The 2014-2015 Big Ideas Contest received a record number of applications from 201 teams representing over 700 students across nine UC campuses and 17 other universities. The teams presented hundreds of innovative ideas to address today’s most pressing issues—from the need for financial literacy among U.S. students facing college debt to the best way to produce sustainable energy in rural Kenya. On May 5, 2015 the 46 award winning Big Ideas were announced (summaries are below.)
Clean & Sustainable Energy Alternatives
Sponsored by: Berkeley Energy Climate Institute; Blum Center for Developing Economies
Feces to Fuel: Saving Trees, Budgets, and Lungs (1st Place)
Team Members: Catherine Berner, Emily Woods, Fiona Gutierrez-Dewar, Ken Lin, Andie Biggs (UC Berkeley)
The increased market demand for household cooking fuel in Kenya provides an opportunity to improve livelihoods and the environment. This project unlocks the potential in human feces and other waste streams by transforming it into an affordable household cooking fuel. Sanivation, a partner organization, produces charcoal briquettes derived from human and agricultural waste that is cheaper than traditional charcoal. These fuel briquettes produce less smoke than traditional charcoal, consequently reducing the users’ exposure to toxic fumes and reducing indoor air pollution. Feces to Fuel aims to aid Sanivation with the technical and design work necessary to expand their business and scale production to 180 tons of fuel derived from waste products per month.
The Biodiesel Project (2nd Place)
Team Members: Apurva Pradhan, William Mavrode, Jingting Wu, Christiaan Khurana, Xingkai Li, Andrew Cho, Jay Yostanto (UC Berkeley)
The goal of the Biodiesel Project is to provide UC Berkeley with a sustainable means of acquiring biodiesel as a cleaner, alternative energy source for use in campus vehicles and equipment. This self-sustaining initiative will provide a fulfilling hands-on experience for Berkeley engineers, educate Berkeley students about renewable energy resources, and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. This will be accomplished through the recycling of waste cooking oil (WCO) from local campus dining facilities. The process involves filtering the recycled oil and producing biodiesel product through chemical reaction. The biodiesel product will then be stored and made ready for campus distribution. Ultimately, the project will not only make UC Berkeley a more sustainable campus, but will also educate and inspire the Berkeley community to turn towards green energy and sustainability.
Equa (3rd Place)
Team Members: Sean Anderson, Nathan Topolanski, Kean Amidi-Abraham, Abdo Boukhalil (UC Berkeley)
In times of drought, reducing water use is crucial. The product, Equa, will raise awareness by collecting and displaying real-time data during showers to inform users of their water consumption. Easily attached to a shower wall, Equa displays real-time user data including temperature, liters of water used, and carbon dioxide emissions that are based off of how much energy is being used to heat the water so that the person in the shower will know how much water and energy he or she is using. By visualizing the resources being consumed, the user will change his or her behavior in order to reduce his or her environmental impact. This simple investment will thus pay for itself over time and increase awareness of users’ impact on the environment.
Bacteriophage-based Generators for Portable Electronics (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Sandya Iyer, I-chin Wu, Mingle Tong (UC Berkeley)
Providing reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly energy is a significant global challenge today. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the energy consumption for consumer electronics will be doubled in 2022. Since these electrical devices are predominantly battery driven, it creates a large environmental burden. In addition, the renewable energy solutions currently proposed (such as solar panels and PZT materials), are not environmentally benign. This project seeks to reduce this environmental burden by developing a bacteriophage-based piezoelectric generator to convert the human body’s daily activities (such as walking) to electricity. Since bacteriophage is a natural material and biotechnology techniques enable large-scale fabrication of gene-modified phages, it potentially offers an environmentally friendly and simple approach to green-energy generation. This project hopes to develop such phage-based electrical generator to power electrical devices by harvesting peoples’ daily movements.
Conflict & Development
Sponsored by: The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University; The U.S. Global Development Lab; USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network; The Blum Center for Developing Economies
The Somo Project (1st Place)
Team Members: Amelia Phillips, Joshwa Tambo, George Rzepecki (UC Berkeley)
The Somo Project’s mission is to identify, train, fund and mentor entrepreneurs looking to drive social change by building enterprises in their own low-income urban communities. This project seeks out talented individuals with vision, drive and a concrete plan to change their communities from within. Focusing on taking a long-term, investment-focused approach, the project will identify focus areas that have long-term importance to a community, such as health, education and the environment. The project will identify and build partnerships with local grassroots leaders to establish Somo’s presence and local platform. The project aims to prudently allocate capital and mitigate risk by seeking partnerships with only a limited number of excellent entrepreneurs (5 -15) in each start-up class. The focus is simple: seek entrepreneurs who can build sustainable, socially focused franchises, and who have a long runway of growth ahead of them.
