Big Ideas Finalists Reflect On Their Journey As Contest Comes To A Close

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By: Abby Madan

As the eighth Big Ideas@Berkeley student innovation contest comes to a close, the 56 teams that qualified for the final round are abuzz with activity and anticipation of the upcoming Pitch Day and Awards Ceremony.

BigIdeas@Berkeley is community and annual competition that gives students the opportunity to express their passion for social change through working solutions. Finalist teams span 9 contest categories, from IT for Society to Creative Expression for Social Justice. These different categories allow contestants to address a large range of social challenges.

Over the last nine weeks, many teams have worked with a mentor to move forward with their visions, hone their plans, and develop their full proposals.

The different phases of the contest enable students to visualize the growth and transformation of their ideas. “The trajectory of the contest is very clear,” said Heather Lui, an undergraduate political economy major and member of LuxWalk, a team working to create a mobile application that will improve student safety on campus and in Berkeley neighborhoods. “It makes you think very deeply about the planning process so you can build an idea from the ground up and produce something tangible.”

But Big Ideas@Berkeley is more than just a competition and opportunity for funding – it is an entire community that helps empower students and nurture their skills.

“Learning how to pitch and write grants are really valuable tools for the future, and learning how to do them as an undergrad I think is really worthwhile,” said Taryn Erhardt and Esther Chung, both public health undergrads and part of the Big Ideas team entitled Addressing the Empathy Blind Spot of the Cal Community.

“There are so many opportunities for us to go in and get advice,” they added. “It really allows us to hone in on our ideas and gives us the confidence to move forward.”

Winners will be revealed by early May. Grand Prize Pitch Day is on May 5th – an opportunity for 6 selected teams to pitch their idea to a panel of distinguished judges in competition for an additional $5,000 in prize money. The Awards Ceremony is May 8th.