Students Pitch Big Ideas for Social Impact

After months spent developing their Big Ideas@Berkeley projects, six of the top student teams gathered in Blum Hall to compete in the third annual Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day.

By Andrea Guzman, 3rd Year Media Studies & Political Science Major

Yogurt-photo-with-captionAfter months spent developing their Big Ideas@Berkeley projects, six of the top student teams gathered in Blum Hall to compete in the third annual Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day. Vying for a prize of up to $5,000, the teams shared their visions for social change and impact in front of a panel of esteemed judges.

The teams competed in the two separate pitch rounds: Campus and Community Impact and Global Impact. Pitch Day is an opportunity for finalist teams in the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest to build a new and important skill and win additional funding for their projects.

LuxWalk, which seeks to improve night safety on campus and in the Berkeley community through crowd-sourced mobile data, took first place in the Campus and Community Impact round. The second place prize went to Mapping Waterways, which aims to create a participatory community mapping system of American waterways to help underserved communities secure water rights, while third place was awarded to Heart Connection: An Interactive Multimedia Website for Adults with Complex Congenital Heart Disease to Empower, Connect, Advocate and Educate.

“LuxWalk’s pitch was extremely well delivered and the project scored the highest marks in my book in terms of its creativity, likelihood of success, and potential for social impact,” said Heather Lofthouse, Director of Special Projects at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies and a judge in the Campus and Community Impact round.

In the Global Impact round, a project aimed at reducing child stunting took the first place prize. Electrosan-with-captionThe students behind the Promoting Yogurt to Improve Child Nutrition in Far-Western Nepal project had traveled from Texas A&M University for the event and were the first non-UC Berkeley team to win a Pitch Day prize. A collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Higher Education Solutions Network enabled several universities from across the country to participate in the Big Ideas Contest for the first time this year.

In an unexpected move, the Global Impact round judges decided to change the rules and award two second place prizes due to the high quality of the projects. ElectroSan, which aims to improve sanitation and public health with a product that makes fertilizer out of human feces and recovers nitrogen from human urine, shared second place with the Youth Empowerment Centers for Marginalized Mexican Communities project.

“The quality of presentations was extremely high,” said Andrew Rudd, a judge in the Global Impact category and Trustee of The Rudd Family Foundation. “It is somewhat humbling to see how much students have worked on projects, and it is clear that if the ideas are implemented, it is an opportunity for alleviating serious global issues.”

Participating in Big Ideas allowed the students behind LuxWalk to develop something that would impact the campus community beyond their stay at Berkeley as students.

“We are able to leave something behind that can prevent students from experiencing trauma in the future or feeling even just unsafe,” said Heather Lui, a 4th year majoring in Political Economy and member of LuxWalk.

The team behind Promoting Yogurt to Improve Child Nutrition in Far-Western Nepal said they enjoyed the process of participating in Big Ideas, and were grateful for the help they received from their mentor and Big Ideas staff. In addition, they thought it was a great way to get feedback on their work.

“It was very exciting and provided our team with an excellent opportunity to share our project with a larger audience, attract attention to a serious issue, and get support,” said Wenjuan Chen, a PhD student in the Ecosystem Science and Management program at Texas A&M.

The six student teams competing in Pitch Day will join all other finalist teams at the Big Ideas Awards Celebration on May 8, 2014, from 6:00-8:00pm in Blum Hall. The event is open to the public.

Big Ideas Mentors Carry Student Projects Forward

The end of this year’s BigIdeas@Berkeley contest has arrived, and the 56 finalist teams’ wait for the judges’ results has finally ended.

By: Abby Madan, 2nd Year Political Economy Major

The end of this year’s BigIdeas@Berkeley contest has arrived, and the 56 finalist teams’ wait for the judges’ results has finally ended.

Since the start of the yearlong contest, many students transformed their ideas into promising initiatives through hard work. The Big Ideas contest is designed to drive student innovation by providing resources that help students nurture their ideas. An integral part of this supportive ecosystem is the mentorship component of the contest.

In January, Big Ideas finalists were matched with Bay Area professionals who hold years of experience and insight in a particular field. With a shared passion for improving society and promoting positive change, mentors and student teams bring together new and creative innovation with the skills and guidance that comes from experience. A good mentor is a confidante, a guiding voice, and someone who asks the difficult questions, students expressed.

“Our mentor was a perfect match… it really helped us focus and fill in all the gaps that were missing in our project,” shared Krishna Bommakanti, a 4th year Molecular and Cell Biology student and member of Wellness Water, a team designing a wetland system to purify contaminated water in rural South India. “We wanted a mentor who could help us not only bring out the innovative merit but who could also work with us on the technical aspects of wetland construction – that’s where we have a weakness.”

At Big Ideas, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship that often allows the mentor to learn from the team and feel a sense of pride from watching them grow. Wellness Water’s mentor, Dr. Syed Imran Ali, is a water and sanitation specialist with Médecins Sans Frontières and feels personally invested in his team’s project. With five years of experience as an environmental engineering researcher on safe water and public health in South India under his belt, Dr. Ali could advise the students of obstacles to anticipate, including cultural barriers.