Kuy Kuitin: Mitigating Indigenous Conflicts Through Education in Chile (2nd Place)
Team Members: Cristobal Madero, Daniel Cano (UC Berkeley)
The Mapuche conflict of Southern Chile confronts Mapuche indigenous communities that fight to recuperate their lost territories against the Chilean state. National mass media outlets have been misinforming the national population about the causes of the violence labeling the Mapuche movement as “terrorism.” However, specialists are in agreement that this is not the case and the roots of the present Mapuche struggle are historical. The objective of this project is to design a pilot scheme that aims to “re-educate” the misinformed Chilean upper-class, based in the northern capital of Santiago, about the history of the Mapuche conflict. Four teachers selected from a poll of 10 elite high schools will spend ten days working with the school community learning how history is taught and lived in the context of where the conflict unfolds. These teachers will stay with a host-family of the school, learning about the Mapuche conflict, “on the ground”. The four teachers will then come back to their educational communities in Santiago to transmit their experiences and design a project to aid the Mapuche educational community that hosted them. The whole process will be recorded by a documentarian and then released as a documentary film.
LGBT Cultural Competency Training (3rd Place)
Team Members: Aaron Kitchens, Beth Rollow, Amanda Hull, Erin Rivas (Texas A&M University)
This project seeks to create a set of electronic training modules that can be taken by individuals who work with LGBT refugees and asylum-seekers anywhere in the world. These trainings would help eliminate inherent bias, misinterpretation, and discrimination present in these systems toward LGBT individuals. The modules would be made available in a variety of formats to ensure that compatibility issues do not hinder these efforts. The project would focus on NGO’s and government agencies in Texas and in Nairobi, Kenya because of the overwhelming need that has developed due to the political climate in that region. By establishing a non-profit in the U.S. with the sole purpose of developing this training program and getting it into the right hands, this project ensures that anyone working with refugees has the proper level of education to complete their jobs effectively. The program would serve the additional purpose of identifying those who are overtly discriminatory toward this population, and allow officials to steer LGBT refugees toward safer and more accepting environments.
Youth Ag-education Innovation Cooperative (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Juan Whiting, Josh Davis, Levi Brewer, Nate Haight, Shiva Thompson, Andy McArdle (Texas A&M University)
This project seeks to establish a Youth Ag-education and Innovation Cooperative (YAIC) to empower at-risk youth by putting them in the position to work side-by-side with their peers. By including a constitution and by-laws, this program will give young farmers ownership of their ventures so they gain leadership, teamwork, and communication skills within a democratically led institution. YAIC will partner with a local Rwandan NGO, Building Bridges to Rwanda (BBR), and a private American aquaponic company, WeFeedUs, to establish agri-tourism study abroad programs with four American universities. The fundamental goal is to help youth change their negative perception of agriculture through a participatory community-based curriculum program within the framework of a successful agricultural cooperative.
Creative Expression for Social Justice
Sponsored by: Incremental Student Services Fee; The Blum Center for Developing Economies
Responsive City Lights: Urban Streets as Public Spaces (1st Place)
Team Members: Andrew Chong, Wenqin Chen, Ellen Van Wyk, Seongtaek Lim, Yuxin Chen (UC Berkeley)
Responsive City Lights uses interactive light installations to enhance the perception of streets as engaging public spaces. The project implements Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles by increasing foot traffic and pedestrian interaction, bringing the internet of things into urban spaces to help fulfill a vital social need. The interactivity of the lights creates activity support for legitimate uses for previously “unclaimed” sections of the street, of curious pedestrians interacting with the lights, particularly children and their families. Through installations that engage residents and pedestrians, and provide a source of expressive and meaningful diversity in an otherwise uniform environment, the project ultimately seeks to provide a rich, additional tool to communities in order to enliven and enrich their streets and pathways as public spaces.
Amplify Impact (2nd Place)
Team Members: Ashley Lohmann, Blair Scanlan, Mohammad Abu Musa, Anupam Jindal, Emma Jones (UC Berkeley)
Amplify Impact raises global awareness about social innovation in the Middle East by providing an online platform for nonprofits and socially minded for-profits to produce and distribute story-driven, low-cost videos. The platform guides users through a process for identifying their core values and outreach objectives, building a compelling narrative, connecting with local filmmaking professionals or volunteers, and sharing the finished product. In addition, the platform provides video viewers with a means through which to connect and share the causes they care about. The platform also identifies the types of talent needed for a given video and offers users the option to work with professional talent or select their own volunteers. The Amplify Impact team envisions a world where initiatives that are catalyzing opportunity, hope, and positive change receive the attention they deserve. Focus is on the Middle East for now; however, Amplify Impact hopes that the platform can be a model for spanning other cultural and physical divides around the world.
AfroArt East Africa: Artist Stories (3rd Place)
Team Members: Susan Eberhard, Mugo Mutothori, Nenneya Shields, Dane Verrtah, Kun-Hyoung Kim, Jordan Hosmer-Henner (UC Berkeley)
The urban arts centers of Nairobi, Kigali, Dar-es-Salaam, and Kampala are hubs for thousands of young and established visual artists, many of whom work in collectives or group studio spaces. The work coming out of East Africa is radiant and intelligent — it reveals slices of contemporary life from incisive, humorous and optimistic perspectives. It also varies widely in form; from painting, sculpture, and assemblage, to installation, photography, and digital media. Through on-the-ground fieldwork, this project plans to launch a one-month intensive documentation project in Summer 2015 to collect stories from the East African urban arts centers of Nairobi, Kigali, Dar-es-Salaam, and Kampala. These materials will be used to produce a series of short videos. The videos, photographs, and interviews will be presented together on the AfroArt East Africa website (www.afroart.us). An expansion of this project in the future will be used to assemble the short videos into a feature-length documentary, which will be presented in the United States, film festivals and other relevant venues.
