Students enrolled in large, intro-level classes know the feeling: looking around for a familiar face on the first day, and not knowing a single person. By the end of the semester, the faces are familiar, but their names are still a mystery.
Jordyn Goldzweig ’21 and Sam Brickman ’21 know how you feel. Their new service, mobile app Zing, seeks to connect students in the same classes with similar interests to help them utilize one of the most convenient academic resources: their fellow classmates.
Both computer science majors, Goldzweig and Brickman went through the struggle of never knowing the students who were in the same classes with them from semester to semester. After talking to over 300 students, they found that 76 percent say they would not go up to another student in class and start a conversation, according to Brickman.
“There are some kids who would rather not hand in an assignment or drop the class instead of going up to people in class and asking for help. From there, we realized that there was a problem,” Goldzweig said.
“We were compelled by this problem; it was so prevalent to us. We had to be the ones to attack this problem and solve it,” Brickman said.
Once students enter information about their classes, interests and hometowns, Zing uses an algorithm — made by Alisa Lai ’22, the “main technical person” — to make optimal matchings of three to four students. Then, the app introduces students to one another and tells them about their similarities, according to Brickman.
On Sept. 4, Zing won the top prize at the Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s kickoff event, earning the team $5,000 and automatic placement into eLab for the semester. Through eLab, Cornell’s start-up accelerator program, Goldzweig and Brickman will get access to successful entrepreneurs as well as business professors to guide them. They will also be able to collaborate in an environment with other start-ups.
Goldzweig and Brickman both previously worked for Suna Breakfast, a start-up created by fellow Cornell students. Although they no longer work for Suna, the advice from their former colleagues has been instrumental in creating Zing, according to Brickman.
“One of the cool things about working for a start-up with a small team is that everyone needs to do everything. We all do all of the roles: sales, marketing, technology, and customer service,” Brickman said.
Four courses — three from computer science and one from biology — are currently piloting the software. Professors are enthusiastic about the app and are introducing the service as an assignment or requirement in order to get students connected. A few professors even personally reached out to request that they be included, according to Goldzweig
“As of right now, our main goal is connecting students and helping as many students as possible. We are really passionate about this problem,” Goldzweig said.
“Our goal is to get as many professors at Cornell to use it, and eventually expand to other schools,” Brickman said.