Red Paperclip Challenge: Sparking Entrepreneurial Interest

A collaboration of student groups, led by Spark Entrepreneurs, hopes to inspire a spirit of creativity and ingenuity on the River Campus with an upcoming competition.  The Red Paperclip Challenge, also supported by Susan B. Anthony Hall Council, Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, Undergraduate Finance and Economics Council, and WRUR, intends to push students to create innovative outcomes from meager beginnings.

The competition was inspired by Kyle MacDonald, a young man who obtained a two-story farmhouse through a series of fourteen online trades, starting with just one red paperclip.  MacDonald’s entrepreneurial stint evolved into an internet company that promotes business ventures and social adventures with unconventional trajectories.

Spark Entrepreneurs, the hosting group, is a community of students with interests in entrepreneurship and business innovation.  The group provides internal, educational events that helps its members grow and learn as young entrepreneurs. They also schedule social events to network with those who are outside the group. Spark also hosts community events with the goal of improving the skills of existing entrepreneurs and exposing the campus community to the culture of startups.

The Red Paperclip Challenge aims to spark innovation and creative problem solving on campus.  It hopes to promote a new understanding of entrepreneurship, assuring that students of all majors, interests, and backgrounds are welcome to participate.

The event is set to begin at 6:00 pm on Friday, March 20 in the first floor atrium of Rettner Hall.

Students can enter as individuals or as a group, with a maximum of four people per team. The challenge is to start with a single red paperclip and explore its entrepreneurial possibilites for 24 hours. Participants will document their trades on Twitter and then present them to a panel of judges on Saturday night.

Dean of Students Matthew Burns, Director of Rettner Hall George Ferguson, Susanna Virgilio from the Center for Entrepreneurship, and Bob Tobin from Simon Business School will serve as mentors and judges for the competition.The winning three teams will take home a $300 cash prize, and all participants will celebrate with free food and a live WRUR DJ.

For more information, visit the Spark Entrepreneurs website.  For pre-registration, visit the event page available on facebook.

Debate Union: Travel & Quilted Trophies?

I sat down with sophomore Miriam Kohn, linguistics major and vice president of the U of R Debate Union. She shared with me her experience in the club so far.


Debate team is my primary time commitment. Some weeks, it’s probably even more than my classes!

I wandered into the debate office by accident. My high school didn’t have a debate team, so it was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. I kind of thought, “maybe I should do this in college,” but then I thought, “maybe I’m going to get way too into it,” and, surprise… that’s what happened!

Overall, it’s a very positive experience, so I stick around. I work hard at debate. I’m a hard-working person in general. I enjoy reading things like Foucault. It’s probably hyperbolic to say I spend more time on it than my classes, but I certainly do spend a lot of time on it.

None of my trophies are shiny

Miriam Debate clubI was in the novice bracket last year. I was a real novice, unlike a lot of people on the circuit who walk in [with high school experience].

There are three formats of debate; Rochester does two. With one of them, Policy, you don’t have novice eligibility if you do it in high school. The format I do primarily is British Parliamentary, or Worlds. You get a lot of people who take the novice eligibility [for Worlds], who are really not novices. They could have done four years of high school British Parliamentary.

I’ve had a fair amount of success on the circuit with my partner; we won the novice bracket of regionals, novice finals at North American championships, and we were semi-finalists at Northwest regionals. They didn’t have trophies for the novices. I wanted hardware! There was one trophy which I took home from my first tournament freshman year, at SUNY Binghamton. That was a quilted trophy; not so shiny.

Traveling debate

We travel a lot of places, primarily up and down the Northeast. That’s where a lot of the most competitive tournaments are. Nationals for USU, that’s United States Universities, are in Alaska this year. We were just up in Toronto, on Mel weekend, because the University of Toronto debating society at Hart House always hosts a big, really well respected tournament there. They actually hosted North Americans last year.  We also we went to Europe last year!

The rule is the team won’t send you anywhere it can’t afford. If you get chosen to go, then the team pays your way, The team pays your transportation, your hotel fees, and your tournament entry fees. It includes a few meals a day. That way debate’s not just an activity for those who can afford it.

