Awesome Foundation London kickoff!

Tonight was the kickoff event for the London chapter of Tim’s brainchild #179833492, the Awesome Foundation.  The Awesome Foundation started last year when Tim and nine homies decided to get together each month and collectively donate $1000 to a project they thought was really cool.  Since then, it’s spawned chapters in six (!) cities: Boston (the orig), New York, San Francisco, Ottawa, Providence, and now London.  Each of the chapters operates in the same way: every month, they give a $1000 to fund a cool project, except in London, where they give £1000.  Never mind that in London £1000 buys about two servings of fish and chips and a used teabag – you should see what some of these artists and inventors can do with a cod fillet!

The party celebrating the first grant by the London chapter was held upstairs at The Griffin pub near Old Street.  It was a lot of fun, but it was kind of suspenseful.  The five finalists for the £1000 grant had to give pitches to the ten AF London trustees, after which the trustees went downstairs to the bar to deliberate before coming back up and announcing the winner.  Here are the finalists, along with brief, highly inadequate descriptions of their projects, in the order they presented:

Mary: DIY fashion design for the tech-savvy end wearer, with an eye toward visualizing data in clothing.  Complete with a Roomba mod for laser-cutting cloth.

Nathan & Frederick: Web service and iPod Touch app to help independent journalists in Afghanistan publish and organize field notes and visual information.

Matt: Streetview Street Art, a site that documents street art in its spatial and temporal context using Google Streetview.  The site is still incomplete, and Matt needs funding (or the help of generous hackers!) to get it finished.

Oscar: “The Big Dipper,” a project in which Oscar puts artificial stars in the sky over London, so that people can see constellations in a city ordinarily too light-polluted for stars to be visible at all.

Adam: A sculpture of the Earth showing where and when people are being born and dying, with red and blue LED’s flashing at different rates according to birth and death rates in different locations.

All of the finalists’ proposals were truly awesome, so I apologize that my descriptions didn’t do them justice.  In the end, Oscar’s project won the grant.  Hopefully we’ll see new and improved artificial constellations over Hyde Park and Shoreditch by the end of the summer.  I really hope that the other projects end up working out as well.  In particular, Matt needs some people with web development skills to help get his site fully functional; if you’re a web hacker with some free time and you want to get involved with Streetview Street Art, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

I’m really excited about Mary’s project too, but also deeply afraid.  Of course, everyone joked about her laser-Roombas being the beginning of the end, but only because we were genuinely scared.  For weeks I’ll be waking in a cold sweat, unable to shake the fear that I’m about to get cut into a DIY dress.

Just kidding, Mary.  I really hope you get funding.

The application deadline for the next AF London grant is June 30th, and the award party will be not too long afterward.  Apply for the grant if you have an idea, and come to the party if you’re in town!  I’m looking forward to it already.


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