“Because this project is in the stream of my PhD work, it almost felt like a vindication of everything that I’d learned,” confessed Dr. Ali. “I had made so many mistakes in my own PhD work, it was fulfilling, in a way, to advise these guys not to make those mistakes and fall into the same traps.”
Mentors are also an invaluable resource when it comes to networking and long term support. Mentor Kate Hamilton, communications director of Disability Rights Advocates, brought ten years of fundraising, outreach, community building and activism experience to her team, Heart Connection. Heart Connection is centered around a multimedia website representing the first generation of adults surviving complex congenital heart disease, creating a visual archive of the lived experiences of CHD survivors through artistic expression.

“From the first time we met her, Kate has been so encouraging. She listened to our stories and connected with us before helping us with our visions,” shared Kaitlin Kimmel, a member of Heart Connection and UC Berkeley senior in Interdisciplinary Studies. Hamilton and the members of Heart Connection share a passion for disability advocacy and plan to maintain their relationship even after the end of the contest.

“We’re supposed to be having a celebration dinner soon,” Kimmel laughed.

Big Ideas mentors help students with skill building, networking, and lasting relationships, all while getting to be a part of the next generation’s most creative social impact ideas. To learn more about the mentorship program and how you can get involved, visit

Big Ideas@Berkeley 2013-2014 Winners

The 2013-2014 Big Ideas@Berkeley competition launched in November 2013 when 187 teams representing 600 students from 75 majors submitted pre-proposals. After a preliminary review, 56 teams of finalists were invited to submit full proposals to compete in the final round. Finalists were paired with mentors and given two months to fine-tune their proposals. Congratulations to the 40 award winning projects listed below!

“Scaling Up” Big Ideas

Sponsor: The Blum Center for Developing Economies
Description of the Challenge: Prizes are awarded to student-led initiatives that have previously won the Big Ideas contest, and who have since generated excellent results that position them to make even greater progress.
Ekialo Kiona Youth Radio Initiative: (1st Place)
Team Members: Charles Salmen
EKR is Africa’s first wind- and solar-powered radio station, reaching 200,000 listeners across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania within the first year of broadcasting. In 2014-15, the second full year of station operations, EKR intends to “scale-up” the programming by integrating interactive radio technology, starting a Creative Expression for Youth Initiative and expanding community engagement efforts. By scaling the youth-led platform to engage more listeners into EKR’s programming, OHR intends to have significant impact in communities along the shores of Lake Victoria. Among EKR’s goals are: 1.Provide youth with a pathway to sustainable employment; 2. Expand ICT services for secondary school youth; 3. Create networking opportunities for young people to build mentorships with ICT experts; 4. Slow the degradation of traditional knowledge by using radio broadcast and social media create dialogue about the Suba culture; 5. Inspire excitement of technological literacy and its links to creative expression through broadcasting student-produced audio projects across Lake Victoria.
ReMaterials: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Pablo Rosado, Hasit Ganatra
With more than 1 billion people already living in slums worldwide, concerns for a safe and habitable shelter are growing rapidly. A good roofing system is essential for adequate shelter, but unfortunately it is highly neglected, largely owing to insufficient options in the market.
The team’s solution consists of two parts: (a) a unique material mix from recycled and natural materials; and (b) a self-developed manufacturing process to convert the mix to roofing panels. While these have been successfully developed at the prototype scale, the challenge lies in scaling up the manufacturing process while keeping the roof panels at low cost. To make the product available to families living in inadequate housing, the team needs to design a new method to streamline the manufacturing process and develop a marketing and sales strategy that will attract customers, investors and key partners.
Inserting Innovation into Vision: UC Vision Project in Cambodia: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Moon Parks, Silvina Bae
The project will deliver vision correction to the poor in Cambodia, using self-adjustable glasses that allow the user to self-diagnose their own prescription. Once individuals determine their own prescriptions, they will be able to choose from standardized eyeglasses that fit a range of prescriptions. This approach allows a reduction in the cost of vision correction in several ways: first, it bypasses the high cost of customized prescriptions by using self-adjustable eyeglasses to diagnose and standardized eyeglasses to wear. Second, standardized eyeglasses allow customers to exchange or return the eyeglasses if they are not satisfied, which is impossible with customized eyeglasses. Third, by applying self-refraction technology and standardized eyeglasses for vision correction, an affordable eyeglasses supply chain can be established with the end price to the consumer being as low as $2.50 USD. Finally, since the process itself of self-diagnosis allows people to experience better vision first-hand even before purchasing, the self-refraction approach can increase their willingness to pay for vision correction compared to the conventional approaches, which merely allow for the optometrist to diagnose without the patient actually experiencing better vision.
The Pachamama Project: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Rebecca Peters
The lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs that take into account menstrual hygiene and management (MHM) creates asymmetrical negative impacts on women and girls. The Pachamama Project is the first MHM initiative of its kind in Mexico and Bolivia and builds on the successes and challenges encountered during its initial fieldwork and on previous health focused research efforts on MHM. MHM will not become a priority for gender, water, and rights concerns unless researchers and practitioners make deliberate efforts to mainstream MHM into human rights and WASH based initiatives. By framing MHM as a human rights issue, the Pachamama Project taps into larger discourses of justice and gender equality instead of sidelining MHM from the global water, sanitation, and hygiene development agenda. By fostering community discussion, education, and participation in MHM activities, the Pachamama Project will enable structural change on the communities’ terms, while broadening understandings of the human rights connection to water, sanitation, and gender equity.
Near Zero: Mechanical Flywheel Battery: (Honorary Mention)
Team Members: Andrew Sabelhaus, Sina Akhbari, Eduardo Wiputra
The Near Zero flywheel battery consists of a magnetically-levitated flywheel, combined with a motor, that can store and output energy like a traditional electrochemical cell. However, this design has almost no frictional losses, uses very little power in the magnetic levitation of the flywheel, and combined with high efficiency electronics, drastically outperforms chemical batteries in many ways. This flywheel battery is envisioned to replace inefficient and environmentally unsound use of “peaker plants” – power plants that only run when there is high demand for electricity.

