PPHS Pitch Competition: Asking the Tough Questions

Students Pitching Ideas at PPHS

What do a pot-hole sensor, a KERS system for planes and an app to reward recycling have in common? They’re all ideas pitched by Purdue Polytechnic High School North students during their second pitch challenge. If these sound like big ideas for students who are two months into the school year, it’s because they are! Students are encouraged to follow the design process, identify a user, a problem and a solution and then iterate upon it. These solutions should be viable, innovative and relevant to both the challenge question and the identified user. Judges included parents, teachers, administrators and representatives from local industry partners. 

No doubt about it, these students were innovative. One group identified a big issue facing Hoosiers - potholes. They began by identifying why potholes are a problem and their impact on cars and drivers, although if you drove in Indiana at all this Spring, you probably know their effect first-hand! The students then presented their idea for a pothole sensor that integrates with GPS to help report and avoid potholes. While the technical specifications of the product were shakey, their initial idea resonated well with judges and fellow students.

While the pitches were great to see, the real magic happened after the pitch ended. The presenting group opens the floor for questions and this is when the PPHS difference is really apparent. Thoughtful, engaging questions popped up from nearly every student in the room. 

“What technology are you using to capture the depth of the pothole?”

“What GPS systems are you expecting to integrate this with?”

“How would this be better than just using Waze?”

“What is the price point and does your business plan partner with vehicle manufacturers? ”

“How is this different than the technology that senses fish underneath boats?”

The PPHS students have captured the art of asking hard questions in a thoughtful, tactful way. The presenters' group didn’t back away from a hard question and weren’t afraid to say, we don’t have that information yet, but we can add it as our next step. This discourse was easily was some of the best I’d seen, both in business and in education. The ability to ask hard, probing questions of your peers and teammates is a skill that will serve these students well in any career. 

While the pothole sensor is the product the students were pitching, the process of pitching your ideas, defending them in the face of scrutiny and learning that it’s okay to go back to the drawing board and improve are the real measures of success. Whether or not the pothole sensor ever becomes a reality is unknown, but we do know is that our PPHS Techies will be ready to take on whatever challenges life throws at them.


Published on 11/12/2019