Food System Innovations
Sponsored by: Berkeley Food Institute; UC Global Food Initiative; Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, Michigan State University
Bahay Kubo – Gardens of Living Tradition (1st Place)
Team Members: Aileen Suzara, Michelle Domocol, Stephanie Line (UC Berkeley)
Bahay Kubo (“Little House”) revitalizes Filipino food and culture to promote health through the creation of a culturally based garden and culinary arts program. Bahay Kubo’s purpose is to lift up sustainable, healthy Filipino food practices that can ignite a culture shift towards good health. This will be accomplished by 1) culinary and nutrition education 2) the act of growing food and 3) building community through food and cultural exchange. Bahay Kubo is aware that there are a number of existing projects and programs in nutrition, cooking, farm and garden-based education. Bahay Kubo is distinct and unique because it targets underserved Filipino/American youth, while also promoting culture as an essential factor to food systems transformation.
m-Omulimisa SMS Services (1st Place)
Team Members: Linlin Liang (Michigan State University)
The ubiquitous presence of mobile phones in Uganda presents an enormous potential to transform the lives of small-scale farmers if well leveraged. m-Omumilisa is a mobile and web based platform that allows farmers to interact with extension officers in their local languages effectively and efficiently. This platform allows a farmer to type text messages about any agricultural problem and sends it to a telephone short code. Then, the message will be delivered to a web-based database, where registered extension workers can reply correspondingly. Once the questions are answered, the answers will be instantly sent back to the farmer’s mobile phones.
Mulungwishi Fertilizer App: Feature Phone App to Help Farmers in DRC Apply Appropriate Fertilizer Rates (2nd Place)
Team Members: Christopher Thomas (Texas A&M University)
Farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have no access to soil testing to help them determine soil fertility needs. As a result, application of the appropriate amount of fertilizer is very difficult. There is currently no method for farmers to adjust for differences in plant population or anticipate higher yield when planting hybrid seed versus the open pollinated varieties typically planted. Difficulty also arises whenever a farmer desires to plant his or her corn seed closer or farther apart or when they make changes to account for different fertilizer sources. To overcome these difficulties, this project proposes the development of a phone application that would enable small-holder farmers to employ yield goals, split the application of N fertilizer, and adjust fertilizer application rates for changes in plant population, plant seeding rates and variety used. Many smallholder farmers in DR Congo either own or have access to a cell phone capable of running applications. Incorporating these agronomic calculations into a simple-to-use feature phone would enhance farmer access to this agronomy in a simple to use technology in a way that would increase the likelihood that farmers would adopt it.
Foodful.ly (3rd Place)
Team Members: Brianna McGuire, Jeff Kessler, Justin Woodjack (UC Davis)
In this time of plenty, many throw out their food ¬ mostly because they do nott know how to cook it, or they do not remember what they have bought. Foodful.ly works to stop food waste by addressing these two use problems – tracking food purchases using e-receipts and sending spoilage reminders and recipes with cooking tips. This project proposes a solution that tracks food purchases, models food spoilage, and simplifies meal planning. Foodful.ly is a web service and mobile application that, when associated with a credit card or email, tracks food purchase from the point of purchase using increasingly available electronic receipts. These electronic receipts are parsed quickly to a user’s inventory, and users are alerted when items are most likely to spoil according to independently developed spoilage algorithms. Recipes are sent to users based on learned preference and cooking experience level that uses these likely-to-spoil foods, minimizing the amount of food waste and time spent planning meals. This will ultimately result in health benefits and cost savings for users, as well as more time to spend living fully.
Low Cost Scientific Data Drones for Enhanced Melon Productivity and Security (3rd Place)
Team Members: Tiebiao Zhao, Brandon Stark, Jacqueline Clow, Jad Aboulhosn, Connie Lim, Thomas Thayer, Andreas Anderson (UC Merced)
The SmartMelonDrone project will use low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to help manage both the quantity and quality of melon produce. The platform, capable of multispectral imaging, together with image post-analysis software, will support field management, including nitrogen stress detection, water stress detection, pest monitoring, yield estimation, small animal activities, etc. Firstly, real-time imagery with high spatial resolution (centimeters) can be acquired for growing melon by RGB, near infrared (NIR) and thermal infrared (TIR) cameras. Based on this analysis tool, information about nitrogen stress, water stress, and status of crop, weed, insect and disease can be extracted for optimized fertilizer, irrigation, precision application of insecticide, fungicide and herbicide, respectively. Meanwhile, grazing animals are also monitored to prevent introducing pathogenic bacteria into the soil. In addition, pre-harvest and harvest yield estimations will be determined for production decisions.
