Junior Cabinet awards ‘fun grants’ for personal projects

Feb. 25, 2014, 1:18 a.m.

Five proposals from members of the junior class have received $100 “Winter Quarter Fun Grants” from the Junior Class Cabinet in the initiative’s first year.

First imagined during a d.school brainstorming session in an effort to foster the creation of new, high-quality events and opportunities for the junior class, the pilot program received 35 proposals.

“This is a chance to do anything you can imagine for your friends, for your community, for your class, for yourself—just tell us why!” wrote Natalya Thakur ’15, one of six junior class presidents, in an email to all juniors at the start of February.

Megan Kurohara ’15, another class president, emphasized that the purpose of this grant is to help personal projects. Thakur explained that such projects might include helping out a friend in need or thanking resident fellows or staff.

This year’s winners drew inspiration from a number of sources to come up with their proposals, from a literature-inspired idea to resolving real technical issues on campus.

Michael Stern ’15 kept his proposal simple.

“Essentially, I just want to give out fifty-dollar bills, matching 100 dollars from the junior class with a hundred dollars of my own,” he explained. “Giving 50 dollars to anyone here on campus, to someone in our community—someone who looks like they could need it.”

Stern said that the idea had come to him from a novel.

“I [got] inspiration from a book that I recently read called ‘Moon Palace’ where a character in it does a similar thing so I thought it would be really cool to try it out,” Stern said.

For Sasha Spivak ’15 and Alicia Seta ’15, who collaborated on a proposal, the money will not immediately produce real change but will instead help fund the start of a larger project.

“We want to build a geodesic jungle gym—full-scale, 25-square feet around—and we want to build it somewhere on campus because there isn’t a lot of interactive art on campus,” Seta explained. “There’s a lot of abstract sculptures, but nothing that is really built for users.”

In the pursuit of this end, Spivak and Seta hope to build a wood model of the dome, using the $100 for the wood and plastic parts. They emphasized that a model is necessary for the long-term goals of the project.

“There’s a lot of analysis that goes into the statics of the structure and you also want to test it on a physical model to scale,” Spivak said.

“There’s a lot of insight you can gain from having a physical model instead of just doing calculations,” Seta added.

The two anticipate finishing a model by the start of spring quarter at the latest. After the model is created, they hope to eventually build a version with actual metal instead of wood.

“Once we finish calculations and building our first model, by the end of that we’ll have a lot of information about building…and with all of that information, then we will feel comfortable going to department heads and actually proposing to build this,” Seta said.

On the other hand, Walter Torres ’15 said that he saw the grant proposals as a chance to fix a recurring issue for his band, Siberian Front.

“I’m playing in a rock band right now and we are just now starting to play shows and Stanford has a very nice space inside Stern Dining but some of the equipment isn’t up to par so our singer has a lot of trouble being heard in the practice room,” Torres said.

For Torres, the grant money will help subsidize the cost of anticipated purchases.

“The new system is going to cost about 250 bucks so I think this will cover just part of that cost,” he said. “We’ll just turn in a receipt for whatever we buy—we’ll make a thoughtful choice.”

Justin Brown ’15, who has studied circus arts for more than eight years, will use his grant money to support the start of a group that brings together other students with skills in contortion, aerial fabrics and unicycling. Brown said that while he knows close to 10 such students, he hopes to reach out to other potential members with the proposal money, which will fund advertising for and snacks at an interest meeting, before continuing to develop the group.

“[We’ll bring] together some kind of showcase event and, depending on level of interest, actually making it a student group to get funding from the University,” he said.

Alex Pittman ’15, the final winner, plans to build a “MobiliChair” that provides a source of electric power for wheelchair users who cannot afford completely electric power chairs. He will use the funds to upgrade a design he created last quarter.

Proposal winners will write a follow-up reflection describing the way the money was used and the results of the project, which will be featured alongside the winners on the Class of 2015 Facebook group.

 Contact Alex Zivkovic at aleksa ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu. 

Alex Zivkovic is a Desk Editor for the news section who likes to cover stories on academics and student activism on campus. Alex is a sophomore studying Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with an interest in representation of gender in literature and visual art. He is from Irvine, California. To contact Alex, email him at aleksa ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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