Design a Cyborg Eye - Part 2

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SWBAT gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.

Big Idea

Students try on their business hats in the Shark Tank as they pitch "investors"!


10 minutes

Now that students have created their cyborg eye designs and model, it is time for students to share what they developed.  Most middle school students thrive on competition and/or creativity.  What better way to tap into this motivation, and give students a taste of the business world, than by having students present their product in what I have come to call "Shark Tank Style".

One main goal of SP8 is for students to communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.  SP5 has students use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions, apply mathematical concepts and/or processes (e.g., ratio, rate, percent, basic operations, simple algebra) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, and use digital tools and/or mathematical concepts and arguments to test and compare proposed solutions to an engineering design problem. 

Having the students develop a business plan, especially one that includes financial and marketing plans, meets these goals while allowing them to build their critical and creative thinking skills at the same time.

When students are settled I show them one of the video clip from the show Shark Tank.  This link has several short clips to choose from.  I show the following clip as it relates to the positive messages we are developing within our advisory groups.  The other thing that I like about this particular clip is that it is not exceptionally good or bad so it lends itself perfectly to having students find both things they like and areas for improvement.

You might choose to show a few clips and analyze the pitches, having students state what they liked/did not like about the presentation. To help students get started the following sentence frames could be provided:

  • I liked...because...
  • I did not like....because...
  • I disagreed with...because...
  • I agreed with...because...
  • Advice I would give the presenter is....because....
  • Changes I recommend are...because...


I like to stop the video prior to seeing whether or not she got funding as it keeps the students focused on the pitch rather than her result.  However, you might choose to show the end (she didn't get investors) and have the student make suggestions on what might have changed her outcome.  

If you are wondering if this is worth the time, please take a minute to listen to why I choose to use this strategy and look at the Student Examples of Shark Tank Analysis, the Chart of Common Responses and the reflection entry.

Group Work

90 minutes

I plan for students to have a week (5 school days) to build and practice their business plan/sales pitch.  

The business plan has 6 sections, some of which are purely creative and some that require mathematical and critical thinking, all of which are described in the Presentation Outline, which I provide to the students to help them work independently and manage their work.

During the creation of this pitch, students are taught how to put together an effective presentation, from not using a PowerPoint like a script to how to speak with confidence and the importance of body language.  While much of this teaching is done in small group settings while students are creating their PowerPoint presentation or practicing their pitch, I like to show students these two videos before they begin.  The first is a funny description of the most common PowerPoint mistakes (which looks like every middle school PowerPoint ever made!) and the second contains 5 suggestions for how to create a great opening for your talk (start at about 1:10).  Both are short and have great ideas for the students to keep in mind as they are creating.


As developing student independence is one of my goals, students are given a lot of freedom to determine how they complete their business plan.  Active monitoring of student groups as they are working is essential to ensure they are being specific and detailed in their answers (many eighth graders try to do the minimum amount of work required!)

There are six sections in the pitch: 

  1. Cover page with basic information about the company (group)
  2. Executive summary (overview/introduction)
  3. Product description
  4. Market analysis (identifies target customer, potential for growth, and competition) 
  5. Marketing (plans to communicate with target customer and pricing)
  6. Financial Plan (costs vs potential profits)

Things to look out for:

  • Students forget that their audience has no idea what they have been working on; groups need to be reminded to be specific enough in their descriptions so that someone who was not part of this class understands clearly what they have designed.
  • The best pitches include print and/or commercial ad examples.  Students need to be encouraged to go beyond addressing the items on the checklist in words; they need to be more creative than usual.
  • Students struggle with determining the potential start up costs.  Support them so they are as realistic as possible.  Have them look into the costs of materials the think they might use, of robotics and/or prosthetic eyes, computer chips, the average cost of sending new items to market, etc.  Additionally, they will need similar help when it comes to determining potential profits.


80 minutes

When possible, I try to get other adults involved in this type of creative presentation as it creates a more authentic audience for the students.  My go to people include the school administrators, counselor, gifted coordinator, science curriculum director and technology director. I don't expect any of these people to stay for all presentations but I accept any time they can give me.  I find that anytime students present to more than just me they take their role a bit more seriously.  I ask these "investors" to keep track of the top presentations and what specifically they liked about that particular group (sometimes it is the sales pitch and sometimes it is the product). 

Students are encouraged to "dress for the part" and practice so they know what they are going to say and can sell it with confidence.  Presentations should be between 2-5 minutes which is long enough to effectively share their product ideas and short enough to maintain audience interest.  Following each presentation is a short Q&A session where audience members are encouraged to ask questions of the presenters about their product or their business plan (as done by the judges in the Shark Tank show).  

Once all students present, I share with them the top groups as determined by all of the "investors".  Top groups are rewarded with Mustang Bucks, which are the reinforcement reward for our school's PBIS system.  Students can spend their bucks on a variety of different things throughout the school.

I use the Product and Pitch Rubric to assess students on both their cyborg eye design and presentation.