From more than 300 reader ideas, we chose 24 winners. Help crowdfund these amazing projects at popularscience.rockethub.com through Aug. 30. When we asked Popular Science readers to submit their biggest, boldest science and technology project ideas to the #CrowdGrant Challenge, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect. Well, you all delivered. Big time. Hundreds of ideas poured in from all over the world, but two dozen submissions excited us the most. The winning projects include everything from a fusion propulsion research chamber and a handheld cancer scanner to a biological lightbulb and a better sewing needle. We even accepted a scientifically informed peace movement against mean people (because who likes mean people?). Over the next 45 days, we’ll highlight as many individual projects — and the folks behind them — as we can. But there’s no need to wait around, because all of the winners are live and ready for your contributions through our partner, RocketHub.com: popularscience.rockethub.com So what are you waiting for? Do something amazing, make history, and crowdfund the finalists that you’re excited about in exchange for cool rewards offered up by project leaders. Note: The window for contributing closes on Aug. 30 at 11:59pm EDT. Follow the conversation or spread the word about projects on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. Any questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Guest Post by Dave Mosher, with Permission from Popular Science
Our team spoke with James Portnow, one of the most successful RocketHub project leaders ever. He is back, working to bring the positive power of games to light. "It’s time we talk about all the things games can do for us as a scientific, cultural, artistic and educational medium instead. It’s better for society, it’s better for creators and it’s better for players." - James Portnow RocketHub: You have run a couple of very successful projects on RocketHub in the past - what brings you back? James: Honestly its talking to you guys about the philosophy of RocketHub, the idea that crowdfunding can be a force for social change, a way to allow the consumer to finally get to choose what they buy. RH: How do games make for a better world? James: In the last century we’ve spent more on learning how to engage a human being than in the rest of human history combined, to use that only as a diversion is doing us all an injustice. Games can get us engaged with topics ranging from history to our personal health, from mathematics to philosophy, they can take a banal job and make it a joy, and we can use that power to make this world a better place. There is no reason that learning should feel like a chore or that work should be joyless, and, in part through games, we can overcome that. RH: How can gamers and game creators do a better job at spreading the word about the positive impact of games? James: It’s really about just having the discussion, it all begins with dialog. Right now we spend too much time on the ropes, too much time defending games, but both players and creators can take the simple first step of talking to those around them, those who may dismiss games as a child’s pastime, and start talking about how games can help our education system, our scientific community, our society…or even just talk about how games have helped them. RH: Why are you looking to make this impact now? James: Over the last few months, because of the tragedy at Newtown, I’ve seen games once again go through the same trials they’ve gone through time and again. I’ve seen them placed with comic books, rock music, jazz, rap, even film as the thing we use to deflect from the conversation that we as a society don’t want to have. And you know what, doing so makes us miss all the demonstrable goods they can provide us. It’s time we did more. RH: How did you make the decision to fully commit yourself on this project, and not work on anything else except for Extra Credits? James: That was the hardest part. I love what I do, and I wish the world was a place where I could just keep quietly making games but there are some times where a greater good outweighs what you want and you just have to take a shot at the thing that needs doing. RH: As a very successful RocketHub project leader, what are some of the take-aways and advice you can provide for others looking to crowdfund on RocketHub? James: Clear message. Constant updates. Use all the tools RocketHub gives you. If you can provide those three things, your campaign will resonate with people who come to your site. The trick then is just getting people to see your campaign and on that front, don’t hesitate to contact everyone who might give you reach, from the largest mega-media site to the smallest hometown blog. You’ll get a lot of rejections and a lot of emails that disappear into the ether without even a response, but you’ll get some yeses, and that’s how you build your campaign. RH: What would you hope to see in order to consider your initiative a success (political change, etc…)? James: Unfortunately the metric for success for me is a half-decade down the road, it’s seeing more games in schools, in hospitals, used by scientist to motivate us to help understand more about our world; I know in the next year, no matter how many senators I talk to, no matter how many TV shows I end up on, it’s not going to happen over the course of this campaign. But sometimes the end actually does mean more than the credit for it, so you know what, I’m just happy everyone’s given me a shot at helping us get there.
