For those Wolverines who are just coming out of hibernation, let it be known that optiMize is a student-led incubator that seeks to “bring ideas to life.” Ideas that in the classroom dissipate once the pencils are laid down on the final exam are given a stage with optiMize. Ideas that can make a difference.
And this Thursday, the five finalists from this year’s Social Innovation Challenge will take the stage and look to impress campus and the judges with their pitches. A Grand Prize of $1,000 is up for grabs, on top of the $5,000 that they have already won. A crowd vote will decide who wins yet another $1,000.
We’ll take a look back at how past winners are faring, and semifinalists will be announced. Join us there at the Rackham Auditorium on Thursday at 7pm for the show, and at 6pm for a symposium of non-finalist teams.
The Michigan Review is excited to present these trailers for Thursday. Here’s what to watch for.
Ready Set Start
By Erin Dunne
The Arts are often thought of as something that is limited to those with formal training or “natural” talent. Ready Set Start, a startup founded by three University of Michigan students, aims to redefine access to the arts. Co-founder Lindsay Fedewa told the Michigan Review that part of their mission is to, “break the stigma that really expensive training is needed to engage in the arts.”
The idea for Ready Set Start was born when a Lloyd Hall Scholars course entitled Leadership in the Arts asked students what they were passionate about. Three students, Jennifer Wang, Victoria Rilett and Lindsay Fedewa, now co-founders of Ready Set Start, developed a project around increasing access to the arts for everyone. Fedewa explained, “Arts were important to us, but others haven’t had that experience; people lacked access for a range of reasons.”
A long way from a project proposal for a class, Ready Set Start is now a registered student organization that holds regular community workshops that bring arts to underserved populations. Recent activities include workshops on drum circles and creative marketing at the Bryant Community Center. These workshops are staffed by Ready Set Start volunteers and provide materials and assistance to elementary students. Despite the success of their workshops, the hardest part of turning the mission of Ready Set Start into reality has been convincing potential supporters of the value of exposure to the arts. Fedewa noted that it has been especially difficult to, “get people to realize that the arts are important.” In the future, Ready Set Start hopes to take its mission of arts accessibility on the road with a bus designed to be a workshop space. “We want to bring arts workshops to communities’ doorsteps,” said Fedewa. Ready Set Start is always looking for more volunteers. Those interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kevin Liu
Like every night at the University of Michigan, you find yourself at the UGLi studying and cramming for that exam, or you find yourself stuck on North Campus after completing another group project. You take a look at your watch and it is 1 am.
It’s cold and you want to get home safely.
What should you do?
One of the safest ways of getting around campus, especially during the late hours of the night, is to have a buddy and to establish a buddy system. Two students, Steven Schmatz and Robin Mehta, are developing an app that will be released in the fall of 2015, called Bounce.
It is a simple solution to a complex problem. In their words, “It’s a significant societal problem for students (and particularly women) to feel limited in their means of transportation without a group of people to travel with or enough money to take a cab or uber. We need a reliable method of regaining that independence.”
Bounce provides a way for users on the University of Michigan campus to connect with each other, to have a safe and inexpensive way of returning home safely. Once you use the app, you’ll notice that there are several features that will ensure the safety of the user, such as a friend of friends feature, an expiration date for your request, a feature that allows for grouping of those with the same gender and a feature that allows for you to connect with those who live around you and whom you trust. Failsafe features are also being implemented to ensure the safety of the user.
To invest in Bounce, follow this AngelList link. Reach them at email@example.com
By Omar Mahmood
A battle-worn man goes to work every day in a wheelchair. One day at work, it is raining outside. Every time it rains, he gets soaking wet. That day, he has to wait for hours, just watching the rain pelter the windows, stranded because he did not have the luxury of being able to pull out an umbrella.
ADAPT is a team of students that has it as its mission to help people like him. Their umbrella goals are to reduce negative stigma attached to those with wheelchairs, to restore the independence of users. They let their values direct their long run goals.
The mission began with Sidney Krandall, an Industrial Design student studying at Stamps. She would take rounds of hospitals in Ann Arbor and speak with patients. So many little things that we take for granted present as recurring themes for handicapped wheelchairs. Sydney reached out to Laura Murphy, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, and their vision converged on a simple prototype: an umbrella holder for wheelchairs. It was the marriage of art and engineering.
Every step of the way, the team consults with their clients. They learned that if the umbrella took more than 2 seconds to unfold, it would be too much of a hassle. “Printing a 3-D model was just the coolest thing,” says Laura. “Till then we’d just been working with cardboard and foam, and finally we had this in our hands.”
The team will continue to move forward with their mission, finding solutions like these that are tirelessly in line with what their clients want. Winning with optiMize means that they will now be able to bring their solutions to the market within a year.
Adapt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Change of Mind
A team of six students has a clear vision for social change in the form of mental health through modern technology. Change of Mind, a mobile app, is designed to aid students’ mental well-being through interpersonal peer communication.
The app provides a supplemental means of support to promote campus-wide mental health, as students can anonymously chat with their fellow classmates. Expected to be available in Fall 2015, the app will be free of charge. Change of Mind strives to provide a safe, encouraging environment in which students feel comfortable reaching out during time of need.
Team member Evan Gennrich said, “With our app, we’re promoting community engagement with a sensitive issue in the hopes of informing the next generation of professionals to be mindful of issues of mental health and equipping them with the knowledge of empathy driven conversation.”
The support from University professionals within the field of mental health treatment, such as clinical and research psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, has bolstered the team’s success. Change of Mind resonates a strong passion and enthusiasm within the field of mental health treatment. Team members are have all committed to pursuing careers in the field and are prepared to alter the community’s perception of mental health.
Change of Mind can be reached at email@example.com