MirmanX: Year Two cohort pitches, awaits selection process

Move over, Shark Tank.

Now in its second year, MirmanX is on the precipice of announcing the three projects that will be funded for 2016-2017 year. The announcement will be made at an all-school assembly tomorrow, December 14. Earlier this semester, twelve Upper School students were selected from an impressive applicant pool to work together to refine their ideas for moonshot projects to make the world a better place.

The students selected were: Naalah C., August D., Breya D., Dashiell F., Eli F., Sheila G., Amaan I., Morgan J., Dhilan K., Jacob L., Sophia S., and Benjamin W. Students Conor B. and Matthew S. will be joining the cohort next semester to work alongside their peers. New students may be selected for the cohort next semester dependent on interest and recruitment (cohort members can recruit from outside the cohort to round out their project teams).

These students have worked to refine their original proposals, ranging from documentary films to assistive devices for those with physical disabilities. At the beginning of their journey, the students also received direction on design and entrepreneurial process from alum Eric Bollens (’94-03), Chief Advisor for the project.

After weeks of hard work in the Innovation Design lab under the supervision of Director of Technology Michael Taggart, the cohort gathered together on December 5 to make their pitches to the MirmanX Venture Board. The Venture Board is comprised of estimable alumni Bollens, marketing strategist Ashley Felts ’92-96, inventor and entertainer Eric Gradman ’87-’93, serial entrepreneur and angel investor Deron Quon ’82-’86; parent and orthodontist Dr. Monica Ajmera; and surgeon Sandy Heck (husband of Mirman alumna Bobbie Andelson Heck).

Although all MirmanX cohort members will have the opportunity to join a team on a funded project, only three projects will be chosen by the Venture Board to be funded to the tune of $10,000 each for development into a working prototype. After the cohort’s time has come to a close, the students will retain their intellectual property, and can continue working towards bringing their product to market if they so choose.

The panel was visibly impressed with all of the candidates, and even though they can only choose three projects to fund, that didn’t stop them from bringing their considerable business and entrepreneurial acumen to bear during Q and A sessions following each cohort member’s presentation. Leaders in their fields, the panel was just as quick to laud each student for his or her extraordinary ideas as they were to point out room for growth.

In less than a day, a new chapter will begin in the history of MirmanX. Good luck to all of our students as they await the results of the pitch panel!

MirmanX: Year Two proposals
Morgan J., Dhilan K.: Interchangeable, modular entertainment systems for cars and homes
Benjamin W.: An app to streamline parking in commercial lot
Sheila G.: A camera-equipped “defender” robot for solo soccer players looking to improve their skills.
Naalah C. and Breya D.: A sensor and app to detect exact levels of fuel left in propane tanks used for off-grid heating systems.
Eli F.: An affordable virtual-reality system for biking and exercise enthusiasts.
Dashiell F. and Jacob L.: A high-end robotic arm for people with disabilities.
Sophia S.: A documentary on the dangers on texting and driving.
Amaan I.: A “smart” cane for the visually impaired that uses speakers and haptic technology.
August D.: A subscription service math tutoring website that recognizes types of equations and problems and gives hints to students rather than solving the problem for them.
A Horse With No Name No More
from the 2018-2019 Meridian 

After the school rebranded a few years ago, Athletic Director Angela Brown felt that something was missing. While new uniforms were donned for the first day of school, new signs were hung around campus, and a new website launched to accompany refreshed marketing materials, the font-forward design left something to be desired when it came to truly raising team spirit to the power of Mirman. 

In a school where more than half of the student body participates in some form of competitive athletics, and on a campus where a significant expansion created pristine courts and fields upon which one can cheer on several teams on any given day, Brown saw opportunity and sensed desire to elevate the program. After working with Jenn Salcido, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Noah Kaufman, Director of Advancement, the school’s branding was expanded to include a strong, confident (though K-8-appropriate) steed. New universal uniforms, sweatsuits, and swag followed suit. 

“It’s a truly exciting time for athletics at Mirman,” said Brown. “It’s a sense of pride that you can see and feel. It’s almost like we’ve arrived. You could have taken a snapshot of the students in their old uniforms, and then with their new ones with the names on the back. It’s a rallying cry. You can see the pride on their faces.”  