Saidia na Mazao: A Solution to Post-Harvest Losses in Nanyuki, Kenya (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Aisha Ali, Ian Taylor Jr., Nathaniel Kado (UC San Diego)
Many small-scale farmers in Kenya lack access to adequate storage facilities that could keep their produce fresher, ultimately reducing high post-harvest losses while increasing their earning potential. This project will lease refrigeration space to farmers in Nanyuki, Kenya at a fair price and in an ideal location while using low-cost solar energy. The Saidia na Mazao initiative plans to purchase three solar-efficient refrigerators and install them in a rented space equipped with solar power technology. Transportation in these areas can be erratic; often short distances can take longer to cover and, as a result, produce spoils in-transit. Agricultural traders with trucks and cold storage facilities use this fact as an opportunity to underpay farmers. This project’s goal is to ensure small-scale farmers regain control by providing them with an easily accessible stopping point where they can safely store their perishable produce.
Sponsored by:The U.S. Global Development Lab; USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network; The Blum Center for Developing Economies
Clean water for crops: as simple as sand and seeds (1st Place)
Team Members: Ezequiel Santillan, Kyle Fuller, Solange Astorga, Lisa Marroquin (UC Davis)
Slow-sand filtration (SSF) is a tertiary treatment process that has been widely used for drinking water treatment. This technology has yet to be applied to wastewater treatment on a large scale. Pathogen reduction can be further enhanced by the addition of seeds from Moringa oleifera (a typical tree in Guatemala), which have proteins with antimicrobial properties. This project proposes to construct and operate a pilot-scale slow seed-sand filtration system at UC Davis to assess the feasibility of this technology, then to build a pilot-scale system in Sololá, Guatemala in order to adjust the system to local conditions. If successful, the pilot project will serve to encourage the community to build a full-scale treatment system.
Visualize: Saving Lives with Training for Cervical Cancer Screening (1st Place)
Team Members: Julia Kramer, Abhimanyu Ray, Karan Patel, Betsy McCormick (UC Berkeley)
Every year cervical cancer causes 275,000 deaths worldwide. Screening for cervical cancer significantly reduces this mortality rate, given that most cervical cancer cases caught early are treatable. Visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA) is a low-cost and effective method to screen for cervical cancer. VIA is not widely used, however, due to a lack of training and awareness of the method. With proper training and follow-up, VIA can avert 68% of cervical cancer related deaths; thus saving an estimated 150,000 lives in low and lower-middle income countries. The aim of this project is to design and implement a trainer and training program to teach VIA to midwives in Ghana, implementing three phases. Phase 0, which has already been completed, was to develop a low-cost, low-fidelity simulator to assist in training of midwives on VIA. Phase 1 is to develop an implementation plan to launch this program in Ghana and begin training a small group of midwives over the next year. Phase 2 will leverage the initial target group of midwifery students and train them to teach VIA to other midwives in Ghana. This allows more women to get screened for cervical cancer and detect pre-cancerous cells early, thus allowing these women to get the treatment they need to save their lives.
A Novel Approach to Remediate Groundwater Fluoride Contamination in Nalgonda, India (2nd Place)
Team Members: Katya Cherukumilli, Anustubh Agnihotri, Sneha Sheth, Suraj Patel, Amrit Acharya (UC Berkeley)
Globally, 200 million people are at risk of developing dental/skeletal fluorosis by drinking groundwater containing toxic levels of fluoride that surpass the WHO limit. Although many defluoridation technologies have proven to be effective in labs, most are technologically and/or culturally inappropriate for remote rural areas like Nalgonda, India. Given the pressing need for a more sustainable removal method, this project proposes to: I) use raw bauxite ore to develop a defluoridation technology that is locally sourced and affordable, highly effective, culturally appropriate, technically feasible, robust, and requires minimal operation/maintenance, and II) design business models based on successes and failures of previous services targeted at low-income users to provide a reliable source of defluoridated water at an incremental price that encourages user uptake.
MAMA-OPE (2nd Place)
Team Members: Besufekad Shifferaw, Olivia Koburongo, Power Mukisa, Brian Turyabagye, Namwase Angella, Akangumya Viola (Makerere University)
MAMA-OPE proposes to develop a cell phone based lung-monitoring device that could be used to radically improve the early diagnosis of pneumonia. The affordability and wide availability of cell phones make them an innovative platform for the development of simple medical diagnosis capabilities for use in the field. This is especially true in under-developed countries where skilled medical practitioners and their most sophisticated devices are often thin on the ground. The cell phone based prototype, coupled with specially developed cell phone applications, will make possible a detailed analysis and preliminary diagnosis of individual lung crackles through digitized audio obtained from the patient’s chest. To ensure that the lung sounds are of sufficient signal strength, the team intends to couple the cellphone to a modified passive stethoscope. In addition, the stethoscope will be embedded in a vest to ensure continuous monitoring. Since the recorded sound can be stored on the cell phone as a digital file, it can be sent later on for expert analysis through the cloud.