This particular project was started quite innocently. I found some pens, which bore a similarity in line that was reminiscent of a style that I aspired toward when I was a teenager, which is about 40 years ago. So I began to explore that approach anew. The drawings evolved over time and seemed to tell a story, even though it is not overt. One has to spend time with the drawings to experience what they are about. So I felt a book was the perfect solution to display them. I was already aware of self-publishing, but I wanted to raise the money for it. I have always had a small following, so I felt there were enough people out there who liked my work, who would be willing to help me do this, and get access to my work in a way that was more affordable than buying the art outright. I am not new to crowdfunding. I tried a half-hearted attempt to raise money for a film project on Kickstarter. Of course it failed. My wife said it was because I did not have enough of myself invested in it. This time around, the project is much closer to me. It is a very intimate expression that I am sharing in a book. It is also something that people I know are able to respond to. I also have a long career as a graphic designer which gives me a more complete understanding of marketing. Marketing is unpredictable. But we know one thing—people who do it, fare much better than people who don’t. So I went at this with everything I had in my mental tool bag, and even picked up a few new tricks along the way. You have to work this. You cannot just put it up there and hope people will magnetize to it. Every morning for the first 30 days, I spent the first 2 hours of my morning going over lists, composing emails, updating my status on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter. I periodically selected names from my FB friends for direct messaging. I posted to my own blog which feeds to the local neighborhood blog. I tried everything i could think of. And I gave up any notion of being shy, or that I would annoy people with my constant promotion. I reached 50% in a little over 2 weeks. I reached 100% in just over 30 days. This project is important to me and I want to see it through to its’ successful conclusion. Right up to the point where I am shipping out the books. Every stage of this is important and needs to be thought out carefully. This is about sharing my work with the world. And though these images are mysterious, many find them more accessible than some of my prior work, which helps. You never know who is going to support you. Every time I sent out a mass promo, I would get a few more donations. And I was surprised more than once as to who donated. It is good to feel appreciated, and I want to repay that appreciation. - Bruce Zeines, Artist, Innovator, Successful Crowdfunder
We are a group of passionate young Dartmouth grads that believe in socially responsible capitalism, and the power of knowledge and opportunity. Our view is simple, hard work should be required of all success, but you as the consumer should get rewarded for the help you give to businesses. Any and every one who spends time posting cool pics and videos on social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, can benefit from TagCa$h! Now you can make some extra cash by spending a few more seconds when you post all those trendy pics! How? It’s simple; Just SNAP, TAG, SHARE and we’ll get you paid…for doing what you already do. Much aligned with that which fuels the pioneers trailblazing for the crowdfund industry we are also fueled by the ability to democratize a space that was previously reserved to a select few. But now because of technology, everyone and anyone has the opportunity to be paid for the influence they wield. That proposition is astonishing to us! My experience has been outstanding! I was fortunate to attend the Texas crowdfund conference and learn first hand from the legislators and those who fight on the front lines for all of us to have this extraordinary opportunity. What I heard and the people I met that day ignited me to not only do my own campaign but also do what I can to evangelize the aspects that make crowdfunding great. - Adam Warren, (our founder) For anyone who is doing a non-consumer good campaign you may want to pay attention to others great reward ideas. This is something that those with consumer goods take for granted but for you it is the essence of your campaign. - Brandon Ware, TagCa$h COO, Entrepreneur, Crowdfunding Innovator Be sure to check out TagCa$h T-Shirt competition that just kicked off. It’s a great chance to get a great t-shirt and we’re using the power of the crowd to decide.