Finally, everyone could don uniforms featuring their own names writ large. Everyone except, of course, the horse. Everyone knew we had a mascot — you’d see the nameless Mustang trotted out for the occasional assembly or championship bout — but nobody really knew the mascot. 

What if the community could help change that? 

Last fall, Brown and her colleagues in the Physical Education department introduced a contest at an all-school assembly. The objective: not only to name the Mustang, but to tell the mascot’s story. Over the course of a 6-day cycle, ballots were collected from every grade level in both divisions. With Salcido’s help, Brown and Assistant to the Athletic Director Alyssa Woods tallied the results. 

The judges carefully considered the entries, assessing them on an unwritten rubric including points for overall catchiness, gender-neutrality, universal appeal, and other considerations. As the dust settled, one clear winner emerged: Rider. In retrospect, it seemed rather obvious. The school had only recently unveiled its Core Values (Responsibility, Integrity, Discovery, Empathy, and Resilience). And as equine monikers go, Rider makes a certain degree of sense. The name was revealed with much aplomb at an all-school assembly, with Rider trotting out on stage to show off a newly-minted personalized jersey. 

The winning entry belonged to Room 4L students Victoria A. and Amelie S., who soon revealed that they had a little help from their friends, specifically former Room 4L co-teacher and current Librarian Allison Sparks. 

“We had just had a community circle in class talking about the Core Values,” said Sparks. “This was something new to me as a new member of the Mirman community. When I asked the class out loud if they’d considered Rider for the Mustang name, a few of the students wanted to suggest it.” 

“I laughed it off and dismissed the idea,” Sparks admitted. “I thought that since it had come from an adult, it wouldn’t count. But when I saw how excited they were when they submitted it, I knew the name rang true. It really came out of an ‘a ha’ moment we had together as a class. 

“It relates so much to our school and Core Values and helps us make sure we’re always doing the right thing,” said Victoria A. of the new name. 

“It’s amazing to be part of our school history,” added Amelie S. 

The two girls, who themselves represent Mirman on the basketball court and soccer fields as part of the Room 4 teams, admitted that, like many great ideas, their first iteration didn’t ring quite as true. “I think we wanted to do mustard,” said Victoria. 

“Or mayonnaise,” said Amelie. 

As it turns out, most things do get better with teamwork. 

Like any ballot box, this one was not without its curiosities once opened up. Here were a few of the voting trends: 
  • More than a few students wanted to name the Mustang after themselves or their classmates 
  • One entry suggested “Vegan” 
  • “Uncle Grandpa” popped up more than a few times, much to the confusion of one judge. It was revealed upon further investigation that this is in fact an affectionate nickname for Coach Allen Foster. 
  • Regarding “The Mysterious Moose:” decidedly not a horse, but good alliteration. 

A Biography of Rider 
By Victoria A. and Amelie S., Room 4L 
(with editorial assistance from an anonymous magazine editor) 
Once upon a time, a beautiful horse was born. He* shook himself and stood up, curious about the world around him. He began to walk through the forest, stopping every so often to grab some fruit from a tree. After a while, he came upon a group of two little girls and their teacher walking through the woods.

“Hi horse! What’s your name?” the little girl asked. 

“I don’t have a name, actually. What’s yours?” the horse answered. 

“Woah, I can actually understand you,” said the little girl. “That’s so cool!” 

The girls and their teacher spoke with the horse a while longer, introducing themselves and getting to know each other. They wondered aloud why the horse didn’t have a name. 

“I just haven’t thought of one yet,” he said. “I’ve only just been born!” 

The trio brainstormed about names for a while, but then got sidetracked with what they all wanted to be when they grew up. “Do you have any ideas,” asked the teacher?” 

“I want to be a head of school!” one of the girls said. “And my school will need to have Core Values, but I don’t know what those should be.” 

“Maybe I can help you,” volunteered the horse. 

“You need to have responsibility,” began the teacher. “And integrity.” 

“And empathy for other horses!” said the horse. 

“We’ll need to discover things along the way!” said the other girl. 

“And you’ll need some resilience,” the horse finished. 

Suddenly, the trio and the horse looked at one another. “How would you feel if we called you Rider in honor of those core values?” asked the teacher. 

By now, you know how this story ends — happily ever after, surrounded by the cheering crowds. 

*while Rider is a male horse in this story, we know from his biographers that he really can be any gender! Everyone can and should be able to identify with Rider. 
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