March 8, 2011

Uncommon Funds awarded to 25 projects

Barista Championships, puppies and kittens on the quads, and Intramural Quidditch will soon grace U of C’s campus, the Uncommon Fund board announced last night.

These three projects and 22 others will receive allotments of the $40,000 grant. The 25 selected projects, a record high number of winners, were chosen from 146 submissions, another record. Last year, 13 projects were chosen out of a pool of 54.

Chairman of the Uncommon Fund board and third-year David Chen said that the number of recipients was higher not just because the submission rate was higher, but because the proposals had greater variety.

“We saw a lot of diversity, so we funded 25 projects this year, which means we gave out less money to each,” Chen said. “We didn’t sacrifice in terms of project quality though.”

Some of the projects funded were playful: puppies and kittens during finals week ($850), Harper laser-rave ($2,850), and a gigantic water balloon fight ($895.4). Others hold the U of C’s quirk in their name: IM Quidditch ($2,165), the Joy of Science ($950), and a Conference on Jersey Shore Studies ($2,580).

But one, according to Chen, best defined “uncommon.”

Oscillation, a week-long augmented reality game, received $7,400, more than any other project and twice as much as the second-highest rewarded. “We all [the board] agreed that that game could create the next trend,” Chen said. “That could really determine the future of gaming.”

A number of projects were entrepreneurship-based, including the Barista Championships ($387.6), web start-up ($480), and Start Up Weekend ($3,700).

Third-year Morgan Hartley’s Start Up Weekend was another project that Chen singled out as being a trend setter for bringing speakers to campus. The 54-hour long conference will bring together ideas from entrepreneurs and creative types, and will be “an incubator for uncommon ideas,” Hartley said.

Chen was impressed not only in the breadth of submissions, but the creativity behind the project presentations. Saturday, each project team was given 15 minutes to make sure the board completely understood the potential of their project.

Some gave Power Point presentations, but others were more unusual. Second-year and Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Ip, who received funding for his Barista Championships, brought his cutting-edge syphon coffee brewing system in and made coffee for the board members.

The Soundwave Collective team, according to Chen, brought in musical equipment and used their time to surprise the board with a performance within two minutes. For their performance they received $2,177.9.

Ip will use the money for coffee tasting and education, and also as a way to bring attention to Hyde Park talent. He said he was surprised his project went forward because of the quality of the entrepreneurial projects submitted.

“A lot of people have been talking about this cultural shift with entrepreneurial ventures and now you’re seeing it with the Uncommon Fund,” Ip said. “Students and the administration need to look at creating more opportunities like the Uncommon Fund.”

Other winning projects include Art & Science Collaborative ($2000), Bus Buddy ($804), Chalkboards on the Quads ($1,300), Insect Tasting Buffet ($600), Exploring the Leather Library ($3,198), MadShelfer on campus ($800), Mission Nutrition ($830), Off-Off Campus ($1,000), On the Edge ($2,050), Phoenix Feed ($1,150), Piecemeatal ($325.69), Street Yoga ($2,000), Sustainable Water ($3,300), and Tandem Bikes ($1,206).