Big Ideas IT Finalists Put Apps to Work for Social Impact

In the last round of the 2016 Big Ideas Competition, finalists in the IT category presented their ideas for health justice, campus security, special education, and mental health.

By Nicholas Bobadilla

In the last round of the 2016 Big Ideas Competition, finalists in the IT category presented their ideas to a panel of judges. The innovative social impact projects consisted of five applications targeting issues that spanned health justice, campus security, special education and mental health.


MBA candidate James Bui kicked off the presentations with PillPal, a novel initiative for promoting drug price transparency. Inspiration for the project surfaced when James accompanied his immigrant father to pick up medication from a pharmacy. As non-native English speaker, James’ father needed help translating dense price information outlined in his insurance plan. Identifying an opportunity to remedy this problem, James gathered a team of students to develop an app targeted at low-income populations that provides drug prices and healthcare information in an accessible format, and empowers users to make informed decisions about their healthcare. Currently, the team is deliberating a for-profit route or a non-profit route, the former consisting of private partnerships with generic brand drug companies, and the latter leading to collaboration with government agencies. PillPal’s long-term goal is to reach more high and middle income users and to partner with doctors who can offer feedback.


Next in the panel was an app developed by an undergraduate team of software engineers to promote campus safety. After team member Vinay Ramesh narrowly avoided a robbery on campus, he decided students needed a collaborative online platform to provide real-time information on dangerous activity. The solution was Wildfire, an app that notifies users with pictures, comments, or text messages when a crime occurs in their area. It also enables users to send an alert to their emergency contacts and other users in the vicinity. The app combines relevant historical data with real-time, user-generated crime reports to present the most relevant information. Already, Wildfire has garnered thousands of downloads; the team has established partnerships with UCPD and BPD and received an endorsement by UC Berkeley’s student government. With funding from Big Ideas, the team hopes to spread its services to other high-risk campuses, including UCLA and USC.

Et al Health
Et al Health

Following Wildfire was Et al Health, which delivers healthcare information on rare diseases like ALS and Cassalmen’s. Due to the rareness of these diseases, patients often have trouble finding a specialist to treat their condition or administer information. To remedy this problem, Et al Health provides a search tool that allows patients to find doctors based on their research expertise. “We’re providing provide honest, accurate, and friendly information in order to get patients the treatment they need,” said team member Bill Chambers. The process is rigorous, requiring the team to parse through and clean various data sources. But the challenge is worth it to these dedicated students, who are set on providing an exceptional experience to their users.


MBA candidate Andrew Hill followed up with LiftEd, an app designed for tablets that enables Special Education teachers to more easily track their students’ progress. “Special education is like having two full-time jobs,” said Hill during the pitch. Teachers must simultaneously teach and track the progress of their students. But with LiftEd, teachers can easily input data and focus more attention helping their students. Because the data is collected and stored in a digital platform, teachers and administrators can easily track progress, as well as share information with parents. The team is focused on a grassroots approach, having already developed a partnership with a New Jersey school district and hoping to expand to more districts in the future. They also hope to galvanize support among parents, who are the best equipped to advocate for the quality of their children’s education.


Last to present was an app aimed at helping users manage their mental health struggles. After enduring depression during their first year in medical school, Ramin Rajaii and Brandon Brown understood the need for a platform that helped students in similar circumstances. The response was MindFull, an app that empowers users to create a personalized treatment plan to address their emotional hardships. “The app provides mental health treatments as daily tasks users can accomplish. These are split into a three-week treatment regiment,” said Brown. The treatments, which include meditation and exercise routines, draw from research-based strategies that have proven effective at alleviating depression and other mental health conditions. Users can enter data pertaining to their moods, and will be able to track their progress given the visualization tools in the app. After testing MindFull with a cohort of medical students, Brown and Rajaii hope to bring on physician mentors to oversee their progress and consult on the app’s effectiveness.

2016 Big Ideas Contest Winners Announced!

Summaries of the 41 final teams from 266 students teams representing more than 750 students across 16 different campuses.

This year’s Big Ideas contest launched in September 2015. 266 student teams representing more than 750 students across 16 different campuses submitted pre-proposals. After a preliminary round and a final review, 41 teams were awarded prizes across nine different categories, with award amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Below is a summary of this year’s winners.



