College Sophomores Create New App

College Sophomores Create New App

Let the chain reaction of positivity commence.

Somewhere under hours of Italian homework, band practice, and planning the spring concert is Anthony. Somewhere jogging the streets of New York and trying his hand at screenwriting is John. And somewhere on an assortment of college campuses are nearly a thousand people smiling because of the two.

Anthony Salterelli and John Benenati of Wilton, Connecticut, are both in their sophomore years of college. Anthony is a computer science major at the College of the Holy Cross and John is studying financial engineering at Columbia University. Together, they have tapped into the technology of this day and age to harness positivity among college campuses. They have created a new and innovative app called Chin Up.

What started as one of those casual “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” is now something that is rapidly growing in popularity. John and Anthony had originally set out with the intent to create a game for social media. As time went on, this drive evolved into the desire to create a space where people could compliment and uplift one another. They were inspired by their high school’s twitter account - WHS Compliments - and other Facebook pages for compliments that various colleges had. Yet the two masterminds wanted to eliminate as much of a third party as possible. As Anthony remarked, “People like being positive, especially if it is anonymous.”

Thus the birth of an anonymous, communal, and kind version of Twitter: Chin Up.

Unlike other apps (think Yik-Yak), Chin Up is not based off of a radius. When you download the app, you select your college. (Currently Holy Cross, Columbia, Moravian College, Williams College, Bucknell University, and UConn have joined the positivity bandwagon). This feature is meant to enhance the community building mission of Chin Up. To create a post, you type the name of the person and then have 180 characters to give an encouraging shout-out. All posts can be reviewed and favorited in the news feed. Another neat feature of Chin Up is the ability to send a thank-you note (which has started hundreds of conversations).

Chin Up truly brings a campus together because, for example, posts aren’t limited to individuals: they extend to teams, classes that just took an exam, residential-life staff, anyone. Some posts are even dedicated to just good moments - the weather, the day, the meal. It is a genuine celebration of happiness. I have heard from numerous people that reading through Chin Up is a great way to start or to end the day. Anthony explained how the app has the power to make “dozens of people happy at once because they know someone is supporting them.”

In addition to strengthening communities, their mission is to combat cyberbullying. Anthony describes how “social media as a whole is an enormous force that brings millions of people together, though a lot of it is positive, there is negative backlash too. We want to make the nice thing to do, the popular thing to do.”

The app has a plethora of security features, as well, to prohibit offensive language, cap the amount of thank you notes sent, and regulate the news feed. The intricacy of it is really quite incredible considering the infancy of Anthony and John’s college careers. They taught themselves any coding that they didn’t know and put in roughly 350 hours of time. The two relied on the feedback of their friends before launching the final (18th) product. Furthermore is the web of legal and economical measures that John and Anthony have done on their own. The genius is more than commendable.

As they look to the future, John and Anthony are excited to spread to more college universities and to strengthen their presence in the ones where they already are. They also hope to partner with national organizations that help children with terminal illness. The goal is that under the “featured post” section of the app, a child will be featured with their name, story, and picture. Users will then be able to send Chin Up’s to them and Anthony and John will deliver the posts in a way to be determined.

John and Anthony are revolutionaries. If there’s one thing that needs to be revised in young people today in order for us to be productive and happy adults of tomorrow, it is the disease of low self esteem and loneliness which are so often perpetuated by social media. Chin Up works to establish positive connections while reflecting on a community’s assets. Above all, it encourages people to look up, and it inevitably helps us to be seen. By reminding us to keep our chins up, John and Anthony, perhaps unknowingly, exemplify Walt Whitman when he wrote, “Keep your face always towards the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”
Cover Image Credit: Anthony Salterelli

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I Stalked The Carells Around UMich Campus, And I'd Do It Again

Elisabeth Carell, you should DEFINITELY go blue.

Last Monday, I was sitting in lecture with three of my friends when we first heard the rumor: "Somebody just told me that they heard Steve Carell is coming to campus tomorrow." What?? No, way. I could not stop thinking about how cool it would be if I met him.

Unsure of why he was coming, we asked the girl, and she then told us that he was apparently touring the school with his daughter. She heard it from someone who heard it from a tour guide. We were aware that the Carells were touring University of Wisconsin that day, so it made perfect sense that they were coming to Michigan next.

I got home from class and did what any Steve Carell fan would do: binge-watch The Office. After doing so, I was even more determined to make it my mission to meet him. My two friends, Grace and Katherine, were just as determined as I, and the three of us started to devise a plan.

"What if we sign up for the tour?!" suggested Grace. We decided to go with this genius idea. We logged on and realized there were still open spots on the tour, so the three of us used our high school emails, fake names, and signed ourselves up!

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn, the eager Steve Carell fan girls that we were, and headed to the Student Activities Building where the pre-tour presentation was. We sit down in a room with about 60 people and listen to a woman go on and on about how to apply to the school we already got into, and statistics about the school that we already attend.

I wasn't paying any attention, for I was looking around the room for Steve! That's when my friend Katherine leaned into my ear and said "Steve is sitting DIRECTLY behind us." My jaw dropped, my heart started beating faster with excitement, and I caught a glimpse of Steve Carell out of my peripheral vision when turning to look at her.

OH.MY.GOD. I could not believe I was sitting ten inches in front of a legend. It was the best 45 minutes long presentation of my life, and I simply could not wait to hop on his tour.