Information Technology for Society

Sponsor: The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS)
Description of the Challenge: The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) is interested in stimulating new thinking on a broad range of social benefits of information technology in areas such as: energy and the environment, health, education and life-long learning, democratic governance, response to natural and man-made disasters, transportation, delivery of government services, quality of life for people with disabilities, economic opportunity for low-income communities, arts and culture, and the effectiveness of non-profit organizations. The challenge of this contest is to describe a multidisciplinary research project that demonstrates the capacity of IT to help address a major societal challenge.
Glucose ENOSE: (1st Place)
Team Members: Patrick Lyon, Benson Fan, Yayun Chen, Ray Chiu
In 2011, the CDC reported diabetes afflicted 25.8 million people in the United States. This disease can be controlled by strict blood serum glucose level monitoring, but the gold standard fingerstick test is painful and must be done multiple times every day. The team is developing a colorimetric sensor that could provide an inexpensive, non-invasive test for determining the level of glucose in the patient’s blood, providing a painless alternative to the fingerstick testing method. By developing a novel phage matrix material and smartphone sensor analyzer, the team hopes to create a non-invasive point-of-care sensor that can identify the concentration of these compounds on the patient’s breath and accurately report the patient’s blood glucose levels.
Dropsense: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Jeremy Fiance, Steve Yadlowsky, Vikram Iyer
Dropsense is developing a convenient, affordable hypoglycemia alert system to help diabetics better monitor their glucose levels. The technology comprises a sensor patch, mobile application, and machine learning analytics platform. The non-invasive Dropsense sensor sends data wirelessly to a smartphone, where a mobile app continuously processes the data with the machine learning algorithm to accurately identify hypoglycemic events. The app alerts users with an alarm or emergency phone call upon detecting low glucose levels so it can be treated before it becomes dangerous.
Remote Cleft Therapy for Young Children through a Mobile Game: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Zak Rubin
Speech therapy is not fun for children. It consists of frequent doctor visits and boring repetitive homework. Outside of the office, the therapist has no idea if the child performs the exercises correctly or at all. Modern speech recognition is capable of accurately detecting speech impediments, and the speed of current mobile devices makes it possible to use this in a game that reacts and responds to speech in real time. A tool like this on a mobile device will motivate children to practice their therapy exercises while also providing critical feedback and information to the therapist about how the child progresses outside of the office. This tool enables speech therapists to continue aiding children remotely, providing better care and enabling organizations to make an even bigger impact in a child’s life.
Sahay: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Priya Iyer, Seema Puthyapurayil, Eric Zan, Timothy Meyers, Ajeeta Dhole
Sahay is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) platform connecting workers in the household informal sector (e.g. domestic help, cooks, drivers, security guards, etc.) in India with employment opportunities. Using the web page, Short Message Service (SMS) system, or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) interface, rural and migrant workers can search for jobs posted on Sahay’s platform by urban households. The solution will allow workers to search for jobs beyond their geographically restricted network. The platform will support technically literate job posters through a web interface, and will support workers in the informal sector through a mobile interface and IVR system.
Aeolus: Detecting Narcotics-Induced Respiratory Depression: (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Vinayak Viswanadham, Brian Dick, Yumi Suh, Adrian Tabula
In order to sleep comfortably while recovering from surgery, hospital patients are often given narcotics for pain relief. However, this can cause respiratory depression, where the patients’ ability to breathe is hindered. This can lead to apnea (blockage of airways), respiratory and cardiac arrest, and death. Current approaches to early detection of NIRD chiefly involve detecting the blood saturation of oxygen and carbon dioxide. These strategies, however, provide imprecise information on patient respiration and often run into logistical difficulties. This project uses a detection system that employs visual, infrared, and ultrasonic surveillance of patient breathing, bodily changes, and positioning within the room. Software will also be built to integrate multiple sensory channels to construct a holistic portrait of patient respiratory status and NIRD risk levels over an extended period of time. This solution will hopefully change how medical staff intervene in cases of NIRD and also shift the paradigm of monitoring unpredictable and lethal postoperative situations.
Sign UP: (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Thibault Duchemin, Achal Pandey, Pieter Doevendans, Justin Harnoss
Today, a deaf person cannot reliably connect with 99% of the people around him or her. The few interactions between deaf and hearing people are usually limited by the difficulty for the deaf person to understand the hearing person and to talk in an intelligible way. Sign UP wants to break this barrier of communication that stands between deaf people and the rest of the world. Sign language is the natural way of communication for most deaf people and a fundamental part of their culture. The solution is two smart gloves that will translate Sign Language in real time and enable deaf people to interact freely and seamlessly with the rest of the world. The S-Gloves will also provide speech-to-text support to facilitate a proper conversation.

