Solving real-world challenges
New Berlin School District hosts first Pitch Night

By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff

June 6, 2017

New Berlin School District seniors in the Advanced Innovation and Design course presented their solutions to challenges in areas such as business, technology and health care during the first Pitch Night on Monday.
Submitted photo

NEW BERLIN - High school students from New Berlin Eisenhower and New Berlin West high schools participated in the school district's first-ever Pitch Night for Advanced Innovation and Design students on Monday. The New Berlin School District, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship and The Commons were all partners for the event. Pitch Night is the climax for students in the iAID course. The course is intended to prepare students for a 21st century innovation economy where they will be tasked with solving ambiguous and difficult challenges that may not have a single right answer.

"It's a very independent course," said Laura Schmidt, strategic advisor to Superintendent Joe Garza. "They had to do a lot on their own."

Seniors from both high schools had to successfully complete some sort of college-level classwork to take the iAID course. It gives highly capable students the chance to get out of a traditional classroom environment and show what they know. They worked in collaborative teams with professional mentors to try and solve real-world challenges.

"In traditional education, there's a lot of content and they're asked to apply that content in not a very realistic way," Schmidt said.

Using business models

The course challenges students to work through a business model and solve a problem based on the team's research. Some of the companies that provided mentors and advisors are Harley-Davidson, Humana, Aurora Health Care and Experis. For one challenge, students were asked to use the TOMS shoes company "TOMS One-for-One" model to create a lasting impact in a new market or with a new product/ service. The goal was to sell something with enough of a markup that a second product can be given out somewhere else to make a positive impact. For another challenge, students needed to explore the monthly box subscription model and apply it to a new market or product category.

The New Berlin district partnered with The Commons in an effort to develop true challenges for the students. The Commons is a collaboration between various universities, local businesses and entrepreneurs to mentor young professionals in a real-world experience.

"We really wanted the challenges to be at a high level of rigor and to let the teams take it in their own direction," Schmidt said.

During Monday's Pitch Night, students offered their solutions to challenges in technology, health care, engineering and global business. This year's challenges allowed students to better understand the role of business in social change, the future of smart technology in community development, the impact of technology on patient care and how to effectively launch a new product in a competitive technology market.

"Every one has a technology component because of its importance in the student's lives," Schmidt said.

 The presentations were judged by The Commons Innovation Fellows, alumni of The Commons program who have had a similar experience to iAID at the college level.

To learn more about The Commons, visit