Students shine in ‘Shark Tank’ finale

KAPAA — After 10 minutes of heart-pounding deliberation among the shark panel, the Power Paddle team from Kapaa High School’s Shark Tank class took home first place after an impressive presentation at the Courtyard Marriott Thursday night.

Seniors Forest Middleton, Aukai Kessler, Carson Schmick and Joel Deblin were overjoyed with the victory that presented their business plans, but were humble in victory.

“I think it was just a good experience overall,” Middleton said as he was being congratulated by his classmates. “I think we all won in a certain way. But other than that, it was amazing.”

Inspired by the hit television series, “Shark Tank,” the class was designed by Kapaa High teacher Christine Farina to challenge her students to think critically and creatively in a real world setting. It was the third year that this event has taken place.

The Power Paddle team presented a new way to train paddlers and canoers with a product that serves as a cover for a paddle. Not only does the cover protect the blade of the paddle in the water, but the cover also has little pockets inside that can have weights added to it to use as a training tool to increase endurance and resistance for training.

The five other teams, Botanical Balance, Budget Bite, Hawaiian Art Bus, Hawaiian Baby and Mints each exceeded Farina’s expectations. While she did say that Power Paddle deserved to win, she couldn’t help but feel that there could’ve been multiple winners this year.

“I thought it was awesome,” Farina said. “I knew they were a strong contender but I could not have made the decision. There were some very strong competitors in this.”

For Kessler, those all-nighters working on the product were worth it.

“It’s amazing. I feel relieved; I can finally sleep at night,” Kessler said. “It was an amazing process and a lot of work went into it. I’m really proud of what happened.”

The sharks were a panel made up of five members of the community who have been successful in the business and education world. Clifton Arruda, Ric Cox, Derek Kawakami, Marion Paul and Susan Kaneko were all impressed with the presentations from the students and provided feedback for each team following the team’s presentation.

“This is the place where I wanted to be,” Kawakami told The Garden Island. “This is the future of our islands and the state of Hawaii. These entrepreneurs, they gave me energy to just keep on doing what we do because they just provide so much promise and hope for our island. I’m very proud of them.”

The decision to make Power Paddle the winner was easier for some, as Ric Cox said that “we decided quickly” who the winner was. But it wasn’t an easy decision for Kawakami, who said that each group’s presentation was “heart-warming.”

“Everything was really, really close,” Kawakami said. “And like I said, with some fine tuning, any of these businesses could be a viable business. And to think that this came from high schools students, it’s amazing.”

Deblin spoke most of the time for Power Paddle during the presentation, remaining calm and collected as he answered the sharks’ questions.

“Surprisingly, it felt natural,” Deblin said. “I felt super nervous in the beginning but once I got on stage, it came naturally to me. We’ve practiced so much for this and worked so hard on this, we were ready for this.”

With the class finished with their presentations, Farina refused to talk anymore about her students so that she could avoid tearing up and becoming even more emotional, but did recognize that this group of seniors is special.

“I could not be prouder of all of them. They all did a fantastic job,” she said. “I’m just glad that I wasn’t one of the sharks because I wouldn’t have been able to choose just one group.”

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