Screengrab from the "Giant Chessboard Extravaganza" video submission.
And the most uncommon winners are …
Thirty-eight student projects win money from “uncommon” project.
Every year a group of students—some members of Student Government and some independent—pore over hundreds of applications to decide which “uncommon” projects deserve a portion of money allotted by the Student Activities Fund. This year Dean of the College John Boyer, AM’69, donated an extra $25,000. That $75,000 went to 38 projects, covering the arts, technology, business, science, health, and community outreach. Each team had to make a YouTube video proving why their project was uncommon enough, students voted and the board took those votes into consideration before making their final decision. My favorite 2012 winners:

Marauder's Map

UChicago students proudly tell friends that our school looks like Hogwarts, but two Uncommon Fund projects are going to strengthen the likenesses. Like the marauder’s map in Harry Potter, the app will allow a person’s smart phone to track his or her location around campus, letting friends know where they are, although users have the option of going invisible. Unlike apps where users have to "check in" at locations, this will have roaming dots tracking individuals' locations. By October Danyal Sheikh, ’13, hopes continuously showing locations will get rid of the annoyance associated with waiting for a text for your Friday night plans. I have an inkling that a lot of students will solemnly swear they are up to no good.

Giant Chessboard Extravaganza

"Giant" means two things in this magical event: a weeklong tournament with normal-sized humans moving normal-sized chess pieces, and a simultaneous tournament with three-foot-tall pieces on a giant board, Hogwarts-style. Sadly, wands and spells won’t make the pieces move, but there will be music and possibly circus performances at the final tournament, at the end of spring quarter.

The Kodak Project

Tomorrow second-years Amanya Maloba and Arlene Wang will hand out four disposable cameras to students; each of those students will pass it on to any member of campus until the roll is up. From members of the Department of Visual Arts to Chicago Booth to College deans, no member of campus is off limits. Each week another set of cameras will be distributed, resulting in 80 cameras worth of pictures. When the cameras are returned to Maloba and Wang, they will display the project as part of an art exhibit at the end of the quarter. As someone who is very uncomfortable with a camera that have fancy settings, this is a project I can get behind.

Kindergarten on the Quad

Picture this: it’s finals week, the Reg is your home, and you’re wondering why you decided to come to this school. Words start to escape you, and you can’t imagine reading or writing one more sentence. Sound familiar? Well, what are your options for study break: A nap in a Reg cubicle? Coffee and donuts from SG? A free hug from the one and only Angela Wang? Or perhaps you want to pretend you never left the safety of kindergarten. During spring-quarter finals week, first-years Zach Upton-Davis, Nicholas Best, and Eric Singerman bring you back to kindergarten with bouncy castles, finger painting, cartoons, and naps. Did I mention bouncy castles?

Take the Lede

Just by the name of their project, you can tell that former Maroon staffers Amy Myers, ’13, and Kelsey Reid, ’15, understand the first rule of journalism: puns. “Take the Lede” will help them, and staff of the Chicago Weekly, the Maroon (including myself), and HerCampus, pass on the other lessons of producing a publication to local Chicago Public Schools students. The online and print newspaper will be made during an after-school program, the first of which will come before the end of 2013 and will be distributed around the community.

Student v. Faculty Quizbowl

It’s happened to me: I’m convinced I have the right answer, or a better interpretation of the text than the professor. Maybe it’s just ego, or maybe, just maybe, I’m right. But the professor decides my grade, so often I defer. Finally though, this quarter, there will be a space for students and professors to go head-to-head in a quiz bowl, answering questions on everything from math to trashy reality shows to Broadway musicals, with students writing the questions and keeping score. And of course, the creators of the project have advertised the most important part of any campus event: free food. Read the full list of winning projects.