The University of Auckland’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme Velocity challenged UoA students to share their innovative ideas for a share of $12,000 prize money. Craccum talked to some of the Innovation Challenge winners, The Next Step, FistBump, and Outhere, about what they are working on.
The Next Step — Nandini Singh
Nandini Singh’s $1000 winning idea, The Next Step, is a program to help students in low decile high schools get into University. Singh says she was surprised to learn that students from low-income households make up only 6% of UoA’s student population. The University of Auckland has several Undergraduate Targeted Admission Schemes and scholarships for eligible students, including those from low socio-economic backgrounds. But Singh says many students are not aware of the help available and that many barriers prevent low-income students from pursuing higher education.
Singh was the first in her family to go to University. “I was very lucky to have supportive parents that guided me through the process even though they didn’t have enough information.” Singh says she applied for as many scholarships as she could to put herself through University. However, she says many of her friends didn’t have the same opportunities as her, and that it was disheartening to see them rule out university as an option.
With The Next Step, Nandini Singh wants to share knowledge and resources with students in an accessible way through workshops provided by University students. “I was very privileged to have that support system, and I want to create that for others.” Singh has begun talks with local Members of Parliament in South Auckland about her idea. Her next step will be to hopefully collaborate with the Auckland Council and the University.
Singh says she would love people to get in touch with her if they are interested in getting involved at email@example.com.
FistBump — Michael Shaimerden, Peter Goedeke, Shannon Blackhall, and Jiaru Lin
FistBump is a team of UoA engineering students using AI to help students find friends. Team member Michael Shaimerden says they came up with the idea after seeing posts on the UoA Reddit thread and confession pages from students struggling to find friends on campus. “There were too many of these sorts of posts. “We realised there was a problem and thought, let’s try to solve it.”
Shaimerden says their matching algorithm is based on research from The Global Matching Project, which found what aspects of personality are essential for determining if two people can be good friends. The FistBump algorithm matches students together based on some of these interests and personality traits based on answers to a questionnaire.
Like Tinder and Bumble, their app will allow users to chat once matched. But FistBump wants to go further to help facilitate connections. Shaimerden says dating apps have loose compatible thresholds, which don’t encourage meaningful connections. The FistBump app pairs you up based on factors like music taste or politics, and that this helps start a conversation (if you read “Dating Advice from Politicians” from last issue, this is good news for David Seymour, who with FistBump can filter out any ‘socialists’).
Shaimerden says the project is unique to most engineering student startups. “Engineers don’t typically engage in social stuff. I like talking to people, and I’m pretty extroverted. I would consider myself an entrepreneur first and an engineer second.” The social engineering project already has around 200 users, and the app will be released publicly as an open beta in July.
Outhere — Alexandar Majstorović, Sophie Browning, Zac Turner, and Grace McCulloch
Alex Majstorović says Outhere aims to start the “next wave of deep space exploration” by “developing the intellectual property for a non-atmospheric celestial objects image scanning product.” If that sounds pretty complicated, it’s because it is. Majstorović broke it down so even an Arts and Commerce student like myself can understand it as “taking photos of asteroids, comets, and moons and using software to analyse it.”
Majstorović says their team met through Piazza and started through the Auckland Program for Space Systems (APPS). Through the program, the team designed a CubeSat (a type of miniaturised satellite for space research). He says that while managing the project and completing a full-time degree is challenging, they work on it to procrastinate between studying. (When I procrastinate, I scroll through TikTok, and send them to my friends, so I can see why they won $1000).
Outhere is looking for new members to join their team, who are creative and forward-thinking. Majstorović encourages people to get in touch if interested.
Photo: Winners of Velocity’s Innovation Challenge. Photo by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.