PROFfunder: Crowd-funding student-run projects

PROFfunder: Crowd-funding student-run projects


Inspired by sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, Rowan University is riding a fundraising wave, providing capital for a wide range of student projects that could, literally, change the world.

The web-based PROFfunder platform connects donors, some of whom contribute as little as $5 to one or more projects, with visionary students who seek to affect real change.

The single-month campaign – for Fall 2016 it’s in November – is raising money for ten student projects including ProfWave, a dream of four undergraduate engineering students to capture energy from ocean waves; CMSRU: Tutor Time, a program conceived by Cooper Medical School of Rowan University students to teach school kids in Camden; and To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), an effort to raise awareness about depression.

The only hitch: all donations must be made by Nov. 30.

“PROFfunder is a way for donors to make a direct impact on students,” said Amie Marshall, associate director of annual giving in the Division of University Advancement.

She said the PROFfunder program, which started in 2015, differs from funding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe in that there are no administrative charges. Every dollar raised helps fund the project for which it was donated.

Marshall said the two PROFfunder campaigns this academic year, one in November and one in March, were intentionally limited in duration to inspire donor activity.

“We’ve seen that keeping the drives shorter, giving people a sense of urgency, results in a better response rate,” she said. “Dragging them out, say, over six months, makes the rate go down.”

The PROFfunder page features descriptions of all projects, fundraising goals, and an interactive “thermometer” that records funding progress and changes from red to green when the goal is met.


Ocean green

Four seniors in Rowan’s celebrated engineering program do, in fact, seek to turn the ocean green, as in green energy.

The students, seniors Joe Mandara, Logan Greer, Aaron Sorin and Rich Sbresny, are using the PROFfunder campaign to help build a wave energy converter (WEC), a buoy-like device that would bob in the water and capture energy from waves.

The group, which named their project ProfWave, has a fundraising goal of $3,000 and was almost halfway to it on Nov. 17.

Senior mechanical engineering major Joe Mandara, who conceived the idea, said research into wave energy conversion has been more common in Europe than in the U.S.

One such project, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, uses a series of connected sections that flex and bend above passing waves, generating electricity for an on-shore grid.

Mandara believes his team’s design could work on a smaller scale.

“We’ll basically have a pendulum inside that swings back and forth,” Mandara said. “It’s connected to two piston cylinders that work opposite each other with the motion of the waves.”

He said the project, a student-driven initiative for one of the Rowan College of Engineering’s bedrock clinic projects, draws on lessons the team has studied during their first three and a half years in college.

Once funding is in place they plan to build the WEC in the spring, test it in a pond or pool, and, hopefully, launch it in the Delaware Bay.

Sorin said the group hopes potential student funders will respond to their project because renewable energy is important, especially to members of their generation.

“It’s a green initiative,” he said. “Hopefully students who have an interest in alternative energy will support it.”