Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

King Creativity Fund Supports 14 Projects for 2013-2014

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    Jennifer O’Neal became interested in Africa after volunteering there in 2009-2010. She plans to use a grant from the King Creativity Fund to develop a system that will help people learn more about charities that are working in Kenya. O’Neal is shown here with a member of the Maasai tribe in Kenya.
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    Amir Ardjomand Hessabi plans to use his King Creativity grant to design a robot arm that can mirror human movements. Hessabi is shown here with a robot he designed in summer 2013. (Photo by Lucas Adams)
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    Kelsey Abel plans to take a low-cost dome she helped develop last year and test it for use as a greenhouse.

Projects include developing a website that will analyze charitable organizations in Africa and creating a robotic arm that can mirror human movements

Uncovering valid information about charitable organizations can be difficult. When organizations are headquartered abroad, it can be next to impossible.

Jennifer O’Neal, a junior who has crafted an independent major in the geography of poverty and culture, hopes to change all that with the help of a grant from the King Creativity Fund, which supports innovative student projects at Southwestern.

Working with Anwar Sounny-Slitine, instructor of environmental studies and GIS Lab manager, O’Neal plans to develop an online resource calledCharity at a Glance that will use Google Maps and GIS technology to help people learn more about charitable organizations headquartered in Kenya.

O’Neal is focusing on Kenya because she has a particular interest in sub-Saharan Africa. She volunteered with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in both Kenya and Uganda in 2009-2010 before enrolling in Southwestern last spring. Many NGOs have operations in Kenya because it has a stable government but is still relatively poor.

O’Neal plans to gather information such as where organization are located, how many beneficiaries they serve, and what kind of work they are doing for their communities.

“The idea is that Charity at a Glance will serve as a platform for users to come across up-to-date information about charities easily,” O’Neal said. “A big problem with charities everywhere, but especially those working in distant locations, is informing potential donors of what they do and how they do it.” 

Once the initial organizational framework is created, O’Neal said Charity at a Glance could be expanded to include other regions of the world or act as a tool for analyzing more in-depth data about the organizations.

“What’s really exciting to me about this is that Charity at a Glance could serve as an organizational platform for analysis on charities, both on an individual scale and across a regional/national level,” she said.

For example, O’Neal said, the system could be used to determine whether a charity is making the best use of its money compared to other charities doing the same sort of work with the same sort of budget, or whether there are areas in Kenya that don’t have charities present and why that might be.

“I believe that the more information we get the better it is for potential donors, for the charities themselves, and for people like me who would really like to research the impact of charities in the communities they serve,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal will use the grant she received from the King Creativity Fund to host a website for Charity at a Glance and Skype with contacts she has in Kenya. She already has set up her website at

O’Neal’s project is one of 14 to receive grants from the King Creativity Fund for the 2013-2014 academic year. Other projects that have been funded are as follows:

  • “Audience Interactive Theatre Performance.” Allison Young plans to create an interactive theatre project that breaks down the preconceived barriers between actors and audience members. The play will be performed at Roots Bistro on the Georgetown Square. The faculty advisor for the project is Justin Smith.
  • “Bones.” Amir Ardjomand Hessabi plans to redesign a robot arm that can mirror a human’s movements. The faculty advisor for the project is Walt Potter.
  • “Conversations of Makeup and Feminism.” Carley Arnold plans to create performance art events that will encourage conversations about feminism and makeup. The faculty advisor for the project is Kerry Bechtel.
  • “Testing the Productivity of a Geodesic Dome as a Greenhouse.” Kelsey Abel plans to continue a King Creativity project she started last year in which she constructed a low-cost dome structure. This year she will work with Joey Kyle to test the application of her dome structure for use as a greenhouse. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.
  • “Beyond Minimalism: Creating Organic Dynamic Movement with Static Geometric Forms.” Charles Morris plans to build a 15- to 20-foot steel sculpture to add to his series of wood sculptures titled “One of Many.”The faculty advisor for the project isMary Visser.
  • “The Perfect Glaze: Using Evolutionary Computing to Format the Most Aesthetically Pleasing Glaze.” Taylor Hutchison plans to formulate and create his version of a perfect glaze for ceramics by combining computer programming with aesthetic decisions. The faculty advisors for the project are Walter Potter, Steve Alexander and Patrick Veerkamp.
  • “Spring-Loaded Rope Dispenser for use with Outdoor Shelters.” Camping enthusiast Garth Ornelas plans to create a small portable device that will dispense a length of lightweight rope that will provide enough tension to hold a tarp in place through all types of weather conditions. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.
  • “Low Cost Variable Use Spectrograph.” Vincente Estrada-Carpenter plans to design and fabricate a low-cost spectrograph for use at the Fountainwood Observatory. A spectrograph is a device that allows researchers to analyze the composition of celestial objects, as well as their relative velocities. The faculty advisor for the project is Mark Bottorff.
  • “Sustainable Blue Pier.”Chandler Johnson and Robert Lehr plantodesign an off-shore ocean pier that can harvest energy from wind, waves and the sun. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.
  • “Tesla Fan.” Isabella Ferranti plans to recreate a flat-disk turbine designed by Nikola Tesla. When connected to a motor, this assembly of flat rotating disks has the ability to suck air up through its central shaft and disperse it from its sides. Ferranti plans to attach the turbine to the motor of a ceiling fan and a desktop fan and test the airflow efficiency of each. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.
  • “The Ins and Outs of Southwestern University: Visual and Auditory Reflections.”Monica Miller and John Semlitsch plan to do time-lapse photography of 12 locations on campus over a 24-hour period to provide a unique visual representation of how the campus is occupied (and unoccupied) throughout a typical day. The faculty advisor for the project is Bob Bednar.
  • “Open Source Voting Machine.”Elizabeth Bell, Stephen Holloway, Eric Oden and Rebecca Wilson plan to build an inexpensive electronic voting device that complies with state and federal voting regulations. The machine will be designed to be accessible to citizens who cannot use traditional voting machines due to a disability or special need. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.
  • “Water Harvesting.” Isabella Ferranti and Adrienne Dodd plan to test the feasibility of using mesh screens to harvest water from the atmosphere for household use as well as use in agriculture and ranching. The faculty advisor for the project is Steve Alexander.

The total amount of funding awarded for the projects is $16,232. Students will present their projects at a symposium to be held on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.