Chad Andresen had an impressive legacy to live up to. His two older sisters both attended and graduated ASU as members of the university’s prestigious Leadership Scholarship Program, an annual selection of 25 graduating high school seniors who demonstrate remarkable leadership during high school. Each high school chooses just one student to apply. In 2001, Cactus High School in Glendale chose Andresen’s sister Michelle. Two years later, his sister Jenna became the school’s leadership scholar. “I was actually really worried that I would be the only kid in the family that didn’t get it,” Andresen jokes.
Luckily, Andresen’s work as a youth government leader with the city of Peoria led Cactus to choose him in 2006, making Andresen and his sisters Arizona’s only tri-generational leadership scholars. Now, as a senior in ASU’s bioengineering program, Andresen is a recipient of the Ajamie scholarship — an award offered only to students in the Leadership Scholarship Program and Engineering program — and has put his education to good use.
This year, Andresen and a team of fellow bioengineering students created a new technology for use with eye-tracking software to allow people who have become paralyzed to communicate. Most modern systems utilize camera technology that can be bulky and expensive, costing as much as $28,000. However, the equipment Andresen helped develop operates on a different system — one that Andresen says is just as effective as most camera equipment, yet is smaller and carries a price tag of just $500.
Andresen says his scholarships have not only allowed him to spend four years studying and enjoying student life without the stress of worrying about tuition — they’ve enabled him to create a job for himself. He’s hoping to get a patent for his eye-tracking lenses soon so he can begin selling them to those who need them. “My whole focus in life is to help others, so it’s in part because of my scholarship donors that I’ve been able to help others,” he says. “I just want them to know that what they’ve done is going to impact more people."