First-Year Wins 2018 Social Venture Challenge with Music Making

After reading the biography of Joni Eareckson Tada, Caleb Britton ’21 was inspired to look for ways to serve people with disabilities. “There’s a lot of need in the disabled community,” Britton says. “It requires a lot of creativity . . . [and] it’s where I feel called.”

As the winner of this year’s Social Venture Challenge (SVC), Britton is now able to take his passion further. He not only won an auspicious sum of $5,000, but is also the only first-year student to take first place in the five-year history of SVC—an annual, campus-wide competition for student teams looking to jump-start their nonprofit or business ventures.

A kinesiology major and music enthusiast, Britton originally came up with his idea in the shower, where all great revelations seem to come. He had been taking a Human Movement course with Dr. Sean Clark (kinesiology) in which he learned about assistive technology—anything that can harness movement and translate it to supplement a person’s physical capability that has been hindered in some way. Britton realized that a disabled person could use such technology, like an ergonomic computer mouse that fits into a person’s natural grip, to make music on the computer (something he enjoys doing in his spare time).

Britton’s initiative, Musician Space, uses existing assistive technology and music programs, like Garage Band, and connects them in a learning environment for people with disabilities. He’s not creating a new program; rather, he’s introducing commonly-used computer applications in a way that is accessible to disabled individuals so that they, too, can make electronic music.

Britton and his venture partner, Sarah MacHardy ’20, have been volunteering and testing out the project at the Northeast Arc day program in Danvers, MA. Currently they’re working with two individuals, one of whom wants to become a DJ. Britton hopes to help him land a gig by the end of the year.

Pursuing ideas that make an impact is what the Social Venture Challenge is all about.

“We want students to instigate impact—to dream, imagine and dare to create a venture that will make a difference,” wrote Stephanie Antonucci, director of Elevate and program manager for the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (which hosts SVC). “The Social Venture Challenge offers an opportunity for broadly and deeply informed students with a vision for the world they want to see to get started building lasting change, to animate their convictions.”

Britton and MacHardy were joined by two other finalist teams in this year’s SVC final showcase—the most well attended in its history, with over 300 audience members. In second place with a $3,000 prize were Nick Tozier ’18, Renee Cooprider ’18 and Ben Rowe ’20, whose Amaka Homes project builds homes through 3D printing for refugees who have fled into Northern Uganda. Eric Lee ’21 and Jun Jeong ’21 came in third place, winning $2,000 for their initiative to introduce the Genie Driver, a screwdriver made out of spring-loaded pins that can fit into any screw head, to the North American market.

Like his fellow competitors, Britton saw a need and was inspired to do something about it. And now they are all one step closer to making their ideas a reality.

View photos of SVC >

By Veronica Andreades ’20