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4 student teams awarded UMSI Field Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grants

"UMSI Field Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant. 2022 Awardees: Karon 'KJ' Green. Lizbeth Guerrero. Rebekah Lim. Garret Potter."

Monday, 08/01/2022

The University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) recently awarded four Master of Science in Information (MSI) students $5,000 each to support their startup ventures. The grants were made through the school’s Field Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant program. 

Some of the MSI students are working with teammates from U-M’s Ross School of Business and School of Education. They will use the funding to help cover the many expenses associated with launching new technology, including software development, mobile application development, content creation, user testing and legal consultation.  

“The purpose of this grant is to empower entrepreneurs at UMSI, and we’re really excited about this year’s chosen ventures,” says Kelly Kowatch, director of UMSI’s Engaged Learning Office. “The University of Michigan offers a wealth of resources through programs and coaching for students who are seeking to launch a startup; however, seed funding can often be a challenge or highly competitive.  The Field Grant helps UMSI students and their teammates move their ideas forward in ways that are challenging in other environments.” 

2022 Projects

Cele

Karon "KJ" Green (MSI and MBA) 
Devlin McConnell, Cory Cooney

KJ stands outside in a purple suit jacket
KJ Green

Customer research shows that people spend over a week thinking about each gift they have to buy. They use words like “overwhelmed” and “stressed” to describe their gift shopping experiences. Cele uses artificial intelligence to curate personalized gift ideas in a streamlined marketplace. 

Cele’s point of differentiation will be its user experience (UX). The funding from the Field Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant will allow the team to partner with more experts to continue improving the UX interface, providing a more sustainable competitive advantage.

Views of user interfaces on a tablet, laptop and web browser

Evolve

Lizbeth Guerrero (MSI) 
Sushmitha Rao (MSI '22), Shivani Gandhi

Lizbeth photographed with a sunset
Lizbeth Guerrero

High school can be a dizzying time for teenagers as they explore emerging interests and begin imagining their future careers. To help with that, U-M students created Evolve, an all-in-one career exploration platform designed to help high school students explore where their interests might take them.

Through the Evolve platform, students can learn about various careers and roles available to them that may not be traditionally mentioned in classrooms. Evolve allows students to explore and evolve their professional interests as they learn more about themselves in their high school years. Evolve is different from other solutions because it verifies trusted mentors that can talk about their careers with students in a one-on-one setting while they also guide a hands-on learning project. 

ToGro

Rebekah Lim (MSI) 
Ye Eun Jeong

Rebekah stands in the U-M law quad in summer
Rebekah Lim

The student team set out to solve the problem of superfluous food waste and help users save money. Their project, ToGro, introduces a way to be a smart consumer within a community.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, between 30-40% of the food supply is thrown out. The United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests purchasing less food in the first place. However, this may be difficult for single-person households. 

To address this problem, the ToGro app connects single-person households with neighbors who want to buy groceries together, thereby saving money and reducing food waste.

A series of phone images shows a user interface
ToGro app mockup

Everstory

Garret Potter (MSI and Educational Studies MA) 
Sally (Xuechen) Liu, Harmeet Kaur Saini 

Garret Potter stands indoors wearing green
Garret Potter

Everstory is an encyclopedia exploration environment for early learners. It's like an audio/visual Wikipedia for four-year-olds who cannot yet read text but are fluent in spoken language and image transfer.

The team behind Everstory identified what they see as a global problem: Much of the early social studies curriculum has the potential to lead young students down a path toward ethnocentrism, xenophobia and nationalism. 

The team envisioned “an app in which a child can begin with one person, place or thing in which they are personally interested and move from that point, virtually, around the globe, the universe, and throughout time, building their own connected web of knowledge.”

Since receiving the grant from UMSI, Potter participated in the Michigan EdTech Innovation Pitch Contest & Bootcamp to continue developing Everstory. Everstory earned second place in the contest.

 

The Field Grant is made possible through the contributions of donors to the School of Information. Specifically, the Field Family sought to support School of Information students and their interdisciplinary team members who had a need to support entrepreneurial initiatives such as the endeavors shared here.

Learn more about U-M’s top-ranked entrepreneurial community

 

Martha Spall, UMSI writer