FITE Film (From Incarceration to Education) and Resource Connection (1st Place)
Team Members: Skylar Economy, Tristan Caro
School: UC Berkeley
The FITE documentary film will combat recidivism in the prison system by motivating currently incarcerated individuals to seek higher education and mentorship opportunities. To accomplish this goal, the film will feature the success stories of relatable, formerly incarcerated students at UC Berkeley.  Screening the documentary in prisons and jails around the U.S. will allow currently incarcerated individuals to learn that it’s not only desirable but also realistic to attain higher education both during and after incarceration. In addition, the creation of a structured, regionally-organized resource connection will supply viewers of the film with phone numbers and contact information of trusted, already established organizations that mentor incarcerated individuals on their journey to seeking higher education.
Philippine “Labor Beat”: Work, Social Media, and Documentary Futures (2nd Place)
Team Members: Daniel Rudin, Abram Sterm, Jim Libiran
School: UC Santa Cruz
The Philippines is the “social media capital of the world,” but it is also a place where labor violations abound.  Philippine “Labor Beat” is a social practice project to support Filipino unionists. Currently, unionists must rely on mainstream or indie media sources to report infractions. Pushing beyond the limitations of these forms of media, Philippine “Labor Beat” uses cell phone cameras, media trainings, and metadata technology to build a social media ecology around workers themselves to empower them to directly document their struggle. The project harnesses the creativity of interactive documentary and the reach of social media. Union institutions will serve as a network, support group, and audience for the project. Philippine “Labor Beat” will create and spread labor news that benefits the Filipino community at large by facilitating worker self-representation, communication, and collaboration in ways that their communities currently lack.
The Medical Social Emotional Arts Project: Transforming Patient-Centered Care (3rd Place)
Team Members: Rathi Ramasamy, Hannah Leo, Gianna Raggio
School: UC Los Angeles
The Art of Healing will train UCLA medical students and professionals to integrate creative arts programming in inpatient pediatric pain management. They will learn best practices established by the UCLArts and Healing Social Emotional Arts (SEA) Certificate Program for amplifying the innate social-emotional benefits of the arts by using mental health practices. Training will cover verbal and nonverbal communication, managing special needs, traumatic responses, and self-care. Four arts modalities (visual art, dance/movement, poetry, and music) will also be incorporated. By successfully integrating such a program in a clinical setting, the pediatric inpatient experience can become one of reflection, meaningful dialogue, and increased empathy that also fosters connection while reducing the emotional distress of all parties involved.
Root Tongue: Sharing Stories of Language Identity and Revival (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Anita Chang
School: UC Santa Cruz
Root Tongue is an online platform for audience engagement motivated by the stories and issues raised in Tongues of Heaven, a feature documentary about four young, indigenous women who use personal video cameras to document the challenges of learning their ancestral languages before they go extinct. Their experiences prompt a larger conversation about linguicide and revitalization in Root Tongue, a forum that allows participants to share their perspectives through dialogue as well as uploads of photos, music, writings, and short videos. Users will also be able to access educational and community resources on language preservation. Indigenous people and minority language learners have a keen awareness of the demands and flux of their own communities in the context of other global societies. Root Tongue aims to continually illuminate their visions as they heal, energize, and rethink the personal and local.