It’s free to join

We have a really, really big alumni base. There are lots of lawyers and doctors; a lot of them tend to do pretty well and they help support us. We also get very generous support from the school. It used to be the students’ association, now we’re part of the athletic department. We get more money, more support, and more infrastructures. It’s free travel; you just have to make it clear that you actually care.

To be chosen to travel to the most competitive tournaments you have to put in the time. There are some that everyone gets traveled to, like the one on Halloween weekend. And there are some of them that everyone wants to go to, like Europe, and Florida. We sent some folks to Miami for the Pan-American championships, for those, you have to work harder.

Pinky and The Brain

We joke around all the time, all the time: I think “irreverent” would have to be the first adjective I’d go with to describe us.

We give each other stupid nicknames, and there are lots of running jokes. For example, two of the assistant coaches have been trying to convince my partner and myself that we should go for Halloween to this tournament we’re having as Pinky and The Brain. Apparently I’m Pinky. I mean, I would like to take over the world, but that’s a separate issue!

It’s really a very relaxed atmosphere; debate draws in a nice crowd of people. The coaches are wonderful. They work very hard to make the program accessible to everyone. They’re willing to help anyone out that cares to get help from them. That sets the tone as very welcoming.

Whether it’s trying to take over the world, or discussing the latest hot-button issues, the Debate Union is among the U of R’s strongest student organizations, with meetings on Monday and Thursday nights at 7:00.

Video: UR Baja Driven to Succeed

By Dan LaTourette ’12
Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year Student

We got in at, like, 5 a.m. I mean, I think it was 5 a.m. It was hard for me to orient myself after around 16 hours of traveling from Rochester to Indiana. In case you were wondering, it took that long because we were hauling two substantial Baja buggies in a big truck. All in the name of competition. We were headed to University of Louisville for their annual Midnight Mayhem competition. When we got to the track, some of the guys stayed up to start working on the cars while the rest of us pitched tents and collapsed in our sleeping bags. I was one of the ones who collapsed, but when I woke from maybe four hours of sleep (I needed to get as much footage as I possibly could) I found the members of the UR Baja Team working hard at getting their vehicles ready for testing.

And then that was it. They didn’t stop working, technically speaking, until Sunday morning. There was one endurance race to top off the whole competition on Saturday night but I felt like the endurance race already started. It struck me just how dedicated this team was. Everyone seemed to be working on something specific and communication was constant. And here I am, holding a camera and walking, while they are working hard with tools and some grit, and I am the one tired by midday. And, that was when things were starting to heat up. The more than 20 colleges entered their 50-plus buggies into specific competitions. Here, I got to see the fruits of the hard labor that made these moving machines.

During the course of the weekend, I observed the progress made by not just UR Mini Baja, but by many other colleges as well. The culmination of the specific events and then the final gargantuan endurance race was something of a spectacle. The four-hour endurance race was exhilarating and really showcased the determination and prowess of these students. Driving back to Rochester early Sunday morning, another grueling 16-hour trip, I didn’t sense angst or a need to get away from Baja for a period of time to regroup from any of the members. Rather, the teammates constantly discussed ways in which they could improve their cars for future competition. The biggest reason I feel thankful that the UR Mini Baja Team allowed me to film this awesome event was the passion they so obviously have for their group. I hope you enjoy the video just as much as I did making it!

Read more about Dan LaTourette’s Key Project.

NROTC Rochester Takes Villanova

By Joshua Nysenbaum
Student, Rochester Institute of Technology

On April 6th, the NROTC Rochester unit traveled to Villanova University to compete in its annual drill and military excellence competition. The competition is separated into three sections; drill (marching), athletics, and combat skills. Competition was fierce with fifteen extremely talented schools competing, including notables like the United States Naval Academy and Penn State University. While NROTC Rochester usually fares very well at this competition, this year exceeded all expectations with an overall point accumulation higher than anything in recent history. Rochester took 1st place overall in drill, 2nd place overall in athletics, and 3rd place overall in combat skills.