Creative Expression for Social Justice

Sponsors: Committee on Student Fees; The Arts Research Center; The Townsend Center for the Humanities
Description of the Challenge: The Arts and Humanities provide many meaningful ways to draw attention and contribute to discourse, advocacy, and positive action related to poverty and inequality. The Creative Expression for Social Justice category invited proposals related to creating art, music, photography, written and spoken word, film, dance, new media, other forms of expression, or activities to facilitate such expression to address issues of poverty alleviation and social justice.
Heart Connection: An Interactive Multimedia Website for Adults with Complex Congenital Heart Disease to Empower, Connect, Advocate & Educate: (1st Place)
Team Member: Kaitlin Kimmel
In the 1980s, newborns with complex congenital heart disease (CCHD) began to survive past one year for the first time due to advances in cardiothoracic surgery and cardiovascular medicine. “Heart Connection” will be a website exploring what survivors of this condition experience daily, leaving evidence of how CCHD adults have been forced to reinvent and reimagine new ways of navigating the world with their tired bodies and busy minds, while creating meaning in their lives for the generations succeeding them. The project envisions three main pages. One page is for the artwork of adults with CCHD documenting their lives through audio, video, creative writing and photography. A second page is committed to inspiring and bringing hope to parents who have children with CCHD. A third page is dedicated for resources needed by CCHD adults and children to live meaningful and productive lives.
Addressing the Empathy Blind Spot of the Cal Community: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Esther Chung, Justin Kong, Emily Truax, Taryn Erhadt, James Huynh
Using a three-pronged approach, the project will address UC Berkeley’s empathy blind spot on homelessness by connecting the stories and voices of those who identify with homelessness and poverty and the experiences of the student community with these populations. The first prong, the visual campaign, will include posters displayed on campus about homeless and low-income individual’s stories and perceptions. The second prong, the visual project, will include a film depicting homeless and low-income individuals’ journeys as well as students’ experiences working and interacting with these underserved communities. Finally, the third prong, the education series, will include a sequence of seminars on these issues and a working partnership with varying student organizations on framing and speaking about these issues.
Documentary Movie about Adopted Kids: (3rd Place)
Team Member: Irina Lozhkina
The project strives to establish a communication between the United States and Russia that will discuss issues through authentic and open dialogue using social media. As a first step, the team will make a movie showing how Russian adopted kids have been raised in America. It will be a way to demonstrate that a recent politically-motivated ban of adoptions in Russia by American citizens hurts thousands of innocent kids.

Global Poverty Alleviation

Sponsor: United States Agency for International Development (USAID) The Blum Center for Developing Economics
Description of the Challenge: USAID and the Blum Center for Developing Economies support innovative approaches to poverty alleviation. Through its commitment to multi-disciplinary research and teaching, and emphasis on novel technologies and approaches, the Blum Center fosters student projects that tie UC Berkeley expertise to real-world problems. For this category, describe an action-oriented, inter-disciplinary project that would help alleviate poverty.
ElectroSan: Recovering Nitrogen from Urine in Nairobi, Kenya: (1st Place)
Team Members: William Tarpeh
4.6 billion people across the developing world lack adequate treatment of their feces and urine. ElectroSan will apply electrochemical cells that recover nitrogen from human urine. This product will be used to disinfect human feces and produce income as a fertilizer, making sanitation affordable in low-income communities like Mukuru, an urban Nairobi slum. This intervention can catalytically improve public health and environmental quality by treating and creating value-added products from waste.
Promoting Yogurt to Improve Child Nutrition in Far-Western Nepal: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Wenjuan Chen, Stacy McCoy, Sruthi Narayanan, Damarius Fleming
The causes of child stunting, a nutritional status indicator defined as poor height for weight, include inadequate caloric intake, low protein consumption (particularly of animal source protein), frequent diarrheal illness, and poor nutrient absorption in the gut due to chronic latent infection. Probiotic supplements, paired with an adequate diet, are a promising strategy for addressing child stunting. This project aims to promote the feeding of safely prepared yogurt to children between 6 months and 5 years of age in households throughout Bajura. Local women’s expertise in dahi production and child feeding will determine the best methods of efficiently and safely producing high quality yogurt, and prepare it with locally available fruits so that children enjoy the taste. These “best practices” will then be disseminated throughout the district at the monthly mother’s group meetings.
Spot-It!: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Shreya Condamoor, Annsea Park, Geunwon Jung
Anti-malarial pills are among the most highly counterfeited drugs in Africa. Malaria kills between 1 and 3 million people every year, with 90% of those deaths in Africa. This reduces productivity in Africa by $12 billion and devastates local economies. The project aims to identify counterfeit anti-malarial drugs by developing a new technique to detect the concentration of artemisinin (the active ingredient) in these pills. Due to the prevalence of counterfeit drugs that have minimal amounts of this active ingredient, identifying its concentration in a pill has become important. The innovative aspect of this technique Spot-It!, is that it achieves the challenging task of measuring the concentration of active ingredient by combining two elementary methods, Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) and a simple chemical reaction.
Mosquitoes Suck! Malarial Hotspots and the Opportunity for LAMP to Identify Asymptomatic Patients: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Laila Soudi, Carmen Conroy, Justin Abraham, Priyanka Athavale, Oscar Vazquez, Neve Keshav, Shannon Younessi, Anshal Gupta
The eradication of malaria is hampered by the ability of current diagnostic tools to detect very low density infections in asymptomatic patients. In response to this, the aim is to employ loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), an innovative and novel technique to test for asymptomatic malaria. This low-cost technique is faster and more accurate compared to currently employed diagnostic tests. In Kenya, the aim is to (1) conduct a hotspot identification campaign using LAMP techniques to detect the malaria parasite, and (2) build capacity to ensure sustainability and local participation in the hotspot identification campaign. Results of this hotspot identification campaign will become an essential tool in future anti-malaria interventions.
Uniting Mother and Child: A Battle Against Postpartum Hemorrhage: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Sandeep Prabhu
In developing countries, maternal mortality rates are shockingly high in comparison to the rates in developed countries. The most common cause of maternal mortality is postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). This devastating condition is easily treated in the developed world, where mortality rates due to PPH are close to nil. In the developing world, however, these treatments may take too much time and/or money to obtain or may require skilled workers to perform. Thus, women with PPH are instead treated with an anti-shock garment. This garment applies pressure to the suffering women in order to combat the effects of PPH, yet it has no pressure detecting or reporting capabilities. The project aims to reduce the overwhelming rates of maternal mortality associated with PPH in developing countries by creating a pressure detecting and reporting device, specific to the anti-shock garment.
AgroMarketDay: (Honorary Mention)
Team Members: Lisa Katusiime, Isaac Omiat
The increasing ubiquity of mobiles in Uganda presents both opportunities and challenges, especially for critical sectors such as agriculture. In their various designs and capabilities, mobile phones can be found in the pockets of the wealthy and poor alike. Even in rural areas of Uganda, mobiles are growing in number and sophistication. The increase in mobile phone use should make developing a market for agricultural products easier, but in many districts farmers lack access to potential customers. AgroMarketDay, a mobile application, will share farmers’ information with potential customers so that they are be able to check out market days in the different districts and which products will be sold in the different markets.
PowerTower: Empowering Global Communities: (Honorary Mention)
Team Members: Jacqueline Nguyen
PowerTower is an all-in-one compact energy harvesting unit that will provide communities around the world with pasteurized water, electricity for small devices, and instant flowing hot water. Much of the third world is currently living without many of the necessities taken for granted such as running hot water, electricity, or safe water. PowerTower will allow people living in rural communities to do things as crucial as charge cell phones and have clean water. The technology will be delivered through a cross subsidization model based on a domestically profitable product using the same technology called the PowerShower. This technology is inexpensive, not susceptible to weather conditions, and makes use of an energy source already widely utilized in the third world.

