Have you seen The Social Network? Most of us know the story of how Mark Zuckerberg made a series of savvy (and not-so-savvy) business decisions from the “comfort” of his college dorm. Other startups have evolved from college students thinking about creating solutions to problems on their campus, in their personal live, or even the lives of others around the world. SnapChat, Reddit, DropBox, Insomnia Cookies, ModCloth, and tons of other companies were started by college students while they were still in school. Not only are there college entrepreneurs looking to profit off of their good ideas, but there are others that are taking volunteering very seriously and creating nonprofits that are impacting their communities and others around the world. Both are important ventures, and we’ve created a list of students doing amazing things – no matter how you define “amazing.”
“THON is a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Our mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness and ensure funding for critical research – all in pursuit of a cure.”
Each year, students from Penn State put on a 46-hour dance marathon that’s aptly named “THON Weekend.” Participants aren’t allowed to sit or sleep during this annual event that’s been going on since 1977. In that time, the event has raised over $137 million benefiting Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Last year alone, they raised $13 million dollars with 96% of it going directly to Four Diamonds.
“Our Smart Sock is designed to alert you if your baby stops breathing. The Owlet empowers you with the same technology hospitals use, pulse oximetry. Our wireless Smart Sock fits snug on your baby’s foot and monitors their heart rate and oxygen levels while they sleep.”
In 2012, a team of students from Bringam Young University came together to try and meet the needs of parents worried about their sleeping children. Business partners, Jordan Monroe and Kurt Workman along with their friend Zack Bomsta, created a pulse oximeter (device that measures heart rate and oxygen levels) specifically for babies that they could wear on their foot while they sleep. The information gathered is sent to a small base station that flashes colors and makes noise. On top of that, the vital information can be sent to a smartphone or tablet. As the company grows, they continue to work with students at BYU.
“Seven Mile Music is a student-driven initiative to bring music and arts education back to Detroit public schools. We provide free weekly music and arts lessons to K-12 youth in northwestern Detroit.”
Last summer, University of Michigan student, Sam Saunders, moved into a vacant home in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. The city is known for its economic hardships, violence, and bankruptcy. He wanted to help by bringing music and arts to the children of Brightmore since Detroit Public Schools continues to struggle to provide those options for their students. He, with a volunteer team of others from the U of M, put on a summer camp in 2015 for the children of the community. They continued to offer similar services through the school year with plans of another summer camp during the summer of 2016.
“Books 4 Equality is a free library with an online database for anyone to search, view, and borrow real books from. We solicit donations from all kinds of books in usable condition, then donate those same books to those who borrow them from our website. Catering towards making college more affordable for students, we have a strong presence and continue to grow on college campuses.”
As with many strong teams, Ben Kaufman, Alex Perkins, and Javier Garcia-Bernardo, met playing pickup soccer during their first semester at the University of Vermont. Books 4 Equality was born out of a desire to make college more accessible by increasing access to necessary textbooks. While walking around campus, the founding team noticed a pile of discarded books are realized they could recycle texts if they were donated to the site. Some of these texts are also then donated to students in developing countries around the world. The team continues to grow with other UVM student leaders.
“We’ll ask you a few questions to help you best describe your unique project. Our matching engine will search our network to find you the right experts. Within minutes, you’ll receive bids from experts who generally work from $75 – $200 / hour. Review the list of resumes from experts who have applied, message with your top bidders, and pick the perfect match. Start working right away.”
Created by Harvard Business School students, Rob Biederman and Patrick Petitti, HourlyNerd is a business consulting platform that works for an on-demand culture. The idea originally started as a way for students to use their skills on real-life consulting projects for companies that maybe would not normally use a traditional consulting firm. The platform has only grown from there.
“Our camps are grounded in the belief that a child’s potential should not be hindered by money. Because of this, any child can attend a Kicking4Hunger camp. Instead of an admission or registration fee, we simply encourage each camper to bring in a canned good donation for each day of camp. The food that we raise is then redirected to assist local food banks.”
In 2006, Gabriel Whaley, a student at the University of North Carolina came up with a simple way to help kids learn the game of soccer while reducing the barriers to entry through food donations as payment. Because the model is so simple, it has been replicated in many cities using college soccer teams as coaches and mentors – and it continues to grow. There are different models involved, but the mission stays the same, “Even though we offer different types of programs, each program has the same goal in mind: to fight hunger, empower individuals, and build communities.”
“We empower the visually impaired through object recognition via auditory feedback.”
Now heading into their third year at the University of Pennsylvania, Rajat Bhageria,Ben Sandler, David Ongchoco and Joe Cappadona, have created a product for Google Glass that recognizes objects and gives verbal feedback to the user. The team has partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to help create useful technology for the nearly 7 million people living with blindness – a number that just keeps growing.
“The turbine mounts at the crest of your roof, using the angle of the roof to speed up oncoming wind – generating more power than ever before. It’s beautiful, modular, quiet, and ready to save people money with 100% clean energy. America’s electricity grid is broken, so we made our own. The smart grid aggregates all of our customer’s stored energy and sells it back to electric companies when prices soar, allowing us to pay you every month.”
Graduates of Southern Methodist University this year, Jonah Kirby, Cameron Buller, Alec Siems, Brendan Celii, and Luke Oglesbee, created Fiddler while in school and marketed it at multiple pitch competitions around the United States during their college careers. Wind energy solutions are oftentimes ugly and obtrusive. They created a home solution that can be monitored via smartphones and stores energy for the home in a battery pack. It’s a new way to look at clean energy.
“There’s no reason to pay $60+ an hour for tutoring services! We charge as low as $18* an hour for one-on-one tutoring with the brightest minds in the area! All tutors are highly qualified high school students. Science has proven that students learn more effectively from their peers that have taken the same classes as them.”
As a high school student at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL, Anish Aggarwal, started the program that is entirely run by high school students from the president down to the tutors. Co-founding the business with Tim Grobe in 2014, the two wanted to create a more affordable way for students to get the tutoring they need while still offering ways to make money for students. The project continues to grow as Aggarwal studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
What amazing things are students doing on your campus? What ideas do you have to make the world a better place or just make life a little easier?