Tawfiq Rawnak

Tawfiq Rawnak

Hometown: West Palm Beach, Florida
College/University Attending: Vanderbilt University 
Year In School When Selected: 2nd Year
Program of Study: Human Organizational Development and Engineering Science (Conc. in Eng. Management) 


I am a rising junior at Vanderbilt from Sunny, South Florida! I love listening to music and learning about random things. This can be anything from learning the psychology of Walter White from Breaking Bad to analyzing an anime film I watched recently. I am also a huge tech nerd. I replaced my daily glasses with Techy glasses, I have 6+ computers that I use daily, and I even like using AI to help me with my daily activities.

I enjoying solving problems in any shape or form. I am interested in music and psychology, as these two subjects really mean something to me. A little over 2 years ago, I developed an idea in my dorm room. An issue I noticed was the lack of availability and accessibility of mental health therapy, and I wanted to dig deeper. I discovered the realm of self-therapy. This type of therapy can really change mental health for many who struggle. I named this project Neural Avifauna. Avifauna refers to a flock of birds, which I meant to represent the idea that you are never alone (I also love birds).

I fully acknowledge my unique interests and way of viewing the world. Ask my fellow Vanderbilt colleagues and they will likely say they can see me listening to the most random music choices, reliving my nostalgic moments of old Disney shows, and randomly researching the psychology behind some character in a Netflix show. 

Summary of Your New Ideas proposal:

The intersection of AI and it being used for social good is a subject I deeply care about. In tandem with my project, Neural Avifauna, I was fortunate enough to pitch the idea of NestAI. NestAI is an educational non-profit focusing on the intersection between artificial intelligence and entrepreneurial education for youth. 

The specific problem I am working to solve is the lack of access to quality education and opportunities for children and teenagers from low-income backgrounds and impoverished communities, and the resulting gap in skills and outcomes for the future of work.

My solution aims to empower every child to become an entrepreneur and an innovator for the future. My solution also aims to give every child access to quality education and opportunities to help them achieve their potential. My solution also aims to bridge the gap between education and work, and between privilege and disadvantage. My solution also aims to create positive social and economic impact for the children, their families, their communities, and the world. NestAI provides a fun and engaging curriculum covering topics such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and a growth mindset. The curriculum is delivered through an online platform that uses AI to personalize the learning experience for each child, based on their interests, needs, and goals. The AI also acts as a mentor and a guide, providing feedback, encouragement, and suggestions for improvement.

What does the New Ideas Competition mean to you?

If there is one word I can mention for this program, it is a gateway. The reason it is a gateway is because it helped me iron out the idea I had for NestAI and really get quality feedback on the different things to best build it up from the scratch idea. With the mentorship I received from numerous individuals during my time at Fuqua, I am very thankful.

Now, this is not just a competition that you apply for, go there, and move on. This project really did stick with me. It was the New Ideas competition that helped me advance NestAI into a bigger space. As of late, I am super excited to announce this idea being published on the MIT Solve Challenge and showcased to many judges. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the New Ideas Competition.

Let’s use a metaphor with birds. A baby bird is nurtured by its mother for a long time. Then, it can showcase its growth to the other birds in the family. It makes a couple mistakes, but it learns. It then on grew to represent the whole family in a larger stage. The process continues. 

The New Ideas Competition really is a gateway for opportunities. I know you can succeed if you have just a bit of faith in yourself, just like the mother bird with its baby. 

Advice for new applicants:

Remember one word: motivation.

In the real world, with an idea, it is hard for it to pass through. Even with all the help you can receive, I wouldn't recommend moving forward if you aren’t motivated enough by a project. You don’t need to prove to others that you are motivated enough; prove to yourself. Show yourself that this project represents who you are. 

Whether you talk to yourself about it, journal it down, text yourself on Discord, any method works. Once that idea is down and you are motivated on your idea, it is then I recommend you apply for the program.