Recently two Montclair State University alumni connected in an effort to expose elementary-aged students to the world of financial literacy and STEM-based product design. Tog Samphel ’22 appeared on Shark Tank this past January to promote his innovative product “Anytongs”. Little did he know that he’d earn an investment of $150K from Shark, Daymond John, and capture the attention of millions of viewers. One of those viewers was Hal Abraham ’11 ’15 MA, PhD, an elementary principal and adjunct professor at Montclair State University. Abraham was impressed by Samphel’s journey to entrepreneurship and the overall design of his product. When he learned that Samphel was a fellow alumnus, he knew that he had to reach out to Samphel and organize a visit for his students.
After a few shared messages on Linkedin, the two met up, and worked on coordinating an event. Abraham’s Elementary students engaged in a program called “Invention Convention” where they assessed modern-day problems. Students were broken up into groups based on interests such as sports, fashion, transportation, everyday living and art and hit the drawing board using Samphel’s story as motivation. Abraham noted “We wanted our students to know that you don’t have to be an adult or a scientist to become an inventor. Tog’s journey was a perfect way to communicate this. His story is one of ups and downs and great persistence. In the end, his grit helped him to be the successful entrepreneur that he is today.”
Samphel’s in-person visit to students was nothing short of inspiring. He talked about the origin of his “Anytongs” concept, seeing his mother create makeshift tongs out of various kitchen utensils as a child. The staff and students found this fascinating. He also discussed the varying types of responses that his product garnered over the years. Many people have told him that his design was well-needed and innovative, while others told him it was unnecessary and overpriced for a kitchen utensil. Ultimately, Samphel explained that the belief in his product led him to success in the Shark Tank.
Samphel was also very impressed with the work of the Norwood Elementary students. In total, three groups were selected out of 40 to present their ideas during the assembly. The ideas consisted of a Robotic Referee, an Adjustable Sneaker, and a Safe Haven for Animals During Forest Fires. Each group presented modern-day problems and proposed their solutions. Samphel shared his excitement for these concepts, gave feedback, and inspired students to take their ideas to the next level.
If you are interested in volunteering as a Montclair alumnus/a, we invite you to visit our volunteer website to learn more. You can inspire Montclair students as a mentor, provide resume reviews or speak to a class. To learn more about other ways to get connected with your fellow Montclair alumni, visit our website and complete this survey.