Improving Student Life

Sponsors: Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC)
Description of the Challenge: UC Berkeley is a rich and diverse milieu of student life and initiative. Proposals for this competition focused on new policy programs, initiatives or services that are aligned with the strategic priorities in the Division of Student Affairs: access, service, and engagement. Proposals included implementation plans that, among other things, outlined the specific roles of individual and/or groups of students, staff, faculty, and external collaborators in executing the idea.
LuxWalk: (1st Place)
Team Members: Jennifer Fei, Corbin Halliwill
The three main functions of the LuxWalk application are as follows. First, students can input their origin and destination on an app built into the application to find the safest route to walk, produced through an analysis of past crime data and the degree of street lighting. Second, students can also track the Night Safety shuttle and campus-funded Community Service Officers through the BearWalk program to gain estimates on when and where they can plan to dispatch a shuttle or officer. Third, students can connect to the application through their Facebook accounts, to see which friends are checked in at their location and are walking to the same geographical area. Ultimately, LuxWalk serves to connect students with information about Berkeley neighborhoods, campus-facilitated night safety programs, and fellow students in their community who can facilitate safety in numbers while traveling at night.
CloudCreations: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Adam Eastman, Andrew Kooker, Kaavya Reddy
CloudCreations will be the platform through which innovative and effective educational tools can work together simultaneously and seamlessly. This platform is for students to collaborate, create, and compete. The collaboration will occur inside and outside the classroom and will be customized for students depending on whether or not they are in class and what they are specifically collaborating on with their friends and classmates. The creation will occur mostly outside the classroom where students will be able to vote on the most useful resources submitted by students. The platform will allow students to create videos, infographics, example problems, helpful scenarios, problem solution walkthroughs, etc.
Berkcycle: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Hunjoo Kim, Hyun-Ho Jung, Woo Yong Choi
The Berkcycle system will consist of bicycles and bicycle racks that will be designed and manufactured by the Berkcycle team to fit the need of the students of University of California, Berkeley campus. The bicycle will have one-size-fits-all design that will allow all students to comfortably ride the bicycle anywhere on campus. It will also be fitted with an electric generator and lithium polymer battery so that bicycle can produce electricity, which will be used by the bicycle and the rack as their only energy source, making the system completely self-sustainable in terms of energy. It will be a “smart” rack that will be operated by microprocessors to make renting out and returning bicycle as simple as scanning Cal ID. Combining all these components together, the Berkcycle will be the ideal bike rental system for Cal students, addressing most of the problems that currently exist in using bicycle as transportation today.
Project-Based Learning: (Honorary Mention)
Team Members: Robert Chen, Michael Fuerte, Animesh Mehrota-Hajela, William Juang, Helen Park, Zach Zeleznick, Matt Zhang
Berkeley Engineers and Mentors (BEAM) is planning a program to develop, test, and implement project-based learning (PBL) curriculum in local schools. PBL is a nation-wide educational movement that aims to expose students to real-world challenges while emphasizing teamwork, communication of ideas, self-discovery, student-initiated learning, and creative approaches to problems. BEAM wants to join this movement by first pioneering a classroom curriculum model for PBL teaching that BEAM can implement in its own sites and then ultimately compile into an easily-utilized “BEAM Box” for broader use.
The Phoenix Scholars: (Honorary Mention)
Team Members: Aiden Nguyen, Kelly Yu, Daniel Dinh, Sean Sun, Leanza Tupfer, Bryan Lao
Due to state budget cuts, many California public high schools have cut their college counseling programs. As a result, many high school students have limited access to information regarding college admissions. This is most prevalent in underserved and impoverished areas of the state. There are many bright and talented students who are capable of succeeding at top universities but lack information and guidance. The Phoenix Scholars aims to fill that gap. The program will provide one-on-one mentorship between UC Berkeley students and high school seniors throughout the State of California to provide them with personalized help. Aside from guidance over college admissions and scholarship applications, The Phoenix Scholars will strive to provide a constant source of support for mentees through the whirlwind that is the college application process.

