Spiral-bound school planners are as outdated as mimeograph machines, and yet, these planners are the tool most students use to manage homework assignments and class schedules. Thankfully, Carnegie Mellon student Daniel Gorziglia has developed a better solution, one that may send those paper planners to a Luddite graveyard.
In the fall of 2011, while at Abington Friends School, Daniel and three friends approached administrators with an idea for managing homework on the web. Daniel said, “Our goal was to simplify school life for students and show them a timeline of all of their classes.”
After working every day for several months, the team developed a prototype which they named AssignLink. And with the support of the administration, they introduced the system to their peers in a special assembly. Daniel said, “It was in the middle of the year so we couldn’t force people to use the product. In spite of that challenge, we were able to get an 85% adoption rate. In fact, students got really annoyed when teachers didn’t put homework assignments up on the system.”
School Director Martha Holland said, “One of the things we are proudest of with the AssignLink story is that it grew organically out of a need that our own students identified and challenged themselves to meet. And that is what we should all be encouraging students to do in school.”
But with the end of the 2012 school year, Daniel and his three teammates went in different directions and work on AssignLink lost momentum.
A Transition to College
During his first semester at Carnegie Mellon, while he acclimated himself to the new environment, AssignLink stayed on the back burner. However, with the start of his second semester, Daniel was ready to reengage. He did so by becoming part of CMU’s Project Olympus which “provides start-up advice, micro-grants, incubator space, and connections for faculty and students across campus.”
In spite of AssignLink being 100% self-funded, the product has been enhanced to include real-time notifications, intelligently identify assessment conflicts, and plans to add interactive activity and athletic pages are in the works. And for school administrators, the product will soon offer analytics and compliance information.
To further commercialize AssignLink, Daniel has received help from Project Olympus Entrepreneur in Residence, Kit Needham. Kit explained, “AssignLink has proven to be an excellent service. The next steps are to get the word out to high schools that AssignLink is available, and we’re working on our marketing and communication strategy for the fall. Daniel is wonderful to work with – a quick study, follows up promptly, and shows a great deal of maturity and business acumen for a college sophomore.”
To make progress toward those marketing and communications goals, Daniel needs to move forward on several fronts. First, he needs to incorporate the business, a step that will be necessary in selling to school systems. In addition, Daniel needs to rebuild his team. Daniel said, “My goal is to bring on another partner and to hire two additional developers.”
For the sake of students and school administrators everywhere, those currently synchronizing assignments across paper planning products, we wish Daniel and AssignLink good luck.