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Arizona State Intros Crowdfunding Platform for Student, Faculty Projects

Arizona State University has begun experimenting with a crowdsourcing platform that solicits charitable contributions to support specific student and faculty research projects. The new Arizona State offering runs on USEED, a higher education-specific application for helping students engage with alumni to support their projects. The Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED) at the university partnered with Arizona State's Foundation for a New American University, a separate nonprofit organization, in this effort to help it raise money for specific research initiatives.

Currently, three projects exist on the site. BullyBlocker analyzes Facebook data for signs of cyber-bullying and alerts parents that it may be occurring. It's seeking $10,000 and has currently raised about $2,500 of that. The project was the brainchild of Yasin Silva, an assistant professor in the university's School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and Lisa Tsosie, an undergraduate studying applied computing in the school, which is part of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The team has 14 people on it.

Three undergraduate science majors are hoping to obtain access to visualization tools that will help them study tiny living structures at a microscopic scale without having to harm the subjects. The team is hoping to raise $5,000 to fund student time on MRI or computed tomography (CT) equipment.

The university's chapter of Engineers Without Borders is hoping to raise $5,000 to help a small community in Kenya develop sustainable water resources for daily use. This isn't the first project undertaken by the group in the Bondo Rarieda District. In previous years it has installed a rainwater catchment system and rehabilitated a surface dam to create a reservoir for the community. The chapter plans to send a team of students and professional engineering mentors to a university in the area in summer 2014. The team will teach basic engineering courses about water technology and oversee construction of a lab to allow students there to learn how water flows.

A difference between this platform and popular crowdfunding site KickStarter is that even when a project doesn't reach its funding goal on USEED, the collected funds may still be used to support the project or other initiatives. On KickStarter if a project fails to reach its funding goal, backers' credit cards are never charged. Those USEED projects that raise more than the funding goal may use the additional money; funds that are left over after the project is done may be handed off to other projects in the program.

"OKED is excited to make available new opportunities for funding the research efforts of faculty and students," said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at the university. "Crowdfunding is becoming increasingly popular to help incubate and develop novel ideas. We look forward to advancing several new ideas from our faculty and students through this innovative funding opportunity."

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