It all started from a deep desire to make sense of the chaos around me—and us. We are at such a turning point in this country (and the world) so I wanted to go to where the silence was geographically and politically: the marginalized, the misunderstood, and ignored. That’s where the unwritten history is. So that combined with wanting to uncover for myself who was reshaping our communities, our nation, in ways small and big, set me off on this quest. Many of the characters in the play are inspired from folks I met deep in Appalachia, in Mennonite country, Indiana, in Louisiana, the Inner City, Big Sky country—deeply affected people with a lot to share. And some of these people would self-identify as activists or revolutionaries but some are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Bringing them together was a unique opportunity to ask what it means to be an American right now and what battles are we as a society fighting that are shaping our lives, sometimes without us even being aware of it. And, not to be too precious about it, but I wanted to express the pure miracle of simply being alive, even when our very existence seems threatened. Crowdfunding is challenging but very rewarding. As an artist and producer, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity crowdfunding provides to articulate the vision for the play and the specific reasons this project is timely and worthwhile. It has been so gratifying and humbling to hear people connect with that and show their support. Overall, our supporters have been really excited about the potential of the play and its ambitious, and RocketHub is a great platform which makes it easy for artists like myself to communicate that to a broad audience. It’s definitely an essential tool in bringing the work to life. I’m hesitant to give advice that I feel is applicable in every situation, but I will say, as I mentioned previously, clarity of vision is paramount. Many people and organizations have core supporters who will unconditionally support them, but most people really respond to the mission of what you are doing, its unique place in your community, and your potential to pull it off. Also, crowdfunding is just one aspect of what ideally is a boarder plan to engage your audience. While the money is important, what’s vital is that people feel connected to the work. Also, always, never forget to say thank you. - Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Writer, Performer, Crowdfunding Innovator
Conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD). With these three measurements, marine scientists can unlock ocean patterns hidden beneath the waves. The ocean is not uniform, it its filled with swirling eddies, temperature boundaries, layers of high and low salinity, changing densities, and many other physical characteristics. To reveal these patterns, oceanographers use a tool called the CTD. A CTD is found on almost every major research vessel. Rare is the scientific expedition—whether it be coastal work in shallow estuaries or journeys to the deepest ocean trenches—that doesn’t begin with the humble CTD cast. This project started out as a personal challenge for me at the beginning of the year. I was interested in learning Arduino and thought developing a CTD would be a good, long-term learning project. After a few months of playing around, Kersey and I discussed the possibility of turning it into something more functional and valuable than a simple learning tool. We realized that there is a genuine need for low cost CTD’s in applications where researchers and educators didn’t have the financial resources to purchase a commercial CTD. In keeping with the spirit of open source and open access, we decided that rather than producing a product for sale, we’d produce the resources, foundational development, and technical expertise that would allow any interested parties to build their own. We found the support we’ve received from the oceanography community surpassed any of my expectations. Beyond the funding support, we’ve been in contact with numerous members of the oceanographic community who are excited about the prospect of a low-cost CTD and are willing to lend their expertise to the development. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and we think that having it up as a project to fund, rather than just as a side-project in one of our labs, lends credibility to our effort. One of the hidden benefits of the crowdfunding avenue, in addition to displaying to other people that we are serious about this project, is the self-galvanization effect it has on us as the developers. That is to say, the realization that other people find your idea valuable, moves the developers perceived usefulness of their project from the abstract, and into reality. This effect in a sense motivates the developers in their efforts on the project to not only just work harder, but will the project to succeed. We think we’ll probably have better advice once the project closes. One thing that we decided on early on was to have a relatively long funding period. This is due to the fact that, during the summer, many marine scientists are engaged in long field seasons (for example, when the project launched, there were two major oceanographic cruises underway. The long funding period was designed to maximize the number of interested parties that would have a chance to see the project. While this may be obvious, the initial effort in gaining exposure for a crowdfunded project can be quite difficult, and as a crowdfunder you have to be diligent in “spreading the word.” Finding listservs for people with similar interests is a great avenue to gain coverage, coupled with relentless, creative, shameless plugs of your project. - Andrew Thaler & Kersey Sturdivant, Deep-sea Ecologist and Conservation Geneticist; Benthic Ecologist at Duke University; Crowdfunding for Science Pioneers
