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"When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world."
A conversation with Daniel Barotti yields the following "can-do" list:
-- Fix the way organizations communicate with each other when responding to disasters;
-- Make crosswalks fun so people want to use them;
-- Create a system that donates money to charities when people play games online;
-- Launch a creative engineering design business specializing in products that reward people for positive social behavior; and
-- Employ engineering for the good of society [broadly].
Any one of these could define a career, but the affable, wide-smiling Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) alumnus, current Hinman CEOs student and mechanical engineering junior gives you the impression that, over time, he might tick through all of these, and more.
"Ever since EIP opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial way of thinking, my mind has been on fire," says Daniel. "It has been a rapid pace of learning."
A product of the Poolesville High School Science, Mathematics, Computer Science Program, Daniel planned to follow in the footsteps of his father, a civil engineer for Clark Construction for 28 years, who started as an assistant project manager and worked his way up to senior vice president.
"When I came to UMD, I thought everything was laid out," Daniel explained. "I would graduate and go straight into an engineering job. My interest was in pursuing my engineering education and breakdancing on the side. That all changed when I hit EIP.
"Right from the start, with EIP, we were introduced to non-traditional, lecture-style classes. They were much more involved and interactive. We would sit and talk about our ideas and what we wanted to do.
"From there, EIP Director Jay Smith taught us how to learn and how to think. He didn’t force ideas upon us; rather, he taught us how to take a step back and re-evaluate everything. He encouraged us to start businesses and create the change we'd like to see in the world."
The "can-do" list was born, starting with an advanced computer system for managing emergency resources, an idea which Daniel's team developed for the HEIP 241 capstone course "Creating Enterprise with Social Impact."
"From the distribution of goods to coordinating resources among large organizations to managing volunteers, there can be redundancy and confusion during natural disasters," said Daniel. "Yet everyone involved is trying to help. We want to make it easier for them to do so."
More ideas poured in. After hearing how two UMD students got hit by cars last year, Daniel wondered how he could prevent it from occurring again.
"What if it were more appealing to use a crosswalk?" Daniel asked. "What if crosswalks were interactive? What it they lit up as you stepped onto them, kind of like the fun theory's piano staircase?"
For that matter, what else could he make fun? Not smoking, using trash and recycling bins—basically creating products that make people want to engage in positive behaviors.
Gaming—what if hours logged onto various platforms also produced donations for charity? This idea and the team that produced it, also through HEIP 241, became an interest of Daniel's.
Last summer, Daniel worked with Amanda Antico, his instructor for HEIP 241, and one of the serial entrepreneur's companies, Practica Partners, which works with both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to build entrepreneurial communities.
While there, Daniel helped the company develop a guide on how to start a business. He also worked with Antico's eight-year-old daughter, Kylee, who runs two businesses of her own, one of which, Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand, supports entrepreneurial education for kids.
"Together, they taught me the meaning of ambition," said Daniel. "I was blown away but learned so much, especially regarding the intricacies of starting a business."
Daniel continues to work with the Anticos today, even while he chips away at his own "can-do" list, a list that almost never got started.
"I was hesitant about the ideas I had to make the world a better place," said Daniel. "I learned how to get past that hesitation in EIP and I think everyone can learn something from that. Anyone can try. The fear of having an idea turned down, the fear of your ideas not being liked, it is daunting, but once you get the resolve to get out there and try things, you will find an enormous pool of resources, especially people, on campus, who are willing to help you."
Daniel is swimming in that pool, with mentors from EIP, Hinman, Mtech and on campus always willing to help. Watch that "can-do" list get done.