Hombres Verdaderos (3rd Place)
Team Members: Nerissa Nance, Aarthi Rao, Jairo Alexander Martinez, Luz Vanessa Sanchez (UC Berkeley)
This project will improve women’s health outcomes by stopping domestic violence (DV) before it starts. Leveraging behavioral tools, the program engages young, at-risk adolescent boys, ages 11 to 14 years old, from poor districts in Barranquilla, Colombia. Through workshops and youth-driven media campaigns, the boys will learn about DV prevention and become advocates for change. Participants will undertake a month-long series of play-based workshops on relevant themes, including power, oppression and the effects of gender expectations. The project will enlist older adolescent volunteers to help lead the workshops and create positive role models for the boys. The campaigns will be designed by the students with the help of the volunteers, and will be disseminated to each participant’s online social circle. If this pilot program is successful, it could be scaled-up regionally by the Ministry for Women and Gender Equality in the Atlantic region of Colombia.
Keti Klaba: A Safe Place for Girls (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Catherine Johnson, Laura Pugh, Allison Prell (College of William and Mary)
Keti Klaba addresses mental health in Nepalese girls through interactive lessons and community service. Led by Nepali university women, and supplied with adaptive kits of lessons and resources, these clubs provide girls with strong role models, incentives to stay in school, and increased social support from peers and community members. Mental health is a sensitive topic in Nepal, so this program will focus on building general social support to avoid the negative impacts of stigma surrounding programs that address mental health. Through interactive lessons and community service, the central goals of the Keti Klaba (Girl’s Clubs) project are to improve the mental health of pre-adolescent girls in Nepal, and to provide an incentive for girls to continue their education. By the first year, the project will establish 2 Keti Klaba in Nepal.
Project Drsti: A Sustainable Method for Alleviating Vitamin A Deficiency (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Kara Bresnahan, Christopher Johnson (UC Berkeley)
This project proposes an innovative strategy to alleviate Vitamin A (VA) deficiency in the developing world by harnessing the metabolic power of a probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus casei. By engineering L. casei to produce provitamin A (β-carotene) during yogurt fermentation, the team can develop a safe and sustainable method of increasing dietary intake of VA. This provitamin A biofortified (i.e., enhanced) yogurt can support VA status and benefit the health of populations in India who consume yogurt as a staple. Moreover, the bacteria strain can be produced inexpensively, freeze-dried into a room-temperature-stable powder, and seamlessly integrated into existing yogurt production cycles. As L. casei is common in many different fermentations processes, this strain could be adapted for use in many other human and animal food sources. Once this strain becomes established in a fermentation system, it will self-perpetuate to ensure a sustainable source of dietary β-carotene.
Improving Student Life
Sponsored by: The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC)
UC Berkeley Financial Literacy and Economic Justice Conference (1st Place)
Team Members: Alex Mabanta, Nona Penner, Judy Li, Nicholas Wu, Jessie Wu, Urvashi Malhotra (UC Berkeley)
TThe “UC Berkeley Financial Literacy Conference” will be an annual, day-long, free campus-wide event open to the first 250 college students who register. On the day of the conference, facilitators from dozens of student and campus organizations, UC Berkeley faculty, and community partners will host a projected fifteen lectures and workshops on various aspects of financial literacy and topics on socioeconomic inequality. Core workshop topics will include an introduction to tax return filing, planning a personal budget, navigating student financial aid, and tackling the rising cost of tuition and housing. In the late afternoon, students will convene for a keynote address. Finally, attendees will reflect on the entire conference by completing impact evaluation surveys and participating in reflection sessions moderated by conference organizers.
SeedEd Capital (2nd Place)
Team Members: Camilo Ossa, Elizabeth Mossessian (UC Berkeley)
SeedEd Capital’s mission is to provide responsible funding alternatives for disadvantaged students in Alameda County interested in pursuing higher education and to provide an impactful service opportunity for UC Berkeley students. Through a grant-based program, accompanied with mentoring, tutoring, and professional development curricula, promising high school students in the Oakland community will be selected as Seeds and supported financially and emotionally through their academic endeavors. In an attempt to reduce the lack of access to education, SeedEd will support students that show promise during high school and provide a holistic mechanism that will accompany them from high school until the culmination of higher education. The organization will take advantage of crowd-funding to support its financial needs and obligations and simultaneously use Shared Income Agreements as a source of revenue and sustainability.
Special Lessons in Neuroscience (3rd Place)
Team Members: Bridget MacDonald, Sabrina Erloff, Matt Boggess, Sofia Dhanani, Elizabeth Kon, Satya Vedula, Edfil Dulay, Kaylee Burns, Jessica Bermudez (UC Berkeley)
To address the inequality in educational opportunities provided to children of lower income areas and school districts, this project is designed to harness the potential of young minds, and provide resources to inspire and encourage pursuit of further education and the largest ambitions of these students. Through its student organization, the Cognitive Science Student Association, the team has developed and piloted an engaging neuroscience course designed for elementary and middle school students. The lesson is entitled “Feel Real Brains” and lasts approximately one hour in length. At each lesson, a hand full of UC Berkeley students will come into a classroom, and give an interactive lesson on what it means to study neuroscience, and all the ways the brain affects health, thoughts, and daily life. This project proposes to expand the existing program. In addition to coordinating and facilitating its outreach efforts between schools, the team seeks to design a website through which teachers, students, or parents can submit requests for lessons to visit their school.
sideProject (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Antonella Higa, Ye Sil Kim, Annie Wang (UC Berkeley)
sideProject would like to introduce the new-age resume: a dynamic, “3-D” professional profile that not only displays work history but also demonstrates employability skills. Currently, the resume as a job application tool limits applicants from displaying their full capabilities and restricts employers from getting a holistic view of their candidates. This project is reinventing the resume by creating a networking platform that enables users to showcase their skill sets through small “Projects.” A Project resembles a case competition or company-sponsored contest with a prize incentive that requires users to submit proposals to a live business problem within a given time frame. Each Project will be individually designed with a sponsor, and coded with the set of skills necessary for a complete proposal. Upon submission, the sponsor’s logo and corresponding skills will be linked to the student’s profile (AKA their 3D resume) as recognition for their work. sideProject arms students with the tools to realize their own potential and more accurately reflect their individual skill sets.