In the drill competition, Rochester took 1st in Color Guard, led by junior David Delong (UR). Rochester also took 1st in Squad Basic, led by the Battalion Commander, senior Erik Smolinski (RIT). Rochester placed 2nd in the two-man Trick Drill competition, 3rd in Platoon Trick, and 3rd in the Platoon Basic competition.  The Platoon Basic team was comprised of exclusively freshmen and had members from all of the NROTC Rochester affiliate schools: University of Rochester, RIT, St. John Fisher, and SUNY Brockport. Each team practiced relentlessly throughout the academic year and their efforts paid off; the results were fantastic.

In the athletics portion, Rochester placed 1st with a dominating performance in the 4×400 relay. Team members for this event were junior Conor Kelley (RIT), sophomore Mackenzie Gage (UR), freshman Grant Salk (RIT), and senior Olakunle Akinpelu (RIT). The Distance Medley Relay also placed 1st with the dream team of David Delong, Grant Salk, junior Daniel Palmiter (RIT), and freshman Andrew Kline (RIT). In addition, Rochester took 3rd in the 4×100 IM swim relay with team members junior Joshua Nysenbaum (RIT), freshman Luke White (RIT), freshman Giorgi Bekauri (UR), and one of Rochester’s Midnight Ramblers, sophomore Joe Thibodeau.

NROTC Rochester participated in only three events of the combat skills section, but made those appearances count. In the crossfit challenge, Rochester took both 2nd and 3rd place.  Team 1 had senior Edmond Bouillanne (UR) with sophomore Alexander Dudek (UR) and Team 2 had Conor Kelley with Olakunle Akinpelu, respectively. In one of the competition’s most difficult events, the recon challenge, the team effort made by senior Marine Option Abe McAndrew (RIT) and junior Navy Seal hopeful Ryan Baptiste (RIT) was rewarded with 2nd place.  The recon challenge is an obstacle course which included, among other things, rope climbing, a 5 ½ mile run, and a 500 meter swim, all while wearing a full combat uniform.

The NROTC Rochester Battalion has always excelled in these competitions and continues to produce some of the nation’s best Navy and Marine Corps officers. Despite their already excellent performance, the entire Battalion embraces the concept of Meliora and will continue its effort to be ever better.

In the Photo: Members of the NROTC Rochester freshman class prepare to compete in the Platoon Basic Drill Competition led by RIT sophomore Josh Nysenbaum (back to the camera).

MelioRAAS! For Dance Team, It Doesn’t Get Better Than First Place!

By Erica Messner
Univ. Communications

For Rochester Raas, the University’s traditional Indian dance team, victory in their final competition of the year brought more than glory. Raas’ first place finish at Nasha 2013 was crowned by a shiny gold trophy and $1,250 in prize money.

Hosted by the American India Foundation of Purdue University, Nasha 2013 was a brand-new competition featuring Bollywood/Fusion and Garba/Raas divisions, and offering a sizeable cash prize for the top finishers. Rochester Raas beat out teams from Northwestern, Tufts, and UNC to take first place in the Garba/Raas division. To see Rochester’s winning set from Nasha 2013, check out this video posted by Raas:

Though their competitive season is over, the group will continue to perform in the community and prepare for next year.

The active members of Rochester Raas include: Minti Patel ‘13, Maryann Hong ‘13, Maral Arjomandi ‘13, Ki Cheng ‘13, Paul Vergara ‘13, Phil Cohen ‘14, Lauren Sava ‘14, Sydney Robinson ‘14, Rohini Rege ‘14, Priyanka Patel ‘15, Shakira Banhan ‘15, Marika Azoff ‘15, Shiv Patel ‘15, Sameer Shamsie ‘15, Sam Benham ‘15, Taylor Sargent ‘15, Sukanya Roy ‘16, Kim Rouse ‘16.

Rochester Midshipmen Awarded at Regional Competition

NROTC Rochester – On Saturday, March 31st, the Rochester Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, composed of students from the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and SUNY-Brockport, competed in the annual Villanova University Invitational Drill Meet and Military Excellence Competition. This year’s competitors consisted of old rivals such as the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and numerous northeastern Naval ROTC and Air Force ROTC units.

