Students Compose Plan for Worldwide Musical Collaboration

Amidst summer schedules of internships spanning the country, three Georgia Tech women will convene in Hong Kong to compete as semifinalists in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge. 

CrossPath Music's commercial for the PolyU Global Student Challenge

Third-year students Elizabeth Blumer, Joy Buolamwini and Sarah Vaden’s team was chosen as one of five from the U.S. to compete in the challenge for its proposed business plan for CrossPath Music. Their idea was to create a place for musicians to practice and collaborate with each other without disturbing the people around them — and to do it virtually.

“It enables you to creatively interact all over the world and links creative people together,” Buolamwini said. CrossPath would take advantage of existing technology and allow musicians to use an Xbox or laptop to host and join virtual jam sessions and play with musicians all over the world. It envisions a platform that allows users to play a line of music and instantly be presented with a list of complementary musicians with whom they could collaborate online.

“Sarah and Joy are huge music fans and have that love of music” that helped spark the idea, Blumer said. Vaden won second place in the 2010 Georgia Tech Inventure Prize for her pneumatically elevated pitch drum; Buolamwini plays guitar and piano.

When they heard about the competition, they were drawn to the prospect of traveling to China if chosen as semifinalists and spending time together crafting a submission. The three women have been friends since their freshman year but found themselves seeing less and less of each other as they pursued degrees in business administration, aerospace engineering and computer science.

“It started as a crazy idea: Let’s go to China,” said Vaden. “I thought we had a good chance of making it, so why not?”

Blumer’s business courses coincided perfectly with the competition’s timeline; she took accounting in the fall while crunching numbers for their business plan and marketing in the spring as they created a commercial for their product. “It’s really been a direct application to a real project,” she said.

Though the team is confident it has first-mover advantage and that their prospective company has value, they’re unsure where CrossPath Music will go from here. 

“There’s some expectation to continue forward, but we’re all so busy that we’re just not sure where we’ll take it yet,” Blumer said. Vaden is confident there’s a value and place in the market for their idea, and Buolamwini has contemplated the prospect of developing the technology or patenting part of it to sell. In the meantime, they’ve fulfilled what Buolamwini described as her best-case scenario when they decided to enter the competition.

“I thought, ‘Worst case, we get to hang out together. Best case, we go to China.’”

The team will depart for Hong Kong on June 11 to compete for a $5,000 grand prize and a $1,000 award for the best commercial, filmed and submitted prior to the competition; the best commercial will be determined by public voting prior to the semifinal and final round competitions in Hong Kong. The week-long journey will take them not only through the semifinal and final rounds of the Global Student Challenge, but also to tai chi classes, cruises and group projects with the other teams in attendance.

Other U.S. teams will come from Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Purdue Universities; internationally, students will come from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya, Bahrain, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, China, Singapore and the U.K.