IT for Society
Sponsored by: Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society; Blum Center for Developing Economies
BCAPI (1st Place)
Team Members: Stephen Frey, Pierre Karashchuk, John Naulty, Kelly Peng, Tomas Vega (UC Berkeley)
Millions of people with physical disabilities lack control of their bodies but still can control their minds. Recent advancements in Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) have enabled people with physical disabilities to drive wheelchairs, write, and communicate. The BCAPI team is developing a powerful software and hardware package that will enable technology developers and researchers to create a range of BCI-enabled assistive technologies. Through extensive and research in the field, the team has identified the key problems that limit BCI assistive technology development and has made significant progress in addressing these issues.
Lifenik (2nd Place)
Team Members: Tchiki Davis, Michael Davis, Dav Clark, Brett Ford, David Klonsky (UC Berkeley)
In the United States, suicide rates have increased 60% over the last 50 years, depression is predicted to be the second-most prevalent health condition in the world within 5 years, and 1 in 3 regular kids have already engaged in self-injury by the time they reach adolescence. Just like learning math or a foreign language, research has shown that practicing a certain skills can lead to greater emotional health, well-being, and fewer mental health issues. Lifenik is a research-based web and mobile application that makes online kids games and activities that strengthen neurocognitive processes that promote emotional health. It aims to develop fun, accessible, and affordable programs for children with no way to prevent or treat mental health issues.
TIRO (2nd Place)
Team Members: Timothy Meyers, Faye Ip, Sophia Lay (UC Berkeley)
TIRO is a hotline management system designed to give small NGOs serving vulnerable clients in China better record-keeping and reporting capabilities, ultimately improving the efficiency and sustainability of their services to create greater impact. TIRO’s approach is to equip NGOs that operate hotlines with better, lower-cost tools for record-keeping and report-making. Because phone-based consultations remain the most integral part of labor NGOs’ operations, the team is developing a mobile phone application to manage information that surfaces through their hotlines. The solution is based on an Android app that hotline operators can use to log conversation content and retrieve call details. An accompanied web application will permit NGOs to generate reports featuring demographic, caller relationship, and service provisioning metrics.
Aqua Power: Feed Forward to a Secure Water Future (3rd Place)
Team Members: Thulasi Narayan, Thuria Narayan, Jacob Tomy (UC Berkeley)
Water is a precious resource and is vital for all forms of life. In California, 34% of all non-farm use water is used for residential purposes, of which 40% is used in showers, baths and in faucets. Aqua Power aims to address these water shortage challenges by developing an easy to install, low cost device that will provide real time information on the quantity of water used, track cumulative water used per day with the ability to set water saving goals, compare performance with neighbors, and track progress in a social setting. The product aims to achieve water use reduction using a combination of technology and social engineering, and is based on the concept that providing instantaneous feedback is the most effective change agent.
Smart Diaphragm (3rd Place)
Team Members: Huzaifa Beg, Danielle Chou, Sita Kumar, Rahul Nayak (UC Berkeley)
Vaginal infections in pregnant women pose two major health risks for the unborn child: preterm birth and vertical transmission of infection. Currently, there are limited options that accurately monitor vaginal conditions. The Smart Diaphragm team, collaborating with clinicians and scientists at UCSF, plans to incorporate pH and temperature sensors to ascertain vaginal health and incorporates wireless technology for real-time physician monitoring. The team will develop a prototype that it will test utilizing a bench top lab model of the intra-vaginal environment within over the next year. Its long-term goal is to transition the device to a wireless system so patients can eventually connect to physicians without visiting the clinic.
OhMyCause! (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Shyam Kumar, Nicolas Ma, Durgesh Maru, Thomas Vignon, Martin Bednar (UC Berkeley)
OhMyCause! is a web platform to connect individuals with causes (and non-profits) of their interest. It is a one-stop place that presents curated information and stories about causes, and helps individuals find the perfect place for them to make their social impact on the world. OhMyCause! aims to redefine the world of philanthropy by making caring for causes a mainstream and personalized activity for anyone, anywhere and anytime. In order to make caring for causes a mainstream activity and to increase this engagement in the volunteers’ communities, the team supports volunteers to create Social Impact Resumes that help them present and share their stories of community and social service experiences – and provides recommendations of new volunteer activities based on volunteer’s goals, skills, location, and social network.