But then....a plot twist. Steve, Nancy, and their two kids left the presentation a few minutes early, and we soon realized they were going on a PRIVATE TOUR!!

Our plan was officially ruined. We had thought out conversations to have with his daughter to become friends with her, and jokes to drop on the tour that we thought Steve would appreciate, but all of that was out the window now. We had no chance of getting on his tour and we only had one option left.

We had to stalk him.

We immediately ditched our tour group (which we never had any real interest of going on anyway) to follow the Carell family. We kept a distance, for we didn't want them to know they were being followed.

For a while, it was just Katherine, Grace and I following them everywhere they went. We felt like true spies. We even asked Steve if we could get a photo with him, but he was deeply focused on the tour guide, and respectfully declined.

We continued to follow the Carells for about another hour, but more and more students began to catch on and, as the news of them being on campus spread, our posse grew.

We finally decided to leave the Carells alone once the tour ended, and they had hundreds of students following them. Part of me felt bad that there were so many people stalking them, but I'm sure they are used to it by now.

I can honestly say that it was one of the most exciting and adventurous days I've had at Michigan so far, and I can only hope that Elisabeth chooses to be a Wolverine so I can do it all again on Parents Weekend.

Cover Image Credit: Flannery O'Donnell

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Without R2D2, The Events Of Star Wars Would Never Have Happened

R2D2 is the unsung hero of the Star Wars franchise.

To say I'm a Star Wars fan is an understatement. My parents grew up on Star Wars and implemented their love for the franchise into my brother and me at a very young age. Movie nights in my family consisted of a wood burning fire, buttered popcorn. and binge-watching the original Star Wars trilogy, until my younger brother and I inevitably fell asleep on the couch. That night, I'd dream of becoming a Jedi like Luke Skywalker, flying around in space like Han Solo and being a badass woman like Leia.

Recently, while driving in the car with my boyfriend (who is also an avid Star Wars fanatic), he mentioned that although R2D2, Luke's robotic companion, is wonderful comedic relief, he didn't add much functionality to the overall plotline of the trilogy. I thought it over and realized that although my boyfriend is wonderful, on this front he is absolutely and irrevocably wrong.

My argument is this: Without R2D2, the entire Star Wars trilogy would never have happened.

Now, this sounds pretty weird, but bear with me, and I can tell you exactly why.

The backstory for R2D2 is pretty generic, which is why his capabilities within the movies are so amazing. R2D2 was manufactured as a maintenance droid for Queen Amadala's ship, a droid with basic capabilities When Queen Amadala and Anakin Skywalker were married, Amadala gave R2D2 to Anakin as a gift to keep him company on his adventures during the Clone Wars.

Later, after Anakin becomes Darth Vader, R2D2 stays on the light side, working alongside Senator Organa, and then with the resistance as a droid on Princess Leia's ship. This is the beginning of the original Star Wars movie, "A New Hope," and where everything important really happens.

At the beginning of "A New Hope," we watch Princess Leia try to deliver her message to Obi-Wan Kenobi by way of the droid. Although this is a valiant effort by the princess, there are a few problems with this plan.

1. The resistance has no idea if Obi-Wan Kenobi is even alive, let alone where he is

2. There are millions upon millions of miles of the galaxy to search in order to find Obi-Wan

and 3. Princess Leia's whole plan is based on relying on two droids to find an ancient Jedi Master, and convincing him to take on The Empire singlehandedly.

By the grace of the Force (and the magic of cinematic writing), R2D2 and C3PO miraculously land on the planet of Tatooine, a desolate, sand-covered planet home to Banthas, Jawas, and many other species, including humans. Once landing on Tatooine, R2 and C3PO are bought by Luke Skywalker to help with the harvest on his Uncle Owen's farm. This leads to one of the pivotal moments in the movie, when Luke Skywalker discovers Leia's hidden message to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Intrigued by the message, and the beautiful girl crying for help, Luke goes to his family for advice on what his next steps should be, only to be told to wipe the droid's memory by his Uncle Owen. And so, like the clueless teenager he is, Luke goes to comply, only to find that the little blue droid is missing from the workshop. R2D2 has set out on his own to find the missing Jedi.

Although this may not seem like that big of a deal, we have to keep in mind R2D2's history, and specifically, his purpose during his creation. He was originally intended to be a maintenance droid, and therefore, is mainly focused on fixing things that are broken around him. Namely, the resistance against the tyrannous Empire.

The resistance is falling apart. Princess Leia has just been abducted by Darth Vader, the Jedi Order has all but disappeared, and the Rebels' last hope lies in the memory of a maintenance droid they have sent out into the galaxy. R2D2 realizes how dire their situation is, and sets off to complete his mission, and find Obi-Wan Kenobi. He rolls off into the desert of Tatooine, determined to find Obi-Wan, and fix the broken rebellion.

Eventually, R2D2 finds Obi-Wan with a little help from Luke Skywalker and sets the events of the rest of the series in motion. Luke realizes his destiny, and sets out to help Obi-Wan save the rebellion. But without the initiative of one little maintenance droid, the resistance would have been all but destroyed. Because of the utter incompetence of the humans around him, R2 realizes that he must take matters into his own hands, so to speak, and ensure that hope can be restored to the resistance.

Although Luke, Leia, and Han Solo may be the heroic faces of this epic franchise, their stories would never have been put into motion without the initiative of a little droid trying to do what he does best: fix what's broken, and effectively, save a revolution.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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