Financial Capability

Sponsors: The Charles Schwab Foundation; The Haas School of Business; The Blum Center for Developing Economies
Description of Challenge: Projects should seek to help ensure young adults, particularly those from low-income communities, have access to the tools, education, and resources necessary to manage money with confidence. Proposals submitted to this category should a) demonstrate an understanding of financial challenges faced by students and/or low-income populations, and b) develop a system, plan, or technology that allows individuals to effectively take control of their financial futures.
The Employment and Life Skills Academic Competition: (1st Place)
Team Members: Michael Signorotti
The Employment and Life Skills Academic Competition is a program that teaches teenagers resume writing, job interview and oral presentation skills, and financial literacy. The objective is to prepare high school students for life after graduation by not only making them competitive for the workforce but also teaching them information about managing their finances. The student participants prepare for the Academic Competition through an enriching afterschool program. A Resource Guide, which serves as an outline of the various skills and financial concepts to be mastered, is then distributed to all student participants. The Academic Competition includes four categories in which students will be evaluated as individuals or part of their high school team. The categories include an oral presentation, a mock job interview, a written essay focusing on financial literacy, and an objective section where the high school teams compete to answer financial-based questions in a game-show format. (2nd Place)
Team Members: Luciano Colos, Alejandro Castillejo is a web based educational platform that will provide a set of tools that help individuals to manage debt, savings, public benefits, investments and other money related issues more effectively. The platform will target four million individuals from Argentina, between the ages of 20 and 40, who come from a low and middle class background, and who have access to the internet. These educational resources will take a holistic approach, including interactive graphs, tables, video lessons, and even live lessons with an instructor via the Skype API. The easy to use interactive platform will allow users to discover how inflation affects their personal assets and exposes them to liabilities. The main tool will allow users to enter their financial information, overlay different projections, and recommend an adequate course of action. The overall goal is to help people improve their personal finance knowledge and protect their savings against inflation. As a result, they will improve their economic status in the long term.

Open Data

Sponsors: USAID; AidData The Data and Democracy Initiative
Description of the Challenge: This category challenges students to develop a plan that leverages publicly available datasets to innovate solutions and address important social challenges. Projects may focus on several areas, including but not limited to mapping visualizations, transparency and accountability feedback loops, crowd-sourcing tools, monitoring and evaluation applications and spatial analysis. Strong consideration will be given to projects that can demonstrate broad impact, sustainability, and scalability to different countries or underserved areas.
Mapping Waterways: (1st Place)
Team Members: Rachel Gottfried, Winston Huang, Gabriel Schwartzman
Mapping Waterways will create a participatory mapping system that involves all aspects of the mapping process: from data collection, to map input, to visualization and organization. The mapping project will incorporate government and community-collected data to bridge current water mapping endeavors. This meets the need to integrate data analysis with community participation and improves access to water-quality information, which communities can then use for political projects. The project will require a collaborative process to implement participatory mapping, and to generate the necessary data to launch the online organizational interface. The team will visit three communities in the summer of 2014 to train and pilot the community data collection process. The data will then be uploaded to a web interface to add local context and community control to the mapping process. This will provide community groups with information on water quality and its impact on local areas that otherwise might require funding for specialists. This web interface stands to save groups in underserved areas funding and time in their efforts secure water rights.
Open Data for Developing Communities: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Carleigh Snead, Anson Rosenthal, Sara Rock
The project’s goal is to create a collaborative platform to promote open data literacy. This platform will provide a curriculum that is focused on making open data more accessible and usable to students, policymakers, civil society organizations, journalists, and researchers. The team will distribute these materials to a network of partners who already have boots on the ground, who can teach the material while also implementing their own mapping projects, and who have a focus on development and developing countries. In addition, the curriculum will be hosted on an interactive online platform offering content, data, tools, and learning materials for public access. A goal of the project is to increase the availability of this data on mobile devices, since their far exceeds that of personal computers in developing countries.
Transparent Living: Using Data to Bring Transparency to the Competitive Housing Market: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Anil Jindia, Vanessa Cordero
The goal is to build an intuitive website that will use public and crowd sourced data to depict the real willingness to pay for housing by city/street/zip and in real time. The system will allow property owners to electronically collect short profiles of prospective renters, including their monthly income, credit score, references and willingness to pay. Once a property owner has accepted a submission, the remaining submissions would receive a summarized feedback loop of how their submission varied and an eventual recommendation of where to focus their search based on overall area trends.
Sight 4 Everyone (e-Liiso): (3rd Place)
Team Members: Rurangwa Moses, Kirigwajjo Anatoli, Kiruyi Edward
Doctors and optometrists using e-liiso will be able to check patients’ abilities by just taking a flash picture from a phone camera to see color, test for long and short-sightedness, and also detect the presence of cataracts and other eye conditions. The app uses smartphones’ cameras, flashlights and display to check how the eyes react to stimuli, while doctors can also track the progress of individual patients and easily keep a record of their geo-location.

