In Spark Tank — which is deeply aligned with our School mission to ignite the spark of genius in every child — we fuel innovation for young student-entrepreneurs, who pursue their passion projects.
In Spark Tank — which is deeply aligned with our School mission to ignite the spark of genius in every child — we fuel innovation for young student-entrepreneurs, who pursue their passion projects. These range from designing new products and starting their own businesses, to making a difference in the lives of others through socially responsible initiatives and non-profit organizations. Along the Spark Tank pathway, participants develop their ideas with guidance, mentorship, and innovation grants from The Dwight School Foundation. They also learn a range of practical and business-related skills, providing invaluable experience and preparation for the working world.
A Signature Program
Founded in 2015, Spark Tank itself was fueled by the belief that young people shouldn’t have to wait until they’re in college or older to realize the dream of starting their own enterprise — and it quickly became a Dwight signature program. Our School was distinguished as one of the first to empower K-12 students to embark on exciting journeys to develop something of their own imagining and bring it to market.
Over the last eight years, more than 100 students have participated. Oftentimes, students develop projects inspired by their own passions or real-world problems they want to solve — sometimes born from personal experiences — and all learn how they can make an impact now and build a better world through entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. Mirroring the IB design thinking cycle that students learn in the classroom, the Spark Tank development cycle consists of five stages: idea, research, prototype, operations, and launch.
In addition to gaining entrepreneurial skills, students receive validation for their initiative, develop their own voice, build confidence, and forge relationships with mentors. Some of these mentors are members of The Dwight School Foundation’s Spark Tank Committee — industry experts and entrepreneurs in our parent and alumni community, who provide feedback and guidance to students as they develop and pitch their ideas through Spark Tank events every trimester. This year, Fernando Castellanos (Regina ’19, Fernando ’21, and Mateo ’28), who has served on the Committee since 2015, assumed the role of Chair.
A Look at What Was Sparked in 2022-23
This past year, over 100 students worked on entrepreneurial projects as part of their Design class curriculum and the inaugural Dwight Schools global Sparkathon design competition; and many also participated in Spark Tank after school, under the leadership of Matt Moran, Spark Tank Program Director, who has spearheaded the program since its inception. The students who presented their work at Spark Tank events in 2022-23 are:
- Polina Nikitina ’23, who wrote a song entitled “Gotham” and created a compelling music video dedicated to her home country of Ukraine under siege. Her goal was to raise awareness of the war and pay tribute to the courage of Ukrainians. Polina received a $1,000 innovation grant for launching her project.
- Mariam Diallo ’25, whose Connecting West to West project aims to raise funds to purchase supplies and educational resources for schools in Guinea. Her goal is to raise awareness about the need to improve education in West Africa.
- Maria Arutyunyan ’25, Danielle Reische ’25, and Grace Capiraso ’25, who took over SustainABLE Start, the organization founded in 2019 by former Dwight students, and rebranded it as Mission Essentials NY, reflecting its expanded mission to distribute hygiene products, clothing, school supplies, food, and more daily necessities to New Yorkers in need.
- Pierce Rovine ’24, who wants to make education about the real estate market more accessible through a website and game called Property Tycoon, where players can invest, and buy and sell properties. He passed the idea stage.
- Ethan Cohen ’29, whose idea, NFTs for School Fundraising, aims to raise money for Dwight, and ultimately enable other schools to do the same, by turning student artwork into NFTs for sale.
- Brent Rosche ’25, Jamie Knox ’25, Adrian Fang ’25, and Antoine Vandewiele ’25, who are collaborating on Access for All, Brent’s grade 10 Personal Project. The aim is to help build computer skills through a curriculum of lessons and interactive projects for younger students and schools in low-income areas. They passed the idea, plan, and prototype stages.
- Alexi Khezri ’25, who wants to develop his tenth grade Personal Project, Algorithmic Trading, by writing and editing code to simulate algorithmic stock trading.
- Zoe Lowenthal ’25 and Francesca Eisenstadt ’25, inspired by their Sparkathon project, SeatheChange, are creating a Dwight club to advocate for a plastic-free community, raise money for the Ocean Conservancy, host clean-up events, and raise awareness to help tackle the plastic pollution crisis. They passed the idea stage, and hope this club will also take root across our global network and at other New York schools.
We look forward to more students bringing their Sparkathon projects to Spark Tank — and to even more young entrepreneurs diving in with their novel ideas and creativity — when school begins again!