Piezoelectric Shoe Sole GPS Tracker (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Angie Wang, Henry Wang, Philip Brown, Louis Kang (UC Berkeley)
In an effort to fight child trafficking in developing countries, Piezoelectric Shoe Sole GSP Tracker endeavors to manufacture a low-cost and ergonomic children’s shoe with an embedded GPS data logger powered by piezoelectric materials. The technology will provide a powerful, more reliable, energy efficient tracking solution to the growing child abduction epidemic. The team will engineer materials that can be manufactured with little to no impact on the environment, generate a nominal amount of chemical waste, produce significant electrical current and be robust enough to withstand the stress and strains of everyday use. The project will also utilize a One-for-One revenue model made popular by the retail company TOMS; it will deliver a pair of our shoe soles to a child in need for every sale made.
Mobiles for Reading
Sponsored by: All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development; United States Agency for International Development(USAID); Higher Education Solutions Network
Creating Decodable Readers in Haitian Creole (1st Place)
Team Members: Sandra Edwards-Thro, Lydia Boike, Aidan Fielding, Zhane Richardson, Gonzalo Odiard (College of William and Mary)
This project employs local teachers to create and teach reading materials that integrate Haiti’s mother-tongue language and native culture. At its core, it is a software application that enables writers to create books for beginning readers using a systematic phonics approach. Based on customized wordlists for sequential texts that start with the most basic letter-sound patterns and build to more complex ones, the app recommends or discourages words based on the level of reader the teacher is writing for. The books will be stored digitally on a server that students access with laptops. The project has selected Lascahobas, Haiti as its pilot location because several elementary schools there have already received laptops that are going unused. Teachers at three schools will use the app to produce books for a reading intervention program that they will then conduct over the summer. The process of creating books for their own classroom based on sound literacy acquisition principles will make them more capable of using these principles in their own classroom.
MyReadingTablet (MRT) (2nd Place)
Team Members: Lisa Fu, Gemma Gooding, Thomas Heeren, Kate Hou, Kiki Adhinugraha (Monash University)
This project will create a portable reading device – MyReadingTablet (MRT) – equipped with breakthrough WordSwitch technology, which will allow diverse learners to successfully navigate complex texts despite limited reading proficiencies. The hundreds of e-books pre-loaded on MRT will feature a variety of topics/genres to spark curiosity and maintain young children’s reading motivation. The most innovative aspect of the solar-power enhanced MRT is the reader’s ability to adjust the reading level of the e-books. Currently, most reading tablets offer unknown words to be clicked on and defined using an online dictionary, which is helpful for adult readers but somewhat impractical for beginning readers. Presently, there is no existing technology that provides for unknown words to be switched for another word, let alone a word of an easier readability with the same meaning. This aspect of MRT sets it apart from other devices and will revolutionize digital reading for beginning readers.
Padhne.De (3rd Place)
Team Members: Laurent Arribe, Vibhore Vardan, Laura Desmond-Black, Timothy Meyers, Shomik Sarkar, Hasnain Nazar (UC Berkeley)
While many developing countries have come a long way in increasing literacy rates, certain populations, like children in rural India, are still struggling with low literacy rates. By leveraging the power of local experiences and knowledge, Padhne.De aims to increase literacy rates through a peer-based mobile platform. Padhne.De takes an existing interactive voice response model for community communication and allows older students to record short readings and micro-lesson plans. This learning system enhances children’s reading capabilities by complementing children’s existing modes of instruction, like teachers, tutors, and textbooks. Not only will households benefit by having a program flexible with their time schedule, but they will also appreciate receiving lessons more relevant to their native tongue. Building on team-members’ existing research projects in rural India, Padhne.De seeks to implement a pilot project over the course of the Indian academic year.
Gyaan (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Sufia Siddiqui, Siddharth Agrawal, Ankita Bhosle, Divyakumar Menghani (UC Berkeley)
Gyaan means knowledge in Hindi. The Gyaan team intends to address the problem of inadequate English literacy in India by creating an IVR and web based ICT platform that will enable delivery of leveled content, delivery of instruction, and the assessment of students in satellite towns in India to improve their English reading competency. Content will be leveled and will be developed based on the contextually relevant topics. The content will be developed using eXeLearning, an open source content authoring tool. It will be delivered to students’ mobile phones both synchronously and asynchronously using Ustad Mobile. In asynchronous mode, students will be able to call a hotline to practice the reading material and complete the assessment for a particular module on their own. In synchronous mode, Gyaan will facilitate and enhance this learning experience, by connecting trained volunteers remotely with students in India over the phone using a VoIP platform. Through our project we aim to double students’ exposure to English outside of school and bring some discernible change in the way English education is imparted.
Open Data for Development
Sponsored by: AidData; The U.S. Global Development Lab; USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network; The Blum Center for Developing Economies
Visualizing the Invisible (1st Place)
Team Members: Sophia Lay, Faye Ip (UC Berkeley)
This project seeks to develop an experiential learning tool that allows users to personally feel what it is like to be censored. The site would feature a highly visual and interactive system that allows users to see what content from their own document would be censored in China. The need for this project is twofold: there is a strong need to raise awareness among Americans about censorship in China to encourage citizen participation and engagement in free speech, and to collect more data for researchers to understand American’s perception and understanding of censorship in China. This visualization will allow users to submit their own content and then visually see words and phrases that are censored being removed from their document. The project will educate them of potential reasons for each removal, provide related articles that are censored in China and create an interactive and engaging narrative for users to recognize the importance of Internet freedom.