Promoting Human Rights

Sponsors: USAID; The Blum Center for Developing Economies; The Human Rights Center;
Description of the Challenge: The challenge for this competition is to develop a proposal that will, in some way, combat the causes or consequences of corruption and thus directly or indirectly foster the rule of law. Alternately, a proposal might focus more generally on preserving or promoting the protection of individuals’ essential human rights. Examples of some focus areas could include, but are not limited to: issues such as genocide or mass atrocities including physical and mental cruelty, corruption, gender inequality, slavery and trafficking, political oppression, civil rights abuses, or forcible relocations.
Youth Empowerment Centers for Marginalized Mexican Communities: (1st Place)
Team Members: Cristian De Leon, Jose Flores, Sergio Garcia
The Adelante youth empowerment center will work with at-risk teens from Mexico who are academically demotivated or who have few resources available to them. It will motivate and empower them, supporting young professionals to be agents of change in their communities. The summer program centers will provide teens and communities with a safe haven dedicated to the professional advancement of youth and the development of Mexican communities. The franchise method of providing these centers throughout Mexico will identify local community youth and Mexican college students to lead the center in subsequent years, while the work on the expansion of Adelante youth centers across Mexico continues.
Maji Yaja Kwanza: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Ashley Miller, Rebecca “Becky” Mashaido
Vision 2030 is Kenya’s national planning strategy for “becoming a middle-income country by 2030.” Despite economic advancements, roughly 17 million of Kenya’s 41 million people lack sufficient access to safe drinking water, and 28 million are without adequate sanitation. Maji Huja Kwanza (Water Comes First in Kiswahili) aims to bring lasting inclusiveness, representation, and opportunity to the people of the coastal province of Kenya. The project aims to bring piped water and sewage access to public primary schools in the coast, beginning in Kaloleni with Kizurini Primary and Twinkle Star Primary, serving roughly 1000 children. The goal is to improve WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) practices in the coast and enable children, particularly girls, to participate in school successfully and to avoid unnecessary illness such as cholera and typhoid. Long-term plans include a technical training program for plumbing and maintenance skills, and expansion to serve orphans’ homes, adult schools, and private homes. This will contribute to sustainable growth and the livelihood of this region.
Reach! Leadership Camp for Tibetan Girls: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Krista Chan
Reach! is a summer leadership camp for Tibetan teenage girls to empower them to become the first female graduates of high school and college in their communities. The plan is to train top Chinese university students to serve as camp counselors for teenage girls from the Tibetan plateau. In the process, they will gain exposure to Tibetan cultural education in order to bridge the deeply polarized Han Chinese and Tibetan communities. This also establishes a valuable network of leaders for Tibetan girls to have access to in the process of pursuing their education.
The Recreation House: (3rd Place)
Team Members: Elena van den Berg, David Lee
The Recreation House will be a center for the development of teenagers and orphans in Vidin, Bulgaria. Located in an accessible location near the center of the city, a previously identified facility will be developed as multi-recreational and educational facility open to teenagers throughout the city, providing them with an environment where they have a chance to pursue their dreams and be encouraged in the process. The second aspect of the Recreation House fills a different need in the community. While the teenagers are at school during the day, the plan is to bring in children from the local orphanage and provide them a place 5 days a week where they can work on their developmental skills. Those skills include playing, reading, and writing, so that by the time they are moved on to the next facility at the age of eight, they will have the basic skills everyone should have a right to.
East Bay Youth Against Trafficking: (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Katharine Hinman, Sarah Singh, Chloe Gregori, Joshua Ho, Karem Hererra
The Berkeley Anti-Trafficking Coalition (BATC) will expand upon Not For Sale’s (NFS) education outreach program. NFS visits local high schools to give educational presentations about human trafficking, in which they challenge students to use their own skills and passions to take action in the anti-trafficking movement. The presentation includes videos, information on sex and labor trafficking, stories of survivors in the Bay Area, and examples of local action being done to combat human trafficking. BATC seeks to revamp the curriculum, increase the number of classrooms visited, build a larger team of Berkeley students through a formalized training program, and provide the necessary resources and assistance for students to start their own BATC high school chapters. A strong student network for the abolitionist cause, with the BATC as a resource for high school students, will inspire future leaders in the anti-trafficking movement.

