Maryland Students Help the Community Through the Do Good Challenge

By Maris Medina
For Unwind magazine

Every Tuesday afternoon, Charles Carroll Middle School is transformed into a hub for hydrophobic sand experiments and rainbow density towers. The small middle school—a short ten-minute drive from University of Maryland’s campus—is the primary program site for Students for the Advancement of Women in Science, a University of Maryland student organization founded by sophomores Kelsey Anderson and Natalia Ochman.

Anderson, an English and physiology and neurobiology major, initially envisioned the organization last year, and with the help of bioengineering major Ochman, applied to the campus-wide Do Good Challenge and successfully won a small grant. Students for the Advancement of Women in Science is only one among many student-run ventures vying for seed funding, prize money, exposure, and the chance to further their project at this year’s Do Good Challenge.

logo-do-good-2016

The Do Good Challenge is a prize competition described as a “cross between American Idol and Shark Tank,” the University of Maryland Director of the Do Good Institute Robert Grimm said. Due to its success over the last five years, the Challenge has helped expand President Wallace Loh’s relatively new Do Good Campus initiative.

“The success of the campus-wide Do Good Challenge was a major catalyst to create a Do Good Campus,” Grimm explained.

The new initiative to become a Do Good Campus is this university’s way of engaging its students in real-life current events and issues, while also helping them find solutions to these problems.

“The idea of the Do Good Campus is to engage every student from orientation through graduation in experiences that will tap a cause that they’re passionate about and equip them with supportive skills to make an impact on that issue,” Grimm said. “Students are demanding the opportunity to make an impact on causes they’re passionate about and they want to do that in college.”

These skills, Grimm explained, are cultivated with resources like new innovative classes across various programs and even a new undergraduate major in public policy.

The new initiative to become a Do Good Campus is this university’s way of engaging its students in real-life current events and issues, while also helping them find solutions to these problems.

Anderson and Ochman’s own program is founded on addressing the difficult issues of many underprivileged public schools, especially the underrepresentation of women in the sciences.

“It’s not that the kids aren’t interested, it’s really because of the fact that they don’t have the scientific equipment, they don’t have the textbooks, and their teachers sometimes don’t have the knowledge that they need in order to accelerate the learning process,” Ochman said.

Terps Against Hunger, another student organization, aims to solve a different social problem: hunger. The organization is “a collegiate meal-packing organization,” Josh Turskey, sophomore architect student and president of the organization, said.

Terps Against Hunger, which won the $5,000 grand prize at last year’s Do Good Challenge, holds massive meal-packing events which produce packages of food that are then donated to organizations such as the Capital Area Food Bank and Manna Center. Last homecoming, the group packed 400,000 meals, according to Turskey.

Terps for Hunger 1 million package with Chris Van Hollen

Students volunteer with Terps Against Hunger in Cole Field House.

Turskey headed a similar meal-packing club when he was in high school, remembering the stunning statistics he had discovered about hunger.

“I was kind of frustrated that the entire Xfinity Center would be gone in a day and no one would really notice,” he said. “I was like, ‘let’s do something about it.’”

Ochman was also unaware of the certain circumstances within the science field until she interned at a school for underprivileged high schoolers and subsequently started volunteering at Charles Carroll.

“I really had it well. I went to school in Montgomery County. You sort of take for granted how privileged we are and it’s because that’s all you ever know. Unless you experience something else, you don’t connect the ideas,” Ochman said.

Other student teams showcasing their ideas at this year’s Do Good Challenge belong in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) of the University’s Honors College. EIP is one among many university programs and schools that have directly partnered with the Do Good initiative. The specific program has classes specifically geared to help prepare students for the competition.

Zubair Khan, a sophomore electrical engineering student in EIP, is working with his team to develop “HomeEats.” The program would connect local residents—especially foreign born workers—with college students looking for a home-cooked meal. Khan observed that many college students simply didn’t like the options on or off campus.

“We could connect them with individuals who are trying to cook for a little bit extra money,” Khan said. “If you have a car, you can uber or lyft. If you have a house or extra room you can Airbnb but if you’re a new immigrant or you really don’t have that much money, there’s fewer and fewer options.” HomeEats would be accessed online, working with user input to develop meals that would then be put in production the next day, readily available to its consumers, Khan explained.
Another student pair is taking a different route: environmental sustainability.

Sophomore Alex Deall, an electrical engineering student, and sophomore mechanical engineering student Ryan Kosmides, are further developing “Turbind”—a venture that was successful in last year’s Do Good Challenge. Turbind, as described by Kosmides, is “a small-scale wind energy solution” that costs the same to power as a Nerf gun. Turbind has the capacity to power any low-powered utility off-grid such as parking meters and charging stations.

The Do Good Challenge, Ochman explained, has paved a way for various student teams to bring about their ideas in tangible ways that otherwise may not have been possible.

“You’re stagnant, you’re just sitting in a pond. You’re not moving anywhere. The Do Good Challenge makes it a river,” Ochman said. “It allows us to move, it allows us to branch out. It allows us to go to different countries, to go to different campuses, to different schools to really change people’s lives.”

The challenge also allows students to respond to current events and today’s political climate. “The fact that [the challenge] actually helps people, I think is resonating with people nowadays—especially with this new paradigm shift with the new Trump administration,” Zubair explained.

Others emphasize reaching out to the community. “We’re the rising generation and there’s all these social issues that are going to be tackled,” Deall said. “Trying to foster that mindset not only being in it for yourself, but trying to help your community at large.”

Apart from the challenge, Grimm explained that the bigger picture lays in this university becoming a socially innovative, 21st century institution. “Part of our brand is offering experiences that are reinventing your idea of what college is about,” Grimm said. “You’re going to see Maryland is going to be recognized as a 21st century leader in doing good and I think that the model that other colleges and universities will follow because they also see that college students today are hungry for opportunities to do good.”

In response to the general Do Good Campus initiative, Ochman is enthusiastic about this university’s push for its students to make a change in the world.

“[The initiative] shows that you’re putting faith in your students and in their ideas,” Ochman said. “It’s not only on campus, we’re also changing things abroad.”

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