Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At Diamond Challenge semifinals, high school entrepreneurs pitched batteries and beauty bizzes

The worldwide competition's regional event was held March 9 at Green Street Academy. Here's who will be moving on to the finals.

Baltimore's Tala Charms took second place in social innovation at the Diamond Challenge semifinals.

(Photo by Christopher Harrison, Seven Arts Photography)

High school entrepreneurs gathered in Baltimore to pitch battery and health alert products, as well as new solutions to connect with internships and cofounders.

Green Street Academy hosted semifinals of the Diamond Challenge pitch competition on Saturday, bringing 11 high school teams from across the region to the Northwest Baltimore public charter school. The Diamond Challenge was created by University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship, with the local competition led by Baltimore’s Warnock Foundation. The competition aims to teach high school students about entrepreneurship while allowing them to put their ideas into action and compete against high schoolers from around the world.

On Saturday, the teams competed for the opportunity to head to the Diamond Challenge finals on April 13-14 at the University of Delaware, where teams will compete for $100,000 in funding. In 2018, the challenge drew students, educators and supporters from more than 45 countries and 26 states in 2018, our sister site Technical.ly Delaware reported.

Saturday’s semifinal competition included a 5-minute pitch for each team and 3 minutes of questions from the judges that included:

  • David Warnock, founder of Camden Partners and Warnock Foundation, and cofounder of the Green Street Academy.
  • Dr. Brandon Chakotski, NYU and Johns Hopkins’ professor of integrating marketing and business consumer marketing.
  • Mac Conwell, Director of TEDCO’s Builder Fund
  • John Graham, Howard University professor of marketing analytics
  • Calvin Young, Camden Partners associate and Green street Academy board member.
  • Natasha Mohamed, founder of EYE (Engaging Youth Entrepreneurs) for Change

The first-place teams were awarded airfare, room and board to attend the Finals as well as the $1000 in seed-funding. The second-place winners were awarded $500 in seed funding and all participants were awarded a subscription to Pitch Creator to help finesse their pitch for future competitions and fundraising.


The Diamond Challenge has two tracks: six teams competed in the business track, and five teams competed in the social innovation track. Here’s a look:


Winners of the Diamond Challenge semifinals' business track Connect18 and Natrion. (Photo by Christopher Harrison, Seven Arts Photography)

Winners of the Diamond Challenge semifinals’ business track Connect18 and Natrion. (Photo by Christopher Harrison, Seven Arts Photography)

The first-place winners in the business track, Natrion, presented an innovative battery design that addresses the current challenges of lithium-based energy storage systems (ESS) for the solar industry. Instead of utilizing the dangerous, and limited efficiency of lithium ion batteries, these 9th graders from Stanford, Connecticut created a battery with a unique electrolyte core built from solid-waste. They will be putting their seed funding towards scaling their current prototype, and hope to take home more funding from the finals in April to sponsor their first battery to test out with their school’s solar system. The team included Thomas Rouffiac, Austin Cohen, Cynthia Chen and Alex Kosyakov.

The second-place winners talked about the need for youth, such as themselves, to have access to more opportunities in the form of internships, part-time employment or mentorship. Connect18 wanted to address this gap by providing a platform for the 16 million 12-18-year-olds who volunteer and participate in internships every year. They will be putting their $500 in seed funding to work on building the platform with the wireframe they have built so far. The team from Charlotte, N.C., included Aniruddh Doki, Suchir Bhyri, Mahesh Vankineni and Aditya Bulusu.

Overall, the business track included a wide range of ideas. A duo from Oakton, Va., that included Arjun Dhumne and Rohan Kalra pitched an investment app to help everyday consumers easily access investment opportunities called Cash. From Owings Mills, a female-founded consulting team to help entrepreneurs looking to enter the $445 billion beauty industry gain the resources they need to be successful. Entrebeauty was created by a team that included Jayla Swan, Latarsha Prettyman and Kayla Cummings. And from Baltimore, Angel Dupree pitched her brand of cosmetics, apparel and more, called Confident Cutie.

Social Innovation

Social innovation track winners from Tala Charms and Inu with David Warnock (left).

Social innovation track winners from Tala Charms and Inu with David Warnock (left). (Photo by Christopher Harrison, Seven Arts Photography)

First place in the social innovation track was a team working to connect young entrepreneurs who are seeking like-minded cofounders across the world. The two founders themselves, Jesse Tu and Jett Zhang, live 400 miles from one another and met at an entrepreneurial event where the idea was born. Along with team member Steven Zhang, the trio from Suwanee, Ga., will be putting their seed funding into platform development and are hoping to complete their initial product release by the end of the summer while in the Q0 accelerator for high school entrepreneurs.

The second-place winners of the social innovation track were a group of four Baltimore local high school girls who founded their company, Tala Charms, while in a Dent Education’s Bet on Baltimore summer internship. It was in this program that they learned the Adobe Photoshop, woodcutting and laser-cutting skills necessary to create their customizable jewelry designs built “to turn personal stories into symbols and those symbols into jewelry.” The team includes Liz Gomez-Pena, Janae Franklin, Mariah Wilson and Amanda Seleen Westbrook

Hailing from Silver Spring, K-Ring addressed the challenges of the 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s through a unique product that helps first responders and citizens alike alert loved ones of the location and state of their family member through NFC and QR code technology. The team includes Priya Moorjani, Dhruv Pai and Varun Sharma.

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