Brittany Amano ’16 and Darius Lam ’17 Present in NestEd’s First Student-Led Event

With the whirring and beeping of 3-D printers echoing in the background, an excited crowd of students gathered in the Nest to watch Brittany Amano ’16 and Darius Lam ’17 discuss their entrepreneurial projects. The pair, who spoke last Wednesday, are the first student presenters for NestEd.

In the first year of its existence, the Nest has held a number of lectures and presentations from notable alumni and innovative speakers. Last Wednesday’s programming was the first to feature current students as presenters. Mike Barker, the Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, has long dreamt of this moment and hopes for student-led NestED presentations to become commonplace.

“It’s always been an aspiration that anything… about the [Nest] is about student agency and about kids doing projects that they want to do. So we’ve had these speakers come in and it’s been wonderful, but I think it’s a great opportunity for students to profile the work that they do,” said Barker.

The future of NestED will likely see more open-ended forums meant for students to exchange and improve ideas concerning a broad range of issues.

“I would hope that people would raise their hands and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Barker, I’ve been working on this engineering project,’ [or] ‘I’ve been working on this app and I would really love to show it to some students and get people around with some pizza and they can respond to that.’ And that’s actually how projects get better,” said Barker.

Amano and Lam, as this week’s special guests, presented separately on projects they had undertaken, and the lessons they had learned from their experiences. Amano discussed her inspiration and motivation to start her non-profit organization The Future Isn’t Hungry, and Lam talked about StackLife, a web application that virtually assists students in the research process, and his journey toward becoming an avid coder.

For Amano, the dedication to service began early, after she realized that her passion was not for sports, but for service. At eight-years old, Amano started her first food drive after her grandmother was laid off from her job and became homeless.

“I wanted to give back to all those homeless shelters and food banks that helped her get back on her feet,” said Amano.

During her appearance, Amano began by dispelling the long held idea that someone is “too young to do something.” Repeating advice she had once received from an 11-year-old, Amano discussed four crucial steps in making a difference. One, see a need. Two, make a plan. Three, gather friends. Four, change the world.

When she was a senior in high school, Amano decided she wanted to spend her Post-Graduate year at Andover after having spent several years continuing her education exclusively online.

“Andover has helped shape my project because of [the school’s] whole Non Sibi philosophy, which is the reason I chose Andover – because everyone here is so well-informed about issues and I’ve been learning so much about different issues that are facing this globe that I hadn’t even heard about before coming,” said Amano.

As of December 31st, The Future Isn’t Hungry has organized drives in all 50 states and served nearly 914,000 people. This number well exceeded Amano’s original goal of 625,000. With the help of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, Amano hopes to continue her organization’s outreach and expansion.
“I just hope to motivate more youths across the country to get involved in the feeding of the hungry and start to branch out into new communities,” said Amano.

Following Amano’s presentation was Lam, who has been coding since the seventh grade. Lam emphasized the importance of finding a clear goal when starting to code.

Lam said, “Simply wanting to change the world is too broad a goal.”

For StackLife, Lam found inspiration in a problem he observed while at Andover.

“StackLife was directly influenced by a paper that I had to write for History last year. And it was kind of difficult for me to find the resources that I needed. So I really wanted to have a good way to be able to find new resources within that field and that kind of spurred me on to creating StackLife,” said Lam.

The main focus of StackLife is to catalog the library and promote discovery of resources using visualization. Lam hopes to soon introduce study tools, like allowing users to create their own list of resources that they found were helpful and can then share with their peers.