see them thinking outside a math problem. They really worked through some real world situations.”