SwatTank, an entrepreneurial-based competition hosted by the Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL), is set to happen on Thursday, April 14. This year’s SwatTank is the 10th anniversary of the competition as it transitions back to an in-person setting after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the event to be held virtually.
In an interview with The Phoenix, Director of the CIL and Assistant Dean of Integrated Learning and Leadership Katie Clark shared her excitement about this year’s SwatTank competition.
“We are so excited to have SwatTank return to being in-person. We had to pivot the past two years into a virtual space, but we’re thrilled to have an in-person crowd this year,” Clark said. “It adds to the energy and excitement of SwatTank to have students pitching to a live audience. It is a wonderful celebratory moment for all the work that goes into SwatTank that can go unnoticed in a virtual environment.”
Clark also expanded on the history of the competition and why CIL sponsors SwatTank.
“SwatTank was first started in Spring 2013 by Career Services and the Student Entrepreneurship Club. With the inception of the CIL in the fall of 2014, SwatTank became a key program of the CIL,” Clark said. “SwatTank serves as a professional development opportunity for students so the combination of support between us and Career Services is important.”
Although SwatTank is a highlight of the CIL, they also offer multiple ways for students to involve themselves with entrepreneurship and innovation, such as through the Design Studio, Leadership Fellows Program, and summer funding for unpaid internships.
“SwatTank is just one way that we are working directly with students through coaching and training for them to expand their creative mindsets,” Clark said.
The SwatTank competition will feature three team finalists — “Forge” by Roman Hinds ‘25 and Te’John Chapman ‘23, “Frequency” by Dorothy Rui-Corrigan ‘23 and Leonard Park ‘23, and
techTutor” by Sean Cheng ‘24, Jacob Park ‘24, Christina Wang ‘22, and Tommy Vu ‘24 — who will each give pitches in front of a live audience and a panel of judges. The three judges, Youngmoo Kim ’93, Kyle Pierce ‘14, and Syon Bhanot, Associate Professor of Economics, will assess the startups and distribute the $8,000 cash prize.
Roman Hinds explained the issue area his project is focusing on, mentioning that it is marketed towards college athletes.
“At its core, ‘Forge’ is a visual, data-driven fitness tracker built within an interactive community platform,” Hinds said. “Right now, many college athletes struggle to train consistently over their off-season without the support and motivation they get from their team, and this issue is not being addressed by current products in the market.”
Hinds is the first first-year student to ever be accepted into the SwatTank finals and discussed the impact competing in the competition has had on him and his fellow team member Te’John Chapman ’23.
“The prize was a really compelling aspect, but the experience we’ve gained in working to develop our business idea has been invaluable,” Hinds said. “Both of us are also extremely interested in pursuing entrepreneurship throughout our careers.”
Hinds also discussed the inspiration that led him and Chapman to come up with “Forge.“
“We got the inspiration for this idea from remembering our basketball team’s miserable experience training during the COVID year when the season was canceled,” Hinds said. “What has made us and many other sports teams so successful is the connection we have and how we constantly push each other to be better, and we want to carry that experience into the off-season through ‘Forge.’”
Founders of “Frequency” Dorothy Rui Corrigan ’23 and Leonard Park ’23 summarized their project and explained the origins behind their social media platform dedicated to sharing music.
“’Frequency’ provides a streamlined platform that allows users to share their music — extensions of their identities — with others more easily and actively engage in the listening process of the music recommended to them by members of their communities,” the two founders shared.
Corrigan and Park also highlighted the interactive and community-building aspects of their app.
“Through features like sharing posts of bite-sized playlists on one app, being able to create interactive playlists with friends, and seeing what other community members are listening to, our app brings human connection into the music listening and sharing experience, all on a user’s own time,” they said.
“Both of us started talking to friends about what they think about when they share music. We found many people thought of the music they like as an extension of themselves and did want an easier way to find out what music their friends were listening to,” Dorothy said.
Leonard and Dorothy both share more personal connections to music. When asked to elaborate, they both spoke of music as a means of community bond-building.
“Usually, I’m always the one to be on aux. For my New Year’s resolution this year, I decided to make the effort to listen to more of my friend’s music, but there was no easy way to get everyone’s recommendations, “ Leonard said.
Dorothy, on the other hand, enjoys a more active role as a musician.
“I’ve always loved being part of an orchestra because I get to make music with other people and become part of another community,” she said.
The third project, “techTutor,” is an app that helps those with lower levels of digital literacy solve their technological issues. It pairs users with a tutor in their native language who will help them understand what might be wrong with their device and how to fix the issue. The app also contains tutorials and other helpful guides to improve digital literacy as a whole.
The “techTutor” founders cited language and age barriers in digital literacy as inspiration for the app.
“Our team came up with this idea because each of us experienced the pain point of having to help our parents and grandparents navigate their tech devices over late night calls while being busy with other areas of our lives. We wanted to help our parents, the target demographic of ‘techTutor,’ in a manner that was easy to access, feasible for the limited knowledge of the English language, as well as cost effective,” they said.
The founders admitted that although the field of improving digital literacy is already saturated, it doesn’t cater to a large variety of languages. The issue of language and age barriers in technology is a personal issue to the founders, who are all either immigrants or first-generation Asian Americans.
“We have first-hand experiences with trying to help our parents with digital issues. We understand that digital struggles are a common occurrence in immigrant families, and we all wish that in the coming generations digital illiteracy will no longer be a burden to minority communities,” they elaborated.
Although “Forge,” “Frequency,” and “techTutor” will be competing with one another, Hinds encouraged the Swarthmore community to show support for all three finalists Thursday.
“We really want to encourage everyone to come out and show support for the three teams,” Hinds said. “We’ve all worked tirelessly to create the best product we can over the last two months, and it would mean a lot to showcase our work to the people it may be serving in the not-so-distant future.”