Clean & Sustainable Energy Alternatives

Sponsors: The Blum Center for Developing Economies; Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Description of the Challenge: The aim of this category is to encourage the adoption of clean energy alternatives that are sustainable and have the potential for broad impact. Proposals may focus on the design, development, or delivery of sustainable energy solutions and can be domestic or international in scope. However, all proposals should clearly demonstrate the relationship between the proposed intervention and its impact on the environment.
Solidge: An off-grid, solar-powered refrigerator: (1st Place)
Team Members: Rami Ariss, Othmane Benkirane
In developing countries, electricity is often a luxury. People living in off-grid communities are not able to have a refrigerator, even though it is often the appliance they want the most. By integrating energy generation, storage and use into the same appliance, Solidge, an off-grid, solar-powered refrigeration system, solves grid unreliability by simply not using the grid. Solidge users can safely store food, unsold crops and vaccines for longer periods of time. Solidge will directly increase off-grid communities’ health and overall lifestyle by providing them with an affordable refrigerator. Solidge will first deploy in Morocco, taking advantage of the region’s sun and accessibility, as well as gather user feedback and refine Solidge’s design. However, Solidge has a broader mission. Designed from the ground up to become a globally deployable unit, Solidge will provide off-grid refrigeration for developing and developed countries alike.
Graphene Supercapacitor: Graphene based energy storage solution: (2nd Place)
Team Members: Henry Chen, Louis Kang, Jian Zhao
Traditional lithium-ion batteries are produced at an increasing rate and each year at the end of their lives, they introduce over a hundred million pounds of chemical waste into the environment. The project’s main objectives are to develop a supercapacitor that serves as an energy storage alternative to traditional mobile device batteries and to create a paradigm shift in how people understand energy storage. The project aims to engineer an energy storage alternative that can be manufactured with little to no impact on the environment, produce a nominal amount of chemical waste, be fully charged in seconds and supply power for long periods of time.
The Food Bikery: (3rd Place)
Team Members: John Romankiewicz, Jason Trager, Laura Moreno, Pierce Gordon
The Food Bikery seeks to prove that food bikes are an economically viable, safe, and legal alternative to food trucks. In transitioning mobile food off of trucks and onto bicycles, the Food Bikery will: 1. Lower oil consumption; 2. Stimulate economic opportunities for low-income food entrepreneurs; 3. Increase physical well-being and health; 4. Foster awareness about the power of bicycles. The Food Bikery will harness the positive aspects that food trucks foster (economic opportunity, bringing fresh food into “food deserts” and community space), while minimizing their harmful environmental impacts. A prototype will be built of a scalable, turn-key food bike that can be used as a model to boost small business ownership among aspiring, environmentally conscious entrepreneurs, while shifting the current mobile food-business portfolio towards a low-carbon model.

Finalists Announced for the Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day

Emmunify_CaptionIn November 2013, nearly 200 student teams representing 600 students applied to the Big Ideas@Berkeley student innovation contest with their creative ideas to improve society.  Throughout the course of this academic year these teams have taken advantage of the numerous resources offered by the Big Ideas contest (information session, writing workshops, judging feedback, advising hours and an 8-week mentorship) in order to refine their ideas and transform them into viable projects with great potential for real-world impact.

Now, on May 5th, six of the top teams from this year’s Big Ideas@Berkeley contest will pitch their projects to a panel of distinguished judges in the hope of receiving up to $5000 in additional seed funding for their initiatives. Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day promises to be an inspiring and exciting event, involving a wide range of issues such as youth empowerment, campus safety, global health, sanitation and water rights.
The annual Pitch Day event will be held from 2-5pm in Blum Hall and is open to the public. Contestants will deliver a five-minute pitch followed by a question and answer session with the judges and audience members. Winners will be announced upon the conclusion of the pitches, followed by a reception with light refreshments.

Please join us for this inspiring event and root for your favorite Big Idea!Pitch Day Contestants:

ElectroSan — Recovering Nitrogen from Urine in Nairobi, Kenya: The team behind ElectroSan aims to improve global public health and environmental quality through the use of their product, which will make fertilizer out of human feces and apply electrochemical cells that recover nitrogen from human urine. The project aims to increase the affordability of sanitation in developing communities. ElectroSan is competing in the Global Poverty Alleviation category.

Heart Connection — An Interactive Multimedia Website for Adults with Complex Congenital Heart Disease to Empower, Connect, Advocate and Educate: This interdisciplinary team seeks to create a multimedia website for survivors of Complex Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). The platform will include resources needed for CCHD adults and children, and an opportunity for adults with CCHD to share stories and experiences through audio, video, photography and creative writing. Heart Connection, a project competing in the Creative Expression for Social Justice category, aims to create a sense of belonging to the broader CCHD community.

LuxWalk: The undergraduate and interdisciplinary student team behind LuxWalk seeks to improve night safety on campus and in the Berkeley community by developing a crowd sourced mobile app. The app will allow students to find the safest route to walk, track the Night Safety Shuttle, and connect with others who are walking to the same area. LuxWalk will be representing the Improving Student Life category of Big Ideas at the pitch contest.

Mapping Waterways: This project seeks to create a participatory community mapping system of American waterways. The project will incorporate a collaborative process, bridging current water mapping endeavors by presenting government records and community-collected data on an easily accessible GIS platform and web interface. The team aims to improve the accessibility of information on water-quality that underserved communities can use to secure water rights. This is an Open Data category project.

Promoting Yogurt to Improve Child Nutrition in Far-Western Nepal: Competing in the Global Poverty Alleviation category, this team aims to reduce stunting and improve growth and wellbeing among children in Far-Western Nepal, a region that is rampant with child stunting. The project seeks to address this problem by promoting the feeding of locally made, safely prepared, protein and probiotic rich yogurt to children under 5 years of age. The project will draw on local expertise in yogurt production and child feeding to optimize efficiency and safety of yogurt production. The yogurt will be disseminated throughout Far-Western Nepal with the collaboration of local organizations, include Female Community Health Volunteers.

Youth Empowerment Centers for Marginalized Mexican Communities: This project, under the Promoting Human Rights category, seeks to motivate and empower at-risk teens from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and encourage them to be agents of change in their communities. The Adelante youth empowerment center hopes to heal a generation of Mexicans living in crime-ridden marginalized communities affected by the drug war. Adelante will offer summer programs to promote the professional advancement of youth and, in turn, the development of Mexican communities.

For additional information:
(510) 666-9120