Student interviews with Anderson Cooper


By Jordana Kozupsky

Last Monday, sophomore Nick Brenn made history by becoming the first Union College student to appear on “The Anderson Show.”

The show did a special on frugality and Brenn was featured during the upcycling segment.

“Upcycling is taking items that are normally thrown out or recycled and making them into something useful,” Brenn explained to the Schenectady Daily Gazette.

The show selected Brenn after discovering his innovative Altoid Smalls flashlight, a do-it-yourself project that he had thought of after taking an Introduction to Electronics class in high school.

After submitting his step-by-step instructions to a DIY website, he was contacted by Edmund Scientific, a company interested in selling kits that Brenn had not previously thought of creating.

“I never thought I could make it into a business,” Brenn said. “When I got that e-mail I realized I could make some money.” Since he was legally considered to be a minor at the time, Brenn had to run the company under his mother’s business, which he continues to do today. Currently, the kits are sold online both via and through Edmund Scientific.

Brenn was contacted by the show and asked to speak about his flashlights as a featured guest. Brenn agreed, but it wasn’t until he arrived in New York that the show told him that he would instead be appearing as a featured audience member, sitting in the first row, front and center.

During the upcycling segment, Cooper asked Brenn questions mainly about the flashlight, but also about “tinnovation,” which, as Brenn puts it, is “utilizing recycled Altoids tins for fun, DIY projects.”

Brenn also spoke about how he used the flashlights during Hurricane Irene, when his family’s home unexpectedly lost power. Brenn explained, “It’s only a three volt coin cell battery, so there’s not a whole lot of pressure that it needs to put out…LED’s typically last longer than normal flashlights.”

Back at Union, Brenn has been in touch with Jason Benitez, the new director of Multicultural Affairs. The two are interested in working with local children by teaching them about science experiments. Although the plans are not finalized, Brenn said that they would bring some kits in to “show them that it’s not super difficult to build something cool.”

Brenn says that he’s experimented with making new Altoid Smalls products and just finished a headphone amplifier that he made from a similar kit. While entrepreneurial projects are a hobby, when asked what career he would like to pursue, Brenn responded that he wants to study nanotechnology, like microchips and semi conductors.

“It’s fun doing stuff [making the kits],” Brenn said, “but I think there’s more pressing electrical engineering problems that need to be solved.”



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