A couple things make Dan Walker unique
Dan Walker, a computer science student at the University of Pittsburgh, is the son of Kurt and Cindy Walker of Somerset. (Staff photo by Brian Schrock)
But there are at least two things that make Walker unique: his near-genius-level IQ and the fact that he already owns his own business.
Walker, 22, of Somerset is a co-founder of RoommateFit, an online tool that pairs college roommates based on complementary personality traits.
"It's kind of like an eHarmony for roommates," he said.
Pitt business student Justin Mares came up with the idea for RoommateFit. He approached students in the school's computer science department to help give form to his vision.
"I came to work with Dan after pitching a computer science open house event held at Pitt," Mares said in an email. "I needed a co-founder and he showed a lot of interest after I pitched.
"We worked together for a few weeks and he was incredibly smart and motivated so I brought him on full time and he's been great to work with. None of this would have happened without him."
Walker was soon developing an algorithm for the project, which uses a psychologist-approved assessment to pair students. Walker said the online survey goes beyond the standard university questions about drug use, smoking and wake-up times.
"We look at those things and a lot more," he said. "And then we take that all into account and try to generate a profile."
The goal, Walker said, is to minimize conflicts, which can lead to unhappy students, low GPAs and poor retention rates for universities.
"The idea is that you get along really well with your roommate, that you don't argue about things," he said. "You don't have to be friends. You just have to be able to live together and not step on each other's toes."
Ohio University is running a pilot of the program.
"We're talking with a few others right now," he said. "There's interest. No written agreements yet but some verbal confirmations that schools would like to try it. We're going to expand out from that."
Walker performs the work because he enjoys it. Simply put: He does what interests him. And many things interest him.
"I have big goals, I think," he said. "I enjoy what I do and I think that's the key. As long as you're happy with what you're doing, you can do whatever."
Walker credits his father, Kurt, with sparking his interest in building things and solving problems. When Walker was a child, his father — an agricultural engineer turned farmer — built him a hovercraft using an inner tube, plywood and a carefully placed leaf blower.
"It wasn't fancy. It was real limited," he said. "You just got on and floated for a little bit."
Walker also speaks highly of his high school physics teacher, Homer Kreinbrook Jr., chairman of the Somerset high school science department. In addition to the class, Walker was a member of the chain reaction contraption team and scholastic quiz team.
"I gave him a hard time. I really did," Walker said. "But I really enjoyed his class. He was very supportive and he was a very good teacher."