MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – This summer, as students scatter to all parts of the globe, one group of creative thinkers will stay right in Middlebury to pursue ambitious projects funded by MiddChallenge grants. The grant recipients live and work in Middlebury for the summer, many taking advantage of the incubator workspace offered at the College’s Old Stone Mill in town.

On a recent Saturday, students with the most promising proposals were invited to the Axinn Center to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges that included faculty, alumni, and community members. Judges listened to the 10-minute pitches, asked questions, and deliberated in private before announcing the grants, which ranged from $800–$3,000.

MiddChallenge grants are designed to support students who wish to pursue entrepreneurial projects in one of four categories, including social entrepreneurship, education and policy, the arts, or business.

“STEAM Girls,” the brainchild of Kristin Richards ’17, Joy Wood ’17, and Joey Hernandez ’19, won a grant in the education category. Their project aims “to provide an opportunity for girls to experience and fall in love with computer science and robotics.”

Noah Klammer ’17, on the other hand, won a grant in the business category for his project called SmartWire through which he hopes to “change how consumers fundamentally interact with the electric grid.”

Isabella Epstein ’20 was one of the winners in the social entrepreneurship category for her project called Belle by Bella. She makes handmade jewelry inspired by her travels in Colombia and hopes to “empower artisans, indigenous, and impoverished people by giving them access to a larger market.”

A team of five students won one of the grants in the arts category for their 10-episode Web series that “celebrates and fictionalizes controversies we see in college settings.”

“It is exciting to see young arts entrepreneurs present their projects to their peers and the panel of judges,” said Professor of History of Art and Architecture Pieter Broucke, who sat on the judging panel for the arts category. “As a judge I find it very rewarding to recognize the best and most promising projects presented. The students’ enthusiasm is palpable.”

Following is the full list of the 2017 MiddChallenge winners.

Social Entrepreneurship

MiddPool Ride Sharing, $1,500; Amy Jo Weaver ’18.5, Nosagie Asaolu ’18: “Creating a centralized, user-friendly ride-sharing website to, from, and around Middlebury Campus”

Belle by Bella, $1,500; Isabella Epstein ’20: “Handmade jewelry inspired by her travels in Colombia. Goal is to empower artisans, indigenous and impoverished people by giving them access to a larger market.”

Bangkok Persona, $800; Smithi Skunnawat ’18.5: “An online documentary series about Thai and non-Thai in Bangkok.

- a link to a preliminary trailer we have made since we last were able to film”

An App a Day Keeps the Proctor Away, $2,000; Coumba Winfield ’17: “A virtual reality game to publicize a Middlebury–based mobile app.”

The Basement, $3,000; Danilo Herrera ’18, Briana Garret ’19, Devin McGrath-Conwell ’18.5, Iram Asghar ’18, Maxwell Scott Leslie ’18: “10 episode Web series that celebrates differences and fictionalizes controversies we see in college settings.”


SmartWire, $1,500; Noah Klammer ’17: “The objective of SmartWire is to change how consumers fundamentally interact with the electric grid.”

Share to Wear, $3,000; Rachel Salerno ’18, Linley Shaw ’17, Lena Jacobs ’17.5, Michelle Yang ’17.5, Greta Hulleberg ’19, Charlotte Reider-Smith ’19, Lily Taub ’17: “A peer-to-peer platform clothing rental service with Middlebury students supplying the rental clothes. We’re creating one large, accessible, fashionable, and affordable closet for all Midd Kids.”