The Alternative Iron by Ferrous (1st Place)
Team Members: Cameron Smith, Chris Collins
School: UC Berkeley
The Ferrous team is driven to make sure that for the 2.6 billion people living in energy poverty, modern energy satisfies all their basic human needs including dignity.  The Ferrous team’s mission is to design and distribute sustainable, community-supportive, and capacity-building technologies. Ferrous is focused on addressing the current market’s failure to identify and respond to culturally significant needs that the western world has overlooked. A clothing iron compatible with modern energy technology called the Alternative Iron is Ferrous’s first product. With this appliance, Ferrous can rectify the disconnect between social need and technological capacity to ensure that each and every one of its beneficiaries can claim a larger slice of dignity.
Husk-to-Home (2nd Place)
Team Members: Jose Corbala-Delgado, Dennis Jones, Kevin Li, Jacqueline Ortega, Brian Rojas-Lerena, Brandon Leu, Colin Eckerle
School: UC Riverside
In 2013, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol, Philippines, destroying thousands of structures and displacing nearly 350,000 Boholanos. In response, the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA) employed several teams to build temporary homes using coconut wood boards. However, the homes only lasted two years before they were deemed uninhabitable due to extensive termite damage. IDEA identified the community’s need for economic and sustainable building materials, so they contacted Husk-to-Home to find a reliable solution. As the world’s seventh largest rice-producing country, the Philippines generates an abundance of termite-resistant rice husk waste. Husk-to-Home intends to capitalize on this termite resistance and design a particleboard that is lightweight, water-resistant, and of comparable strength to a commercially available medium-density particleboard. The project’s mission is to create a proof of concept building material composed of rice husk and an innovative binder. This will enable construction of durable homes for the Bohol Island community.
ViaeX: Biowaste to Nanofilters for a Sustainable and Clean Future (3rd Place)
Team Members: Vivian Qu, Rahul Jain, Rui Wang, Miao-Chun Chen
School: UC Berkeley
Rapid modernization and industrialization in developing nations has significantly improved global standards of living at the expense of human health and the global environment. Air pollutants are now regarded as the most widespread carcinogen and lead to 7 million deaths worldwide annually. Project ViaeX aims to restrict human exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution while also providing clean air for people of all sectors of the society. ViaeX is developing a novel low-cost high efficiency nano filtration technology, which can remove 99.999% of all pollutants from the air with no end-of-life environmental impacts since the product is 100% biodegradable. This technology has the potential to transform air filtration into an affordable solution for everyone because it can be used to curtail air pollution at the source or at any point where humans may be exposed to it.
Low Cost Disposable Battery for the Developing World (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Mohamed Amine Oueslati, Benjamin Williams, Jerry Wang
School: UC Berkeley
Current lighting and phone charging solutions in off-grid regions are hazardous, expensive, and inconvenient. The Low Cost Disposable Battery project addresses these major drawbacks using cheap and safe materials, representing a major shift in the way traditional batteries are made. Users will purchase and assemble the batteries themselves, replacing components as necessary. This solution puts the power in the hands of families, allowing them to personally control their power usage in the safety of their home, at all times of the day, and at a low cost.


Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship (1st Place)
Team Members: Peter Bittner, Katie J. Niemeyer
School: UC Berkeley
Women living in the squatter settlements of Ulaanbaatar are among the most financially and educationally disadvantaged in Mongolia. The squatter areas—commonly known as “ger districts”—are mainly comprised of recently-migrated nomadic herders. Ger districts make up over 60% of the capital city’s population and have tens of thousands of new arrivals each year. The newly-settled nomads face difficulties in the urban job market due to stark cultural differences between rural and urban lifestyles and a mismatch of employable skills. The challenges of finding employment can result in alcoholism, domestic violence, and cyclical poverty. Women in the squatter settlements need confidence, practical knowledge, and access to capital in order to break from patriarchal gender roles that often prevent them from reaching their full potential as business and community leaders. Through structured small-group support, this project provides impoverished female migrants with information, skills, and low-interest microloans in order to develop their small businesses and foster more economically-resilient communities.
MÄk (1st Place)
Team Members: Michelle Nie, Aubrey Larson, Ankita Joshi
School: UC Berkeley
MÄk is a social enterprise devoted to empowering urban low-income high school juniors and seniors to become 3D designers. The mission of MÄk is to provide these young people with exposure to various STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) fields while also providing them with training in marketable skills and an income source so they may pursue higher education and STEAM careers in the future. Initially, the MÄk program will run on the UC Berkeley campus in order to utilize its free facilities and 3D design software. First, trained Berkeley student volunteers from MÄk’s partner campus organizations will teach high schoolers from Oakland and Richmond in 3D design through a training program. Then, MÄk will hire these students as paid interns to work on 3D design projects for Bay Area technology startups and design firms. MÄk plans to simultaneously partner with other organizations to host financial literacy workshops that help students manage income wisely.
SocialForce (2nd Place)
Team Members: Susanne Schöneberg, Denisse Halm, Joh Schöneberg, Mitul Bhat, Reneé Selanders, Vaisakh Shankar, Sid Ghosh
School: UC Berkeley
SocialForce is an impact management platform that leverages the core business competencies available locally to meet the needs of a community in a strategic and sustainable way. SocialForce is based on the premise that community-grounded organizations and their active members understand the needs of their communities best, but lack the ability to harvest the resources necessary to execute projects to address those needs. The team’s goal is to connect mission-driven small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with relevant nonprofit organizations in their communities. The strategic match of local resources to local needs facilitates long-term relationships for greater impact and unlocks the potential of communities to solve what matters most to them. Through SocialForce, SMEs can identify, execute, manage, and measure impact activities in their local communities in a strategic and meaningful way by building long-term relationships that are in line with their mission and vision.
PictoKit: Retirement Toolkit (3rd Place)
Team Members: Olivia Zhao, Amanda Zhao, Lynn Wang, Terrie Yang
School: UC Berkeley
The Retirement Toolkit is a reproducible workshop kit that through the innovative use of co-design seeks to address the gap in retirement financial literacy for low income, young working adults. The Toolkit‘s application of co-design for education allows the participants to actively shape their learning experience as opposed to conventional, one-sided forms of teaching.  Through creative discussion, design activities, and active visual learning, the program not only teaches, but also empowers participants to secure their own financial futures.  Furthermore, the project is highly scalable because the workshop guide and toolkit can be easily reproduced to allow third parties to hold their own retirement workshops beyond the Bay Area.  Additionally, the individualized curriculum will allow participants to tailor the material to their needs.  The project thus addresses the lack of effective financial literacy programs for low income, young working adults in an innovative application of co-design.