Sidewalk Traffic is a comedy-drama feature film, inspired by a period in my life when I was underemployed, clinically depressed, struggling with the realities of new fatherhood and trying to make peace with my station in life. I started to free-write about what was rattling around in my consciousness, how my long and lonely days were playing out, trying to purge the bitterness and get closer to the light of inspiration. I wrote about the aftermath of suicide, extended unemployment in a shitty economy, the shake-up of gender roles in new parenthood, the cruelty of show business, and the inexplicable and often absurd passion of artists. There was something to laugh at in all of it. Brutal realism and naked honesty are funny, and there’s something universally relevant about these themes. So I took those free-written ramblings and adapted them into a feature length screenplay, which we shot over 15 days in NYC this past winter with actors like Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks), Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Kurt Loder (MTV), Dave Hill (This American Life, HBO, Fuse), Tom Shillue (Mystery Team), Paul Borghese (Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn), Tibor Feldman (Arbitrage). Our lead actors Johnny Hopkins and Erin Darke gave breakout performances as new parents fighting the good fight to keep their love alive and hold onto their dreams. At the present time we are, concurrently, editing the film and raising financing on RocketHub for post-production. RocketHub is a great, user-friendly portal for crowdfunding and along with BVEW, has been tremendously supportive with advice, promotion and making connections. I am not a natural salesman and truly hate begging for money to indulge my artistic passions, but this is the game and you can’t win if you don’t play. Raising money for a narrative film, art for art’s sake, is not like raising money for a cause. It’s harder to sell the do-gooder aspect of supporting an indie film. But I have found that passion is contagious and made it a point to accentuate the quality of the story and craft of the film we’ve made, which people are responding to. Sidewalk Traffic’s RocketHub campaign has been featured in Moviemaker Magazine, Filmmaker Magazine, Film School Rejects and our supporters feed off of the buzz we get from every tweet, facebook posting and online write-up. They brag about the project on their social media pages, which generates more traffic and more contributions for our campaign. My highly glib crowdfunding advice: Be relentless, but never intrusive. Be humble, but never lack confidence. Be sincere, and don’t fake it. Believe in every thing you do and others will, too. - Anthony Fisher, Award-winning Writer, Filmmaker, and Voiceover Artist
My inspiration for this innovation: I wanted to be a Master in my Craft, haircutting. I was a hairstylist for 12 years before I ever learned how to cut hair “technically”. Before that it was just by feel or visually. Once I learned the rules of haircutting, I put myself through the grueling process of changing 12 years of habits. It took eight long years before I felt like I had Mastered them. Only then did I start to see some “Challenges” !!!! I cut the EXACT same haircut on two different clients and the haircut looked VERY DIFFERENT. I doubled checked everything… to see what I had done wrong, everything was right! WHY DID THAT JUST HAPPEN????? That day I saw just how much Head Shape changed a cut!!!!! Which brought up the question, how would I have to cut it differently on THIS head shape in order to get the haircut I wanted?????? I WAS A HAIRCUTTING EDUCATOR… traveling across the US, teaching haircutting and had NO IDEA how to do this. I tried to experiment but knew it was very involved and that I would need to dedicate much more time. I closed my Salon and researched! What I discovered COMPLETELY BLEW ME AWAY!!!! I want to share these finding with Hairstylist EVERYWHERE!!!! It will CHANGE AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crowdfunding has been very emotional for me! The outpouring of support has been AMAZING!!!!! A salon owner who had brought me into her Salon to teach my cutting system, HEAD SHAPE MATTERS, really wanted some DVD’s for follow up and for any new team members at her Salon. She contacted me about it and I let her know that I just didn’t have the money to produce DVD’s right now. She started sending me links to crowdfunding sites as well as telling me that she wanted to be the first to fund it!!!!!! When I first read about crowdfunding, it felt like begging. I asked her to help me see it the way she did. She told me that I had knowledge and skills that she wanted. That the DVD’s would help her grow personally and help her team grow. She also said that there were many, many more that would love this information. That it was an exchange of gifts. The Industry has been so generous!!! Within the first 24 hours hours of launching the Project, I was 46% funded!!! I have received so much encouragement and THANK YOU’S from my peers. I don’t even know how many people have tweeted and shared my link on Facebook, I have lost count. I am overwhelmed with gratitude!!!!!! My advice: JUST DO IT!!!!! I spent about 2 months researching other successful campaigns. I watched great videos… OVER AND OVER, taking notes on everything they did. I read blogs and interviews on how to be successful at it. I practiced my speech in front of a camera… oh about… 500 times!!! I WOULD DEFINITELY RECOMMEND doing your homework. I would also, recommend doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, in other words, if you want people to support you…. you must first support others!!!!!! - Kim Weaver Moore, Hairstylist, Educator, Crowdfunding Entrepreneur
