Idea for ‘Ninja Shoes’ Takes Top Honors at Innovation Camp
Teens Learn Entrepreneurship, Generate New Business Plans at Annual JSOM Summer Program

“Ninja Shoes,” a cordless hair dryer and a “Wireless Waitress” took top honors this year at a UT Dallas summer camp where high school students earned cash prizes for creating and presenting winning business ideas to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs.

Caleb Clarke

Caleb Clarke of Plano Senior High School presents a product idea for the Sonic Hair Dryer, a product idea that won second place in the Innovation Opportunity Camp.

The Ninja Shoes, children’s shoes with interchangeable soles for a variety of applications, took first place and $500 in the competition at the close of the two-week Innovation Opportunity Camp. The Sonic Hair Dryer, a quiet, cordless hair dryer using advanced technologies, came in second and earned its team of teen creators $250. Coming in third and earning $150, the Wireless Waitress was a mobile application designed for ordering food from a restaurant.

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at UT Dallas hosts the annual camp.  IIE Executive Director Joseph Picken said “the quality of work product produced by the high school students this year was outstanding — the best we’ve seen since we started the camp four years ago.”

Designed to stimulate innovation, creativity and interest in innovation-related careers in science, technology and business, Innovation Opportunity Camp brought together 28 students this year. As part of the camp, students learned how to manage a business by playing a business-simulation game. They learned entrepreneurship basics and presentation skills in sessions taught by UT Dallas faculty and outside professionals. They took “innovation in action” tours to international businesses with headquarters in the area. They had daily interaction with entrepreneurs, scientists and investors, and engaged in a wide variety of team-building exercises and competitions.

Innovation Opportunity Camp

Solutionz team members (left to right) Emily Marucci of The Hockaday School, Mijae Kim of Coppell High School, and Anand Shah and Aleef Ali of Plano Senior High School celebrate their first-place win for creating “Ninja Shoes.” (Team member Dalyn Hughes is not pictured.)

The camp highlight involved the students dividing into teams and progressively developing a unique business idea. With the cash prizes and the spirit of competition as incentives, teams worked with experienced mentors to present their business concepts to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs.  

“It was definitely eye-opening and fun,” one camper said.

Another said that the camp “really showed me what it takes to start and maintain a business.”

“The camp represents an amazing collaborative effort between the students, mentors, faculty, staff, and business professionals and corporations in the North Texas region,” said Madison Pedigo, associate director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs at UT Dallas. “We couldn’t run this camp without support from our partners.”   

Local entrepreneur and organizer of Start-Up Weekend Dallas, Brad Anderson, joined the effort as a mentor for the first time this year. “It’s so exciting to see these kids get involved in a camp like this at such a young age,” he said.

Story reported and written by contributor Elizabeth Shipley
Photos by Ken Sharp

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].