This fall, some students at Charlotte Christian School will get to operate drones, thanks to the tenacity of a sixth-grader.
Julian Segovia and his brother Brian Segovia, a ninth grader, are the winners of the first annual “Knight Tank,” a student competition at Charlotte Christian. The contest is based on the popular television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors.
The brothers, who worked with teachers Kaylah Holland and Steve Beezhold, received $3,000 from the school to buy equipment and start the club, called “Knights in Flight.”
“I felt confident all the way through, and I had a good feeling when the presentation was over,” Julian said. He learned that “Knights in Flight” won “Knight Tank” a few days after presenting his ideas.
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Head of School Barry Giller came up with the idea for Knight Tank. A big fan of “Shark Tank,” Giller wanted to create a way students could work with teachers to share their ideas and receive funding.
Last year, upper school students launched a robotics club called “RoboKnights” that has become a tremendous success, but the school didn’t have money set aside for a mid-year start-up, Giller said.
“With this we recognized that great ideas do not always follow our budgeting cycle,” he said.
For “Knight Tank,” the school solicited applications, and required that students initiate the idea and work with a faculty sponsor to hone their proposal.
Julian approached Holland a few days after “Knight Tank” was announced. His proposal was for an afterschool drone club.
“I said, ‘Julian, if you want to fly drones, that’s absolutely awesome.’ He flies drones at home, and for him, this was a no-brainer,” said Holland, a middle school instructional technology facilitator.
Julian enlisted his brother to help, and he researched ideas for the club and the costs of buying kits for club members to join. “Knights in Flight” was one of five proposals submitted for “Knight Tank.”
In early February, Julian and Brian presented their idea to Giller, Charlotte Christian CFO Terry Efird, Student Body President Taylor Burch and Board of Trustees member Charles Saleh.
Other finalists included a proposal for an on-campus coffee shop and another for incorporating ukuleles into the lower school music curriculum.
“The students did a wonderful job with their presentations,” Giller said. “I was impressed with their creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.”
The drone club won, in part, because it proposed involving students from both the middle school and high school, Giller said. Brian said one of the panel members offered on the spot to donate a 3D printer to the club.
Giller announced the winner at a school chapel assembly a few days later and presented Julian with a $3,000 check to start “Knights in Flight.” Holland said about 40 students approached her afterward asking if they could join the drone club, which will start in the fall.
Club members will both build drones and learn to fly them.
“People hear ‘drones’ and think it’s going to be a fun hobby, but these kids are going to learn the entire engineering process,” Holland said. “For me, it’s about the skills these kids are going to learn as they go into college.”
Julian said he would encourage other students to try “Knight Tank” because it’s a good way to learn about the world of business.
“As a 12-year-old, it is great to be able to achieve this big goal, so I encourage other young people to present their ideas, because you don’t know if they are good or not until you speak up, and they could be great ideas that benefit a lot of other people.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.