Impact evaluation made easy and affordable (2nd Place)
Team Members: Avantika Jalan, John Grams, Arjun Jasaal, Victor Gebhardt, Maximilian Zaenker (UC Berkeley)
This project creates a turnkey cloud product that guides service organizations in designing, collecting, and analyzing data for development projects. It then publishes proven projects to a marketplace for those interested in providing financial support. As more project data is published to this marketplace, it will grow into an open database of development project performance, and outcomes. This will help organizations providing interventions in the social sector to improve performance and demonstrate impact by clearly defining goals and methodology of the data collection process, improve survey questions, better manage data collection efforts, appropriately analyze the results, and quickly share these results with funders interested in validated projects. Finally, it will match funders with validated projects that allow them to monitor progress and target support for interventions proven in context.
USeeData (3rd Place)
Team Members: Anthony Suen, Daniel Dobalian, Jeremy Wan, Kyle Patel, Christine Puthoff, Mina Han (UC Berkeley)
As a field, environmental science has not yet had the impact it needs to have on the general public, mostly due to limited amount of exposure to information. A powerful visualization tool would help bring all types environmental causes to the forefront and help the general population understand how the environment influences their day to day lives. This project seeks to achieve that goal by creating an open source environmental data visualization suite for researchers and data scientists. The tool set will be especially tailored toward geographical and energy related data; however, the end project will create a much more versatile set of abilities. This tool would make it incredibly simple for researchers to submit any kind of geographic data and create meaningful visualizations of that data, without the need for much technical knowledge on the part of the researchers.
Scaling Up Big Ideas
Sponsored by: Blum Center for Developing Economies
India Smiles (1st Place)
Team Members: Nehaa Khadka, Marilyn Stephen, Kristina Ronsin, Shampa Roy, Abhishek Bhatia, Aarti Kumar, Arianna Heyer (UC Berkeley)
India is currently experiencing rapid economic and industrial expansion, yet, is plagued by the poor health and nutrition of its people. Older approaches to addressing nutritional deficiencies are not as effective as “modern malnutrition” because one of the primary causal factors has only recently emerged: As India becomes a more developed country, its citizens have adopted the dietary habits of other developed nations, falling victim to the “nutrition transition”, or switch from traditional food to processed convenience foods. India Smiles is a unique community-based intervention with a focus on prevention of childhood malnutrition through oral hygiene education and childhood cavity prevention. Using low-cost and effective interventions and health education modules that utilize community health workers, the project works with children aged birth through six and their families to improve the oral health and nutrition status of children in the greater Mumbai, India area.
Adelante – Youth Empowerment Program (2nd Place)
Team Members: Agueda Castro, Jose Flores, Cristian De Leon (UC Berkeley)
The Adelante Youth Empowerment Program is a 6-week summer program that serves to motivate at-risk Mexican youth to pursue higher education and professional careers. This is achieved through the use of academic competition-based learning and entrepreneurship-based learning where students lead and develop community development projects. The project will develop fun and engaging STEM and leadership development-based projects while mentoring them to lead their own projects. Also provided are scholarships and mentorship to students who choose to continue their educational journey. The community development projects that the students lead and develop will further provide them with a sense of belonging and purpose. The team expects that Adelante youth will set an example to other community members in how they can be productive and conscious members of society. They will also become mentor figures to other youth who are at risk of dropping out of school.
Emmunify: A Simple Tool to Save Lives with Vaccination (3rd Place)
Team Members: Isheeta Madeka, Jennifer Sisto, Emma Dubin-Rouda, Samantha Ngo, Jessica Watterson, Anandomoy Sen, Julia Walsh (UC Berkeley)
Globally, millions of children die from vaccine preventable diseases because they are not fully immunized. In North India, fewer than 50% of children are fully immunized; Emmunify uses communications technology to help vaccinate more infants so they can live longer and healthier, perform better in school, and escape poverty. Emmunify effectively and efficiently tracks the status of each child, reminds clients of where and when vaccines are available, facilitates logistics and supply by aggregating utilization and supply data, and eliminates paper records. It is an innovative low cost, focused portable electronic medical record (EMR) that digitizes and replaces the frequently lost or mutilated paper immunization record. It holds multiple copies of each patient’s vaccination record to ensure the data is not lost – in the cloud-based database and stored on an RFID sticker placed on the family’s mobile phone, an item that is always carried with the patient.
Transcense – Seamless Deaf/hearing conversations (3rd Place)
Team Members: Pieter Doevendans, Thibault Duchemin, Noore Kadri, Skinner Cheng (UC Berkeley)
Transcense makes group conversations possible for 360 million people with hearing loss. With Transcense they can freely communicate with their hearing peers again. Current solutions are unreliable, unaffordable and not adaptable to situations where multiple people are talking in professional or personal gatherings. By connecting smartphones in a room through a mobile app, and using cloud-based speech recognition and speaker identification technologies, Transcense is able to show to the hard-of-hearing person in less than a second, who says what.