McLean Shark Tank Project takes home bronze medal

Event focused on developing technology to aid disabilities brings students together

On March 24th, 2023, the finals for the McLean High School Shark Tank Project was hosted by the Fairfax Technology Committee. Designed for students to create a technological impact on people with disabilities, three high school students were finalists in the county competition after successfully showcasing innovative projects. McLean has been doing this project event for a few years, but this year the competition was especially strong.
The students had planned and done extensive research for their projects before the finals. The projects aimed to improve the standard of living of people with disabilities. The McLean team focused on improving the design of playing cards.
“These cards allow people who are blind or have a sight problem to play without difficulty with their families, friends or simply socialize,” junior Neyla Benomar-Iza said. “This would allow them not to be isolated from others.”
The final consisted of a heated debate amongst the four finalists. Langley student Rujvi Thakkar proposed “The Glove,” a product designed to help with rehabilitating paralyzed hands and increasing blood flow in affected areas. It provides an affordable and efficient alternative to both time-consuming and expensive drugs and procedures.
On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson High School students Elijah Guison-Dowdy, Abhinav Angirekula, Johnny Liu created the project “ ColorVeal,” a browser extension program that uses built-in color correction to aid the colorblind when they are online.
Oakton High School students Sampriti Muthuswamy, Ira Gramopadhye, Karen Zhou and Asmita Kodityala created a web program called “Capturez Your Memory,” helping those with neurologic degeneration gain access to meaningful memories.
On the day of the competition, the students presented their project to a jury consisting of technological professionals. Students provided a 10-minute summary and answered a series of questions for 15 minutes.
“Before I felt excited and nervous, because it was my first time competing in this type of competition,” junior Marie Del La Cruz said.
The junior group, named “DesCartes” of McLean, received several very positive and convincing opinions from the jury, which gave them confidence in the result. Ultimately, the team finished third.
“We worked a lot on this project,” Neyla said. “We were hoping for first place but I am very satisfied to have reached the final with honorable mentions.”
Despite not finishing with a gold, the unique experience still provided students a niche opportunity to innovate and gain technical skills.
“They were able to gain invaluable knowledge about the industry and also learn how to work together as a team,” teacher sponsor Rebecca Van Vranken said. “The project was an amazing opportunity for everyone involved and will have a lasting impact on their professional development.”