In the drill competition, the freshman class earned a 3rd place finish in Platoon Inspection under the command of RIT sophomore Conor Kelley. The Midshipmen did even better in the military excellence portion of the competition, earning a 1st or 2nd place finish in almost every event and a 2nd place finish overall. Among the more celebrated victories were the grueling Recon Challenge, the Distance Medley Relay, and the 4×400 Relay.

In the Recon Challenge, the toughest physical event Villanova has to offer, RIT sophomore Ryan Baptiste and RIT junior Abe McAndrew fought their way to a well-earned 2nd place finish. The challenge is conducted as a two-man team in camouflage utility uniforms, and consists of an alternating rope climb, a 5¼-mile run with various weighted packs, a stretcher carry, a combat-carry, and a 1000m fin swim. In the Distance Medley Relay, RIT freshman Daniel Palmiter, UR sophomores Anthony Paschke and David Delong, and UR junior Edmond Boulliane took the top spot.  The 4×400 team took 1st place as well.  This event included UR sophomore Anthony Paschke, UR juniors Ben Desch, Jake Godbolt, and Andrew Smith, and the captain, RIT junior Kunle Akinpelu.

Article written by MIDN 3/C Andrew Myers, a sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology. Photo courtesy of Ross Spinelli, also a student at Rochester Institute of Technology. Both Myers and Spinelli are members of the NROTC Rochester unit.

Rochester Earns Another Strong Showing in the Putnam Math Competition

Univ. Communications – A student math team from the University of Rochester finished in the top three percent in the recent William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

The team—made up of senior Xiaoqing Tang, sophomore Vincent Yu, and freshman Douglas Miller—finished 15th among 460 teams.

“I think this is an outstanding result, which gives us great hope for the future, especially because only Xiaoqing was part of last year’s team,” said Dan Geba, associate professor of mathematics and coach of the team. “This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve been in the top 15 in the country.”

There were 4,440 students from 572 colleges participating in this year’s competition. The University’s top-performer this year was Xiaoqing, who scored 32 for a ranking of 102.

The contest, administered by the Mathematical Association of America, is held the first Saturday in December, with the results released in March. Harvard took top honors this year, followed by Carnegie-Mellon, Caltech, Stanford, and MIT.

The Putnam Competition began in 1938 and is open to undergraduate college students in the U.S. and Canada. In a test of both originality and technical competence, participants try to solve 12 questions in two, three-hour sittings.

Article written by Peter Iglinski, senior press officer in University Communications. Photo courtesy of Vinny Prime via

NROTC Rochester Puts in Successful Performance at Cornell Invitational

University of Rochester Naval ROTC – On Saturday, Nov. 19, the Rochester Naval Reserve Officer Training Command (NROTC) Battalion competed in the annual Cornell University Invitational Drill Competition, composed of various drill and athletic events. Rivals at the competition included such notable military institutions as the U.S. Naval Academy, West Point, and Norwich University. Despite the disadvantage of not being a military school, the Midshipmen of Rochester’s Battalion, which includes students from the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the College at Brockport, took third overall in drill events and first overall in athletic events.

Success like this does not happen overnight. For some, the training, especially for athletic events such as the 10K race, begins in the summer. For others, such as the newly inducted freshmen, the training in the discipline necessary for close-order drill begins at the start of the semester. From the flashy rifle-twirling performances of trick drill to the coordinated formations of platoon basic drill, each success in the competition represented many hours spent learning and perfecting the various movements and routines. The hard work especially paid off for the freshmen, who faced the tall order of continuing Rochester’s history of success in both Platoon Drill events. In the notoriously high-pressure Platoon Inspection, a nerve-wracking detailed inspection by professional Marine drill instructors, the team of freshmen, led by RIT junior Erik Smolinski, came away with an unquestioned first-place, even against older, more experienced teams from full-time military schools. They then performed a highly coordinated drill routine in the Platoon Basic Drill event, and while many of the students came to Rochester’s battalion with no prior drill experience, they earned a third-place finish.

Also competing in the drill portion of the competition were Rochester’s Color Guard and Trick Drill teams. Both represent a substantial increase in difficulty, requiring members to learn the more complex movements and routines. Rochester’s trick team, formed only a few years ago, showed marked improvement over years past, bringing more experienced members and better routines to the competition. The Color Guard teams proudly and professionally represented the battalion, but unfortunately due to confusion with the routine, neither team placed at this competition.