Safi Organics (1st Place)
Team Members: Kevin Kung
School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Safi Organics produces a carbon-negative soil conditioner derived from biomass (farm) waste. Designed for rural smallholder farmers, the soil conditioner leads to a 30% increase in crop yield and 50% increase in income by reversing soil degradation. Biomass waste is present in most rural farms every year after harvest, and yet most of this waste is burned in open air rather than economically utilized because existing capital-intensive and centralized processing technologies often require the long-distance transport of this waste, which is very expensive. Safi Organics has developed patent-pending environmentally-friendly reactors and unique recipes that enable the low-cost and decentralized conversion of waste into carbon-negative soil conditioner in under 2 hours. The company’s EcoCert-certified product is currently used in more than 80 acres of land in Safi Organics’ preliminary pilot project and has generated highly positive customer reviews. In addition, this product actively sequesters 1.5 tons of CO2 per acre into the soil each planting season thereby directly mitigating climate change.
Poverty Alleviation through Poultry Education (2nd Place)
Team Members: Hana Link, Samantha Lawton, Laura Budd, Michelle-Yvette Luis, Sarah Tirrell, Marina Boucher, Kim Conway, Abigail Fosdick, June Barrera
School: UC Davis
The One Health Nicaragua team will address food insecurity concerns in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, by working with children and focusing on improving poultry production. Integrative workshops for students in Sabana Grande will focus on egg production, chick care, coop management, and disease prevention. Local students will manage a demonstration flock providing them the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with effective methods for raising, handling, and vaccinating poultry. Children can then share this information with their family thereby increasing knowledge dissemination throughout the community. Introducing poultry husbandry skills in the classroom will affect changes at the family level and sustainably improve overall community poultry production in Sabana Grande. Ultimately, this will lead to greater food security within the community.
Just Ripe. (2nd Place)
Team Members: Geertje Grootenhuis, Kayla Smith, Jessica Welsh, Claire Rosenfield, Ryan Riddle
School: UC Berkeley
Just Ripe takes serving food to a whole new level. Just Ripe’s products—soups, salads, and smoothies all created from 100% recovered, organic produce — will be pedaled around Oakland’s streets on an innovative, eye-catching food bike. The team aims to hold daily “kickstands,” or food bike sales, at Downtown Oakland tech companies to sell products to young professionals at prices between $6-$10. In addition, Just Ripe will distribute refreshing smoothies to Oakland middle schools and high schools free of charge in order to promote healthy eating while spreading the message: “Don’t DiscriminEAT.” Just Ripe’s food bike allows convenient transportation of products through an innovative, low-cost, mobile, and environmentally-friendly alternative to a food truck. The team’s passion for healthy food and their dedication to making a lasting impact inspired this quirky food bike which aims to initiate a dialogue around food waste and food access in Oakland by “Pedaling with a Purpose.”
Ricult (3rd Place)
Team Members: Aukrit Unahalekhaka, Jonathan Stoller
School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
70% of the world’s poor are smallholder farmers, and they produce 80% of the global food. However, these farmers are poor and food insecure.  By 2050, the world will need to produce at least 50% more food to feed 9 billion people. This dual-pronged problem of poverty and food insecurity is caused by 3 main issues in agricultural value chains: supply chain inefficiencies, financial exclusion, and information asymmetry. Ricult is solving these issues by establishing a multi-sided, mobile e-commerce platform that fills the holes in the agricultural supply chain by providing farmers direct access to financial instruments, input sellers, end buyers, logistics providers, and real-time crop information. As 80% of the smallholder farmers have access to mobile phones, Ricult’s solution is accessible through both low cost feature phones without Internet connections and smartphones.
Unmanned Ground Vehicle for Water Leak Detection (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Jan Tanja, Brandon Yang, Brian Swain, Elizabeth Arikawa, Jad Aboulhosn
School: UC Merced
The Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) project is the future of the next generation’s agricultural gadgets. Instead of the past’s archaic methods of manually searching for leaks with acoustic procedures, the UGV project hopes to replace the previous methods with a more strategic appliance – a powerful camera attached onto a fully autonomous vehicle. Utilizing a combination of dynamic image-processing techniques and mobilization, this rover-camera duo is able to autonomously navigate through way-points and detect pipe leaks more frequently, efficiently, and accurately than a field worker would. Powered and guided by the Mission Planner program and the Pixhawk Autopilot System, the rover is capable of decreasing overhead costs, and most importantly, aiding in the preservation of water. The project’s state of the art features are distinguished by its data collection platform, algorithm design, and user-friendly  interface.
Bug Ideas: Feeding the World With Insects Without Ever Eating Insects (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Alexander Klonick, Tess Petesch, Amanda Bushell
School: Duke University
According to the UN Environment Programme, roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Simultaneously, forage fish stocks, which are a key component of the oceanic lifecycle, are declining due to overfishing. They are being harvested to be processed into fishmeal, which feed the aquaculture boom and livestock. Black soldier fly larvae are capable of feeding on waste and efficiently creating both the protein and fat necessary to meet nutritional requirements of feed operations. If a mere 6% of the food waste were converted into bug protein, it would offset 100% of the need for forage fish. The potential for impact is massive. Bug Ideas aims to centralize currently  disjointed efforts and expedite FDA approval of insects as feed. The team will accomplish this objective by building a coalition of experts, founding a trade association of companies, and submitting an application for FDA approval.


