Carnegie Mellon University

CMU students attending Finnovation

March 22, 2018

Second Annual Moneythink Finnovation Promotes Financial Literacy Across Campus

Students from across campus were invited to create and present ideas promoting financial literacy.

Students are always looking for ways to optimize their budgets. This February, MoneythinkCMU put 30 undergraduate students to the test. Sponsored by VMware, Walnut Capital and AtWork Systems, the competition was a part of the organization’s Tartan Financial Innovation Challenge (Finnovation). Students were invited from across campus to create and present ideas, individually or as members of a group, promoting financial literacy: the knowledge and skills with which one can use financial resources to manage his or her money.

“Events like Finnovation allow us to make others on campus think about key problems in society that extend beyond CMU's typical purview,” Suren Wanasundera (TPR ‘18), president of MoneythinkCMU said. “Based on the submissions we saw, we firmly believe Finnovation was successful in making our participants think about and solve these pertinent issues.”

Students submitted projects that identified solutions to overspending and improper budgeting through games, apps and automated systems.

Before students got to work, keynote speaker David Kosbie, associate teaching professor at the School of Computer Science, explained what financial literacy meant to him by talking about his personal experiences with finances and his time at Microsoft. 

Students worked tirelessly for 24-hours, brainstorming and devising their concepts, before presenting their ideas. First place winner Alan Jaffe (SCS ‘18) created Budget Bot, a budgeting tool which syncs with various devices to streamline the budgeting process. As he demonstrated in his presentation, he could simply tell an Amazon Alexa that he spent $3 on a hot dog, and his budget would automatically update on his computer, even making suggestions on how to tailor spending to maximize the budget.

Last year, Wanasundera came in third place with Akshay Patel (SCS ‘18). This year, he and many Moneythink members participated as mentors and found it interesting to watch students over the course of the day and night.

“As compared to last year, we had a greater number of participants with a diverse set of backgrounds. Even their styles of work differed − Alan worked diligently throughout the night with his headphones in, totally focused on what he knew he wanted to do. Other teams requested large sheets of paper for extended brainstorming sessions, and then finalized their work over time,” Wanasundera said.