Anyone who knows anything about Detroit knows that abandoned buildings are a serious problem for the city. The whole 139 square miles, from Downtown to Eight Mile, contains a wide variety of derelict structures. These empty properties attract crime, reduce property values, and reflect badly on the city. At the same time, though, there is a housing crunch in certain neighborhoods. The occupancy rate in 2012 for rental units in the Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods was 95%. I had to pay rent for a month before I even moved to Detroit in order to secure a spot in my current building. With a recovering housing market, a revitalized city, and a generation of young people ready to urbanize, the time was right for a project like Rebirth Realty. I think our story resonates with a large cross-section of society. You’ve got urbanists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and Detroit lovers who can all find elements of Rebirth Realty to admire. We have supporters from across the country, from friends here in Detroit to a real estate agent in Virginia. I suspect there are many towns and cities around the country with historic homes in troubled communities who could apply our crowdfunding model to their rehabilitation projects. I’ll be interested to see how crowdfunded redevelopment catches on. For success crowdfunding, above all, make sure to tell your story. For us, our goal is to create a home for future VFA Fellows while rebuilding the neighborhood community. We want to bring the Fellows - smart, talented, people who care about their city - into a setting where their presence makes an immediate impact. I think that’s a story people can get behind. Also, offer some awesome perks! The one night/one weekend lodging rewards have been our most popular perks by far; we’re basically competing with Airbnb on that one. Naming rights have been key as well. Finally, you’ll need a great team. My teammates (Max Nussenbaum, Scott Lowe, and Sean Jackson) are hard workers with a commitment to, and passion for, our project. - Tim Dingman & Rebirth Realty Team, Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Real Estate Crowdfunding Pioneers
The Sugar Glider Genetics Project is an initiative that I have been developing for several years and started when I was living in the USA, working at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland. I have always had an interest in the genetics and evolution of marsupials and I was amazed to discover the large population of Sugar Gliders that are kept domestically in the USA. It is quite a regular experience to go into a pet store and find them for sale. My immediate thoughts were, I wonder where this exotic animal has been exported from? I knew that Australia has strict regulations about the export of native animals, and after reaching out to the community of exotic veterinarians in the USA, it seemed that the most likely source was Western Papua/Indonesia. But nobody knew for sure. I could not find any records to support this claim, because Sugar Gliders are not a regulated agricultural species nor are they endangered and covered by the CITES convention. So I decided to use a wildlife forensics approach to answer this question. Initially all the sample contributions were donated by US veterinarians but after a while I started to receive a lot of emails from interested members of the community that own sugar gliders as pets. They were very interested in where their Gliders have come from but also in what might be the genetic causes of the unusual coat colour variations that have been selectively bred in captivity. It was the fact that the community of Sugar Glider owners were interested in this project that made think that this might be a good project to fund via crowdfunding. I decided to launch the campaign when I was invited to provide an informational video for a Sugar Glider Owners convention that was held in Columbus, Ohio. The video was premiered at the convention and meant that I was able to immediately reach out to the core interested parties. Many of the Sugar Glider owners from this convention have dedicated time and energy to promote the project and help generate international interest in my research. When it comes to crowdfunding Science, it definitely helps to have a charismatic and attractive study species, such as the Sugar Glider. This makes the project more accessible to a general audience. We are about half-way through the campaign period, and have reached 64% of the funding target. We have had quite a range of donations, all the way from $10 to $1,000. I would say that initially the majority of funders have been either from the Sugar Glider owner community or from my network of scientific contacts. I am hoping that with some more wide-reaching publicity in national news papers and scientific blogs that we will start to reach and attract donations from a wider audience. This project definitely has the potential to reach a wide audience, for example just 12 hours after a Facebook post by the science blog “Science Alert” about the Sugar Glider Genetics Project, the post was “liked” over 5,000 times and shared by nearly 1,000 of the Science Alert Subscribers. For crowdfunding success, make sure you know your target audience. The main reason that my crowdfunding campaign has been successful is because I have been able to work with a core group of people that are passionate about the project and care about answering the questions that my project poses. - Clare Holleley, Principle Scientist and Team Leader of the Sugar Glider Genetics Project, International Crowdfunding Innovator