Eric Tharpe presents his team’s heated dog bowl project to the panel of judges

Electrical Trades Students Compete in Shark Tank-Style Competition

For their final project, first-term students in Denise Ojeda’s class were asked to invent a new product and then present it to a panel of judges
January 06, 2020

It’s a common problem in the winter: your dog’s outside water bowl freezes every night and then has to be emptied and refilled every morning. If three CNM students have their way, however, this problem could soon go away.

As part of their final project in Denise Ojeda’s first-term electrical trades class, Hayden Hilliard, Eric Tharpe, and Dan Mitchell invented a drinking stand with two heated water dishes that keep the water inside unfrozen and ready to drink, even on the coldest nights. 

Using the skills they learned in class, the team put together everyday electrical products like Peltier chips to heat the water, and pump to circulate the water, and a rechargeable battery to power the operation. Then they housed everything in a well-designed wooden stand that holds the bowls and hides the electronics.

As you might imagine, the water bowls were well received by a crowd of staff, faculty, and community judges who evaluated the final exam project in December in Denise’s class, Shark Tank-style.

“Instead of making them complete a more traditional final project, I wanted the students to create something that had meaning because that always helps them feel way more engaged,” Denise says. “And I want them to always be thinking about how they can use their new skills to do work that counts.”

Quintelle Frink presents his team’s LED stop sign

Some of the other team projects presented in the class included an LED stop sign that students hoped would help cut down on pedestrian accidents, and a hydroponics system that grew food fed by fish waste. Right now all the projects are just ideas and basic concepts, but Denise and the students think some of them might find legs.

For example, in the Spring Term, CNM will be working with Rio Rancho Public Schools to teach students more career and technical skills (a program that’s being funded by a grant from PNM). More specifically, middle school students will be using certain math and carpentry skills to build 15 dog houses for Watermelon Mountain Ranch, a local animal shelter. There are no plans to include the heated dog bowls in the houses just yet, but that would be a perfect application for the students’ project. 

“Who knows where the water bowls might go,” says Dan Mitchell. “I’m definitely going to build a heated bowl for my chickens, but it would be great if we could help out with the Watermelon Ranch project as well.”

Finally, Denise also designed the Shark Tank-style competition to help students work on their soft skills. The students were expected to dress up, create a PowerPoint presentation, come up with an invented company name, and work together as a team not only on the project, but also on the presentation. Denise has been one of the most outspoken advocates for soft skill development at CNM, and saw the final project as a perfect platform.

“I don’t want students to leave this class just checking off boxes,” she says. “I want them to start developing all the skills they’ll need to get a good job and then go out and be the kind of people who can make a difference.”