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CES 2019: Las Vegas high school students pitch business ideas

Updated January 11, 2019 - 11:34 pm

At the last day of CES 2019, several high school students from the Clark County School District pitched business ideas among some of the most innovative companies in the world.

Three groups of students shared their business plans with a panel of three entrepreneurs at the third annual Student Business Pitch Competition, presented by the Consumer Technology Association.

“CES is really about what the future can bring,” said Snehal Bhakta, CCSD’s career and technical education project facilitator. “All of us can be proud of what these students are coming up with, what the future will look like. … This is a great opportunity for them to share some of their creative ideas.”

A unique opportunity

The three groups presented their ideas at the Las Vegas Convention Center, just feet from exhibits showcasing some of the most advanced consumer technology, like the first commercial foldable smartphone and robotic delivery dogs.

“It’s so cool to be side to side with all these other cool, innovative projects,” said 17-year-old competitor Jose Lugo.

Lugo and two teammates from Northwest Career and Technical Academy won first place for their pitch, an app called MoneyByte. The app would help teenagers and young adults manage money and have smartwatch connectivity.

“We live in Las Vegas, and this is not an opportunity anyone else can get,” said Jaslin Estavillo, one of MoneyByte’s co-founders. “It’s so important for (high schoolers) to have … more companies, more people to make opportunities for them, so they can get to know what they want and what they’re passionate about.”

Judge Robbie Cabral, CEO of rechargeable padlock company BenjiLock and a former contestant on the television show “Shark Tank,” said he believes this generation has the perfect mindset for entrepreneurialism.

The television show held an open call with the “Shark Tank” casting team Friday morning.

“Now, you can create your own job. Millennials and the younger generation … they don’t want to work for the man, they want to do it themselves,” he said. “But it’s taking that step. … (It’s) being persistent, passionate about what you like and what you do.”

Other pitches included a device from Southwest Career and Technical Academy students that prevents cybersecurity attacks, which won second place, and a cooled gaming chair from Rancho High School students.

All three teams completed CTA’s online course, the Future Innovators Program, and competed in a district-wide competition.

Closing the skills gap

Jennifer Taylor, the CTA vice president of U.S. jobs, said competitions like this help address the growing skills gap in the United States. According to the U.S. Labor Department, there are more than 7 million open jobs in the United States and about 6 million Americans looking for work.

“What we have is a mismatch of skills,” Taylor said. “It’s important to push yourself, take courses that are difficult … (learn skills that are) applicable to jobs of the future.”

The Future Innovators Program was developed with education technology leader EVERFI in 2015. The digital program is meant to close the nation’s skills gap and teach students to think entrepreneurially about business, said Alina Hamden, chief of staff at EVERFI.

“More than half of young children won’t be working in jobs we have today,” Hamden said. “We’re preparing students, including those we have here on the stage today, for jobs that aren’t yet on the horizon.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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