Open Viral Load (1st Place)
Team Members: Hayley Chong, Kirk Hutchison, Rachel Owyeung, Alex Smith, Wesly Wong
School: UC San Diego
The Open Viral Load project aims to develop an open-source, affordable genetic assay test for HIV that can be easily modified to test other pathogenic diseases, such as tuberculosis and the Zika virus.  As part of the Global TIES organization, the Open Viral Load team is working with both the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique. The team will perform preliminary testing in Tijuana, Mexico, followed by secondary testing in Mozambique. This project will allow low resource communities to receive the regular testing they need in order to know the status of their viral disease or to quickly diagnose patients with other pathogenic illnesses. This in turn will help doctors issue proper treatment to those in their community.
VIRA: A Low-Cost HIV Viral Load Quantification System (2nd Place)
Team Members: Neel Parekh, Yajur Maker, Orysya Stus, Christopher Yin, Bryce Killingsworth, Michael Wang, Jahir Gutierrez
School: UC San Diego
Viral load testing is increasingly supported as a necessary component of the HIV management cycle. Regular monitoring for treatment failure by a viral load test is endorsed by the World Health Organization as essential to a globally sustainable treatment plan. Tijuana has been identified as the potential site of an HIV epidemic due to both its rising incidence of HIV cases and to its disproportionately large populations of high-risk sex workers and intravenous drug users. A novel detection system called VIRA has been developed to make the viral load test financially and logistically feasible for Tijuana health clinics to incorporate into their treatment and containment strategies. VIRA combines a low-cost centrifuge, automated RNA extraction device, paper-based genetic circuit, and smartphone-based photometric quantification system to yield a fast, easy, and inexpensive point-of-care viral load test which may be implemented in Tijuana and readily adapted to other low-resource settings.
FloGlow: Low Cost Spirometer (2nd Place)
Team Members: Marisa Babb, Luke Stork
School: UC Berkeley
Developing countries have a dire need for measuring the respiratory health of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Spirometry is the gold standard in developed countries for diagnosing respiratory illnesses. However, spirometers are costly and require a reliable power supply, regular maintenance, and a computer for operation. All of these requirements are  unmet by the environment of most developing countries. Project FloGlow: A Low-Cost Spirometer addresses this need by developing a spirometer specifically for low-resource clinics and solving key problems existing spirometers fail to address. FloGlow operates without the aid of a PC or smartphone, possesses on-board data storage and display, and allows simple and accurate calibration—all for less than $35. This device has the potential to reduce misdiagnosed cases and provides clinicians the ability to improve management of both the symptoms and the disease to reduce preventable morbidity and mortality.
SHRI Community Sanitation Facilities (3rd Place)
Team Members: Anoop Jain
School: UC Berkeley
SHRI works alongside communities in rural India to increase access to essential health infrastructure by providing access to toilets that are able to convert waste into energy that runs a water filtration system. SHRI will sell safe drinking water at a fair price to generate revenue. This project aims to end open defecation by encouraging behavior change and positive health outcomes through education. Partnerships with local governments will ensure that allocated land and funding goes to those most in need of these services.
PedalTap: Modifying the Existing Water Tap System to Create a No Touch Cost Effective Solution in Developing Countries (3rd Place)
Team Members: Grace Nakibaala, Isah Ssevume, Molly Mbaziira Nannyonjo
School: Makerere University
This year, the PedalTap team is taking this Big Idea to another level. The innovative Tippy Tap was made to prevent the spread of infection at communal hand washing facilities in rural areas in Uganda. It is foot-operated, preventing the need for touch. The product is a free-standing, universally-fitting connection that can easily attach to any tap. It is operated by a foot pedal, which is made of a bicycle brake handle and system connected to a spring-loaded water cut off. It is very cheap, easy to produce, and simple to connect. It is also easy to use and water flow can be controlled. It is particularly good for use in communal and crowded spaces. The Tippy Tap builds on existing infrastructure, so there will no extra costs incurred.
SkinIQ: Precision Diagnostics of Melanoma w/ Mobile Imaging & Deep Learning (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Abhishek Bhattacharya
School: UC Santa Barbara
SkinIQ is developing a mobile software platform and algorithm for the long-term surveillance and diagnosis of potentially cancerous skin lesions. At the moment, even the best methods of diagnosis still lack the sensitivity and specificity needed to accurately classify and distinguish one type of skin lesion from another. Furthermore, there has yet to be a widely accepted tool that connects patients across the world to their own general practitioners and dermatologists in a cost effective and innovative way. SkinIQ solves this problem using a proprietary deep-learning algorithm trained on thousands of images that tracks and tags dangerous skin lesions for doctors and patients. Additionally, SkinIQ uses non-invasive molecular profiling to sequence moles that have been tagged as concerning. SkinIQ hopes to provide a highly accurate diagnostic tool and platform that will decrease discrepancies in the diagnosis of melanoma and pervasive skin diseases.
LiquidGoldConcept: Breast Massage Knowledge Bank (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Anna Sadovnikova, Jeff Plott, Rachel Atwood
School: UC Davis
In 2011, only 18.8% of US mothers reached the six-month exclusive breastfeeding goal set by the World Health Organization. If 90% of mothers breastfed for the recommended six months, the US would save $13 billion per year. Breast massage can improve, prevent, or alleviate the most common breastfeeding problems and prolong breastfeeding duration. The purpose of the Breast Massage Knowledge Bank (BMKB) is to identify and match unique BMTs to specific breastfeeding problems and breast shapes/sizes. The sixteen BMTs identified in academic literature will serve as the baseline from which the BMKB will grow. The platform allows for feedback collection from breastfeeding experts and mothers. This data is analyzed to develop evidence-based education tools for diverse populations of parents and providers. LiquidGoldConcept is the only research-driven, for-profit company (with a sustainable, non-advertisement based revenue model) creating evidence-based, tailored breast massage videos focused on educating parents and health providers.


