Tech Projects Seek Crowd Funding Solution

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Researchers face tremendous obstacles when securing funding for projects. Competition on the national level can be tremendous with continued cuts in funding for basic science research.

For Jennifer Leavey, Georgia Tech’s new crowd funding site — Georgia Tech Starter — could be just the thing to kick-start her student-oriented research project.

Her Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project seeks funds for electronic monitoring equipment for its beehives. Used by students for a variety of biological, chemical, and environmental research, the beehives provide a look into how the urban habitat affects beehives.

“Georgia Tech is situated both academically and physically at the intersection of technology and nature,” said Leavey, a senior academic professional with the  College of Sciences. “The city of Atlanta is a large urban environment within the heart of the agriculturally rich southern states. With the Urban Beehive Project, students are investigating how urban habitats affect one of the most important pollinators of food crops.”

Seeking $6,750 to purchase webcams and sensors for real-time temperature, humidity, and hive-weight sensors, Leavey said Georgia Tech Starter makes a perfect venue for funding.

“We can reach an unconventional funding source for this unconventional project,” she said. “All different kinds of people — alumni, beekeepers, students’ families, and those interested in urban agriculture and sustainability — will be drawn to the project.”

Georgia Tech Starter is a university-based, peer-reviewed, crowd funding platform for science and engineering research projects. Researchers can access the site ( and begin the application process. A series of questions will ensure compliance with requirements.

Researchers will receive a review of their projects as well as feedback on how to better craft the project’s message for posting on Georgia Tech Starter.

“Georgia Tech Starter is different from other sites in that we use the review process to ensure projects can be successfully executed before they ever hit the site,” said Heyward Adams, co-founder and researcher. “Technicians at the Georgia Tech Starter Center provide feedback and help project creators craft their messages to garner support and appeal to the community.”

David Garton, a lecturer with the School of Biology, has also joined Tech Starter with a companion project to his long-term research into the Palmyra Atoll.

Garton’s research centers on the ecology and biogeography of New Zealand and Australia. His work on the Palmyra Atoll includes shoreline changes and sediment redistribution, as well as the atmospheric lead record preserved in lagoon sediments.

Garton seeks $5,940 in funding to support one- to two-week visits to capture data “snap shots” of atoll lagoon structure to compare with the research conducted in Palmyra.

“Tech Starter funding will allow us to conduct these short visits at other atolls to verify whether the processes we’ve modeled at a single location are typical for tropical atolls, or are unique to the Palmyra Atoll,” Garton said. “It is difficult to find atolls with infrastructure sufficient to support a long-term study, and this Tech Starter project will allow us to compare these other atolls with our more detailed model we have developed based on our six-year project at Palmyra.”

In a unique collaboration with paleontologist Stephen Gatesy at Brown University, Assistant Professor Dan Goldman is interested in researching future techniques of movement from the distant past.

“By studying tracks of dinosaurs in sand and mud, we hope to understand how to better develop robots that need to walk on different materials, including sand and mud,” Goldman said.

“Robosaur Walks” — the name given to the project — seeks roughly $30,000 in funding.

“This would help support the efforts of a graduate student and some travel to collaborate with Brown University,” he said. “This project is good for Georgia Tech because it combines technology and physics devoted to understanding a problem set in the natural world that exists now as well as one that existed several million years ago.”

Both Garton and Leavey agree that anyone considering Georgia Tech Starter should clearly establish goals that are easy to explain and justify.

“Tech Starter projects should be simple and straightforward,” Garton said. “They should be as guaranteed as possible to provide meaningful results within a short time frame and fit a strategic need for research in the public interest, to which a donor can easily relate.”

Leavey added that this funding method also requires more communication.

“Along with clear and defined goals, having a strategy for reaching investors through social networks is also important,” she said.

Overall, Garton and Leavey said that the site, in addition to being one of the first-ever university-based crowd funding sites, is a great resource for Tech.

“It’s really nice to showcase Georgia Tech research in one place,” Leavey said. “And it’s great how the platform supports the Institute by bringing funds in properly.”

Garton agrees.

“Georgia Tech’s strong international reputation as a research university provides Georgia Tech Starter projects a strong platform for attracting support from donors,” he said.



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