Doing it Alone
– Julian Davis –
I came to Nebraska with this weird idea that I’d be a lone wolf. I thought I’d do it all by myself. Then I learned that’s almost impossible. Not just in engineering, but in any major—because that’s how the world works. You have to work with other people to succeed. I’m a pretty introverted person by nature who would rather not say anything sometimes—but the people at Nebraska really changed that for me.
I got to know people right away because everybody on my floor kept their doors open and it provided this really cool, open atmosphere. It was amazing to see how cool and different everybody was.
I started studying with a group from my program, and slowly, we started hanging out all the time. We’d show each other YouTube videos of really cool contraptions and got to know what each other’s aspirations were. We realized we all shared this similar ideology of trying to leave the planet better than what we started with. We thought, “How could we do that right now?”
Alumin8 is Born
We came across a YouTube video where this guy made a little propane forge out of sand and plaster with about $40 and a steel bucket. He demonstrated how easy it was to put cans in it, melt them down, and turn the aluminum into cool stuff. We thought, “What if we do that on campus by collecting the cans people are going to throw away?” And that’s where Alumin8, our nonprofit, was born.
We thought the idea was neat because it could help break the cycle of aluminum being put into our community landfills. With the forge and the proper mold, you can make the aluminum into anything— from pen bodies to cups, bowls and silverware that can be used for years—so we started dreaming of what we could make for the local homeless community or after school programs. Now we’ve partnered with local businesses, the College of Engineering and other students and we’re getting funding to make our goals a reality.
It’s really cool to see what’s developed from a few people studying together and slowly meshing together. I never thought that I would be starting a nonprofit. If you would have told me how my life would look now when I was a senior in high school, I wouldn’t have believed I would find not just one—but six other people—who have such similar passions to mine. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
We’ve also gained a lot of useful skills through the project. We’re engineering students, so we don’t really have minds for business and advertising, but here we are building a business and learning everything from interpersonal skills to marketing.
I’ve grown from being a quiet person who’d sit in class and not really say anything to loving to talk to people. Being able to be in an environment that fosters that growth requires the perfect blend of spices and herbs that come together, and that’s what I’ve gotten at Nebraska. Even if you think you want to go at it alone, you’ll probably find two things: That it’s really hard to do, and that it’s a lot less fun.
You Can Belong Here
There’s no real singular thing I could say that sets Nebraska apart—it’s every little thing from the people, to the city, to the architecture that made me realize how much I like it.
I wasn’t a special student. I’m the first one in my family to go to college, I didn’t know anyone who went to Nebraska, and I didn’t know any faculty members, but already they all know me. You can make something great of coming to Nebraska, even if you’re starting from ground zero. It’s definitely possible to belong here.