In the athletic events, Rochester either won or placed in every event. The 4×400 team, led by UR junior Ben Desch, finished first in their heat, but were beat by one other team who ran faster in the next heat, ultimately coming away with a second-place finish. In the pool, Rochester’s swimmers, captained by UR sophomore Trevor DeVisser, dominated the competition, taking first-place in all three relay events (4×100 Free, 4×100 IM, and Crescendo). UR sophomore David DeLong and UR junior Ed Boullianne also performed well, placing second and ninth respectively in the 10K race.

The longest and most grueling event was the Ironman competition. Unlike the famous triathlon, this was an event designed to test the all-around fitness of the teams, composed of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, a 500-yard swim, and a 3-mile run. The competition was neck-and-neck, but when all the scores were tallied, Rochester came out on top for the first-place finish.

Rochester’s Midshipmen were proud to return home at the end of the competition, having performed well and continuing Rochester’s history of success at the Cornell University Invitational Drill Competition.

Article and photo courtesy of Andrew Myers and David Donaldson, NROTC members.

Rochester Team Places Third In Regional Computer Programming Contest

Univ. Communications – A computer programming team from the University of Rochester came in third in the regional final of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest this past weekend, behind MIT and Harvard. The northeast final was held at Rochester Institute of Technology and included 12 schools from upstate New York, New England, and eastern Canada.

The problems faced by the contestants may not be what a layperson would expect on a computer programming competition.

Problem 3: Filip’s train
Filip is playing with his train. He has many straight track pieces of various lengths, and he has four identical and symmetric round track pieces that make the train turn by 90 degrees. Filip wants to build a loop (or, rather, a rectangle with rounded corners), using all his track pieces. Actually, he wants the loop to resemble a square (as much as possible). Help him!

The Rochester team solved 7 such problems in 15:25. MIT solved 8 problems in 19:13, while Harvard solved 8 problems in 19:23. Trailing Rochester in the standings were UMass Amherst, Colgate, RIT, Acadia University, Siena College, Dalhousie University, Memorial University, Middlebury College, and McGill.

“The teams were very strong this year,” said Assistant Professor Daniel Stefankovic, who served as the Rochester coach. “And our team put up a world-class performance.”

Rochester won the regional finals in 2009, earning a berth to the World Finals in Harbin, China. Last year, the team came in 4th in the regional competition.

The Rochester team this year was made up of Josh Pawlicki ’12, Darcey Riley ’12, and Sean Tang ’12, all computer science majors.

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is sponsored by IBM and operated under the auspices of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. This year 24,915 contestants on 8,305 teams representing 2,070 universities from 88 countries competed in the regional competitions. The World Finals will be held next May in Warsaw, Poland.

Article courtesy of Peter Iglinski, University Communications. Photo Credit: Brian Lary, via stock.xchng –

Undergrads Place in Top 3% in the Premier Math Comp

Univ. Communications – The University of Rochester placed 12th out of 442 teams in the recent William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, moving up two spots from last year’s 14th place showing.

The Putnam team from the University consisted of senior Chris Kauffman, junior Kevin Lin and junior Xiaoqing Tang. They were among the 4296 students from 546 colleges participating in the competition. Lin, who had the best showing for the University, scored 61 points for a ranking of 81.

The Putnam Competition began in 1938 and is open to undergraduate college students in the U.S. and Canada. In a test of both originality and technical competence, participants try to solve 12 questions in two, three-hour sittings.

The contest is administered the first Saturday in December, with the results released in March. Caltech took top honors this year, followed by M.I.T. and Harvard.

“I am very proud of all our students,” said Steve Gonek, chair of the University mathematics department. “They trained hard and represented us with great distinction in this extremely challenging competition.”

Gonek also credited the students’ coach, Associate Professor Dan Geba, for the team’s continued success in the Putnam Competition.

(Story compliments of Peter Iglinski, University Communications; Photo courtesy of Aleksandar Milosevic, via Stock.Xchng)