CEHC Hosts ‘Shark Tank’ Competition for High School Seniors

EPICH students and program leaders stand for a photo following the "Shark Tank" competition.

By Mike Nolan

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 13, 2022) – Six high school students put their entrepreneurial skills to the test during a Shark Tank-style competition at ETEC on Friday.  

The students, part of the Questar III BOCES New Visions: Emergency Preparedness, Informatics, Cyber and Homeland Security (EPICH) program, were tasked with creating an invention or idea to pitch to a panel of “sharks” made up of faculty and staff at the College of the Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC). 

Launched last fall, EPICH is a one-year career exploration program for high school seniors. The program, which is hosted by CEHC, offers students a unique opportunity to complete college-level courses, along with additional experiential learning components that are directly applicable to a variety of career pathways in cybersecurity, homeland security and emergency preparedness.  

It is run by Marcie Fraser, a double University at Albany alum with a master’s degree and PhD in public health. Prior to joining CEHC, she worked at the New York State Department of Health as a health educator in emergency preparedness. She also spent 15 years as a news reporter covering medical and fitness news.  

“Getting the chance to teach these driven, college-bound students has been amazing,” said Fraser. “The rich partnership between UAlbany and Questar is providing these students with a valuable experience that is changing the trajectory of their college journey and career path.” 

Perfecting The Pitch  

Geddy Williams, a senior at Coxsackie-Athens High School, pitches his idea for a new emergency aid app.

Fraser was the host of last week’s event, challenging her students to create and share product ideas that incorporate artificial intelligence and/or can be used for emergency and disaster response.  

The students were split into two groups and vied for an “investment” of up to $250,000 from the panel of sharks. Even though there was no actual money at stake, the sharks did offer valuable feedback on each of the ideas and presentations. 

Lauren Liberti, a senior at Catskill High School, received the largest investment of the first group for her product called the “Survivor Seat,” a multipurpose, bullet-proof chair that can be used to protect students during an active shooting incident.  

She joined the EPICH program with an interest in criminal justice and earning college credit ahead of graduating high school.  

“When we were assigned this project, I thought about some of the largest problems facing society, which led me to the ‘Survivor Seat,’” Liberti said. “With such a large increase in mass shootings across the U.S., students unfortunately need to be able to protect themselves. I thought this product might be one way to help.” 

Bailey Vooris, a senior at Averill Park High School, received the largest investment of the second group for her product called “Carcino-Gone,” a scanner for firefighters and other first responders to help detect and remove harmful chemicals from their gear. 

Bailey Vooris and Lauren Liberti proudly display their "Dane Bot" awards.
Bailey Vooris (left) and Lauren Liberti were awarded 3D-printed "Dane Bots" for receiving the top investments.  

Vooris is a firefighter in Troy and was inspired by her uncle who served as a first responder in New York City during the 9/11 terror attacks and is a cancer survivor. She’s interested in law enforcement and has enrolled at CEHC for the Fall 2023 semester.  

“I grew up around first responders and am a firefighter myself. I wanted to pitch something that was personal to me,” Vooris said. “This program has been an amazing experience so far. It’s helped me get college ready, meet new people, and learn about different career fields.” 

EPICH Students 

Students participating in EPICH can earn up to 15 college credits through the University in the High School program at UAlbany. Courses include Cybersecurity Basics, Intro to Data Analytics, Information in the 21st Century and Intro to Emergency Prep., Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.  

The half-day, seniors-only program meets every Monday through Friday morning at UAlbany’s new ETEC research and development complex.  

Current juniors interested in applying for the program may fill out an application here