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Local students shine at JA academy

July 2, 2014
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

One team invented a solar panel that connects to the air conditioner fan of a vehicle in a parked car to keep it cooler. Another made disposable airline seats that can be used one time on any seat. Still another created a parking app that shows where to find open parking spaces.

But the winner, with two local teens on the team, was for a vacuum that used ultraviolet light to clean and disinfect your floor, called the "u-vac."

Entrepreneurial teens learned what it takes to be a successful business leader as Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida presented its annual CEO Academy, a one-week summer camp for incoming high school juniors and seniors held at the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University this past week.

Article Photos


Cape Coral residents Sara Campbell and Taylor Pascal, whose project won at the Junior Achievement CEO Academy at FGCU on Friday.

Students from Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties learned about business with the help of business pros by creating business plans and marketing packages as well as going on field trips to get a look of how a real-world business operates.

Most important, these students were broken up into teams to conceive a project with local business leaders and educators to develop their own business concept.

"We split the kids up in groups and they presented a business project in front of a panel of our five laureates," said Cecilia St. Arnold, program director for JA. "A lot of these kids take these projects with them into college. We had someone who won this competition five years ago use this as part of his college business plan at FGCU."

On Friday, the students present their business plan to local entrepreneurs, who served as judges.

"This is something they started four days ago, and what you see is a culmination of that work. I can't imagine what they would do if they had more time," said judge David Diamond. "Very creative, very innovative, and they presented it well."

Many of the presenters used humor to keep the panel interested.

"We spend 106 days of our lives looking for parking spaces. That could be time spend going to the bathroom," said one presenter as he described his team's parking app.

But it was the u-vac, whose team consisted of two Cape Coral residents, which interested the judges the most. They won the $1,000 prize.

"The vacuum uses UV sensors to eliminate bacteria on floors and has an air purification system," said Taylor Pascal, who attends North Fort Myers High School. "I've learned about marketing and customer service and financial plans to entrepreneurial skills in general."

"There are plenty of robotic vacuums on the marker, but the u-vac offers UV sanitation and filtration. It's three benefits in one," said Sara Campbell, who attends Coronado High School in Fort Myers. "This will help me decide what I want to do with my life."

Among those in attendance, beside parents, was Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy Graham, who marveled at the creativity and originality of the participants.

"In five days, students who didn't know each other created a team, plan and product with such grace and present it to these judges is amazing," Graham said. "Kids today are fearless in putting ideas forward. Our future is in good hands."

JA is the world'' largest organization dedicated to preparing young people to succeed in a global economy.

For more information about JA of Southwest Florida visit or contact Anne Frazier at 225-2590 or



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