When classes begin in just a little over three weeks from now, Dalton Public Schools students will be studying for their subjects. Some will be practicing for the school band or a sports team. And some will be working on their business plans.
This year, the school system is joining with organizers of the PitchDIA (Dalton Innovation Accelerator) contest to host the school system's own contest for entrepreneurs and inventors.
"On Sept. 13, at Dalton High School, we are going to hold a K-12 district competition," said Nick Sun, director of school support for Dalton Public Schools. "All Dalton schools will participate."
Several local business people have volunteered to serve as judges for the contest and mentors for the finalists.
"They will pick about four finalists," said Sun. "Then those (business people) will act as mentors to those teams. They will mentor them until the PitchDIA contest. At that contest, those four will pitch their ideas to the crowd, which will select a winner."
Barry Slaymaker, head of strategy for Barrett Properties and one of the organizers of the PitchDIA contest, said getting Dalton Public Schools involved "might be the most exciting part" of this year's PitchDIA contest, which is scheduled for Oct. 8.
But Sun says PitchDIA is just one step for the school system's budding entrepreneurs. They will have the opportunity to compete in other contests for inventors and entrepreneurs.
"PitchDIA is really a preliminary contest," Sun said. "And not just for the four winners. Everyone who pitches can continue to work with a mentor. Dalton State College will be sending students to work with these teams over the school year. That will lead to a competition that Bridge Innovate (a consulting firm) has with their Bright Spark program in Chattanooga and a competition at Georgia Tech called InVenture Prize that we can apply for."
Some selected students will get a head start on the competition next week.
"We've put together a summer camp, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Camp, which will take place Tuesday and Wednesday," Sun said. "We asked school leaders to pick some kids who think outside the box or who have created inventions or taken part in different competitions to come to this camp to learn design thinking."
Students will be able to come up with ideas and start preparing their presentations for the contest.