Students rewarded for their Big iDeas
Published: Saturday, March 31, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
While most students are busy relaxing or skiing on their Christmas break, Jacob Fleming was hard at work on his big idea.
By Jan. 27, he had collected a team of four: Alex Saucedo, Jessica Hart, Joey Ottolenghi and himself. They proposed their idea to a panel at SMU and received $4,000 to make their dream a reality.
SMU’s Big iDeas program was started by SMU Provost Paul Ludden and has been giving students the opportunity to research and address specific challenges facing the Dallas area for four years.
“There are about 10 awards each year, and they usually get about $3,000 to $4,000,” said John Whaley, SMU’s finance officer. Whaley helps students understand how to spend the money they have been given.
Fleming and his team were some of the most recent grant winners for their STEM Future Dallas project. Their goal is to create a stronger support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Dallas.
Each of the four team members is studying either math or science. And with an electrical engineering pre-med major, an environmental science major, a psych and biology major, it is a well-rounded group.
“Everybody brings something different,” Fleming said.
After whipping up a proposal at their Friday night spot, Banditos, the team presented their goals and ideas as well as a budget proposal. They received the $4,000 they were estimating they would need. The most any team can be granted is $5,000.
“The program is just awesome because they are willing to give out money to teams who are dedicated to using it well,” Fleming said.
Fleming and his team have until October to use up their funds, by which time they hope to have their website launched and have presented at at least one conference.
The Big iDeas program has provided incredible experience and opportunity to all its grant winners.
“I am all for providing undergrad research. I’m happy that it’s given me the opportunity to explore this topic more,” Alex Saucedo, electrical engineering pre-med major and member of the STEM Future Dallas team, said.
For SMU Finance Officer John Whaley, it’s a project he holds dear to his heart.
“It’s a lot of fun for me because generally in my role I’m dealing with other financial people, not so much with the students. Through the Big iDeas program, I get to know the students pretty well. One of them actually asked me to be on Facebook.” Whaley said.
The project is as beneficial to Dallas as it is to the students.
Over the past four years, about $150,000 has been given to about 45 projects.
Each project has actively addressed an issue or challenge faced in Dallas.
“The process of doing this is a learning experience for the students and I think that might be just as important as what is actually accomplished,” Whaley said.
Through the Big iDeas program, students are given an opportunity to turn their ideas into a tangible project that benefits the community.
“People can always talk about how much they love STEM education or how much they love a certain topic, but if they really want to do something about it they need the money and they need the resources to really go out into the world and make a change,” Saucedo said.
For more information on the Big iDeas program, visit http://smu.edu/bigideas/ and attend the Big iDeas Symposium April 25 to see students like Saucedo and Fleming explain their projects.