SafeSpace (1st Place)
Team Members: Monica Casanova, Ann Nguyen, Claire Lee, Noel Frazier, Jaya Mantovi, Daniela Grinblatt, Natasha Hoherchak, Valentine Wallace, Yifan Li
School: UC Berkeley
Poor mental health is a widespread issue plaguing college students across the country. SafeSpace is a website and mobile application for UC Berkeley undergraduates to comfortably share their similar mental health issues through an anonymous, peer-led chat. By keeping it anonymous, students do not have to worry about being stigmatized. SafeSpace will facilitate the transition of first year, transfer, and minority students (including those with disabilities) into Cal by providing them with an outlet for psychological support. The project plans to initially target these groups, although it will not be exclusive to these populations. SafeSpace will serve as a means for students to adapt to the challenges associated with attending a large university, understand that there is a community of people out there like themselves, and have a comfortable space to share their issues with someone who is able to relate to their struggles.
Campus Cooks (2nd Place)
Team Members: Helia Bidad, Vikram Sivaraja, Donna Ni, Vijitha Sridhar, Tanya Krishnakumar
School: UC Berkeley
In 2014, one in four students said they had to “skip meals in order to save money.” Campus Cooks (CC) seeks to provide students with resources to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity. These two issues contribute to the deterioration of physical and mental health, increased stress, and hindered academic success. The Campus Cooks application includes cooking recipes with concise and informative text, appealing photos, and engaging videos. CC includes a breakdown of the cost of ingredients for recipes as well as nutrient information for the complete dishes. Food assistance programs are detailed on the app in an effort to make students aware of food pantries, urban farms, and other programs that can provide immediate relief. Whether a student is the next Rachael Ray or cannot crack an egg, Campus Cooks consolidates the resources necessary to mitigate one of the most pressing issues for students.
UbiSafe Technologies: Reimagining Personal Safety for UC Berkeley (3rd Place)
Team Members: (Tom) Seung Kun Lee, Woo Yong Charlie Choi
School: UC Berkeley
UbiSafe provides discreet personal protection that is accessible at your fingertips. With crime rates rising year after year, consumers are flooded with new-fangled safety gadgets from something as simple as a whistle or a stun gun to something more high-tech like emergency apps. The thing is, they don’t work. Whistles and stun guns, when misused, escalate the situation, and you do not have time to unlock your phone and start an app when someone has you at gunpoint. UbiSafe’s team decided to take advantage of how people always have their phones in hand, whether in use or not, to allow for a faster and more discreet system of emergency reporting. UbiSafe’s Nappi utilizes an NFC-powered tactile button connected to your smartphone via mobile application. Simply press, hold, and release the button, and the police and your family will be alerted of your precise location and sent a message without potentially aggravating the attacker.
Luminavi App (3rd Place)
Team Members: Melody Ng
School: UC Berkeley
Luminavi is a dynamic anonymous reporting and data collection app that will allow the campus community to identify spaces on campus where sexual misconduct is prevalent. Using the information aggregated from the app, service providers like the Restorative Justice (RJ) Center can more effectively direct services to those spaces. The RJ Center will promote opportunities for the community to dialogue in these “spaces” so that victims, offenders, and bystanders have a meaningful opportunity to voice their concerns and can be better informed about how to change the social as well as cultural dynamics in those spaces that enable sexual misconduct. Through access to data provided by app users that illuminate trends in particular spaces, Luminavi can help institutions use big data to adjust their overall response strategy to address sexual misconduct. Over time, Luminavi can catalyze more evidence-driven, community-based responses to sexual misconduct.


LiftEd (1st Place)
Team Members: Andrew Hill
School: UC Berkeley
LiftEd is an iPad application that enables special education professionals to measure students’ academic & behavioral performance on individualized learning goals, analyze learning trends to modify instruction and intervention methods real-time, and ultimately share student progress with districts & parents on-demand. It resembles an EHR  and acts as a centralized repository for a student’s case team to track progress, collaborate, and maintain a transferrable record longitudinally. LiftEd aims to strategically focus on schools to provide aggregate data for administrators that can aid in compliance with federal funding mandates. In addition to significantly saving educators time and providing the ability to work remotely, LiftEd also increases the transparency of student data for parents in order to mitigate risk of lawsuits. It also enables a real-time analysis of progress and modification to classroom activities in order to accelerate student learning. All of these features are accessible from a tablet. The flexible data collection methods and intuitive applied behavior analysis caters to all educators, not just advanced professionals in clinical settings.
Wildfire (2nd Place)
Team Members: Hriday Kemburu, Vinay A. Ramesh, Jay Patel, Tim C. Hyon
School: UC Berkeley
When breaking news happens around you, how do you hear about it? Whether it’s a mugging, fire, or shooting nearby, there aren’t effective ways of notifying the immediate community in real time. Wildfire sends real-time notifications to your phone when a user reports dangerous activity nearby. With Wildfire, breaking local news is delivered to you, and you don’t even have to unlock your phone. Getting informed on Wildfire is not about who your friends are or who you follow, rather notifications are sourced from people nearby. If an emergency occurs, users can write an alert that is sent directly to their emergency contacts, their nearby community, and a dashboard monitored by public safety officials—all with one button. A user’s emergency contacts do not even have to download the app to receive their alert via SMS. Before walking home, users can also view recent incidents in their area.
et al. Health (3rd Place)
Team Members: John Semerdjian, Ricky Holtz, William Chambers , Ellen Van Wyk
School: UC Berkeley
People diagnosed with rare diseases often have a lot of trouble finding a doctor that can effectively care for them. This means that they’re spending more time learning about how to find treatment than actually getting treatment itself. Through the use of machine learning, open health data, and a user-centered design philosophy, et al. Health is developing the world’s first doctor search tool based on each doctor’s clinical research experience. By providing honest, accurate, and friendly information about physicians who study rare diseases, et al. Health’s mission is to help patients get useful and objective information that will help them get the treatment they need.
PillPal (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: James Bui, Sofia Noori
School: UC Berkeley
PillPal is a simple application that integrates drug prices with a patient’s particular health insurance benefits to calculate a patient’s out-of-pocket costs. The application will feature three important services: upfront cost estimates, value-based suggestions, and price comparisons by location. PillPal will give patients easy access to information about their drug regime and pricing structures that will allow patients to understand their out-of-pocket costs easily and make better decisions about how to spend their money. With more and more costs shifted over to the patients, there is a need for patients to better understand their healthcare. PillPal will help patients make smart, value-based decisions with their healthcare dollars and spur a price transparency revolution in the current foggy and confusing healthcare pricing system.
Team Members: Ramin Rajaii, Brandon Brown, Bardia Bahadori
School: UC Irvine
More than 10 million Americans experience depression each year. Globally, mental illnesses are projected to cost $16 trillion indirectly through lost labor and capital output. Additionally, subpar mood also reduces the quality of life of those affected. However, the gold-standard in the U.S., one-on-one therapy, is too costly and labor-intensive to keep up with the expected growth of demand. At this point, innovative solutions are needed to improve mental health care delivery and patient self-management. Because 85% of the world’s population has wireless access, mobile technologies are poised to deliver personalized self-care and relieve workforce shortages. MindFull™ is a mobile application created by medical students to boost mood and assist in the self-management of depression, anxiety, and stress. It presents evidence-based treatments as daily tasks the user can accomplish. These are portrayed as interactive, “flippable tiles” that display more information, provide scientific citations, and suggest local resources.


Dost: A Mobile Platform to Promote Parent Engagement and Early Childhood Education (1st Place)
Team Members: Sneha Sheth, Sindhuja Jeyabal, Devanshi Unadkat
School: UC Berkeley
Dost will give low-income moms a leg-up on their child’s primary school readiness and amplify the impact of existing early childhood education programs. Through short, prerecorded voice messages delivered via a call to feature mobile phones, Dost offers moms a low-cost and highly scalable approach to access the knowledge they crave and unleash their child’s potential. Dost is unique because it delivers action-oriented content and can reach illiterate moms using technology already in their hands. Dost’s theory of change is to improve educational outcomes for children by empowering functionally illiterate moms to participate in their child’s education.


The Somo Project (1st Place)
Team Members: Amelia Phillips
School: UC Berkeley
The Somo Project was started to invest in social entrepreneurs committed to changing their own under-resourced communities by providing the necessary training and tools they need to succeed. In Swahili, “somo” means “to learn lessons.” The organization is called the Somo Project because of the team’s belief that talented and visionary entrepreneurs exist in the poorest settlements around the world — but their contributions are often overlooked in development initiatives. Somo identifies people with intimate knowledge of their communities and the relevant social context to address problems such as sanitation, children’s nutrition, job training, and educational opportunity. At the organization’s core is the belief that local context matters and people know their communities and what they need, but often lack the resources to grow and scale a venture. Somo enables people to find their own solutions rather than dictating what their communities need.
Feces to Fuel (2nd Place)
Team Members: Ken Lim, Fiona Gutierrez-Dewar, Emily Woods
School: UC Berkeley
Feces to Fuel is pioneering a project that unlocks the potential of human feces and other waste streams by transforming them into an affordable household cooking fuel. Sanivation provides in-home toilets to low-income households and a service to collect and treat human waste. The project aims to create charcoal briquettes from human and agricultural waste. These briquettes can be sold for less than conventional charcoal and produce less smoke than traditional household cooking fuels. This in turn reduces the users’ exposure to toxic fumes and indoor air pollution. Simultaneously, the briquettes have a lower carbon impact than traditional fuel. They offer a renewable energy source that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation by the charcoal industry. Additionally, these briquettes have the potential to be successful in the market and provide revenue needed to complete Sanivation’s waste reuse business model.
Scaling Up the Biodiesel Project (3rd Place)
Team Members: Andrew Cho, Christiaan Khurana, Xingkai Li, Zhi Luo
School: 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 will be accomplished through recycling of waste cooking oil from local campus dining facilities. 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. The process involves filtering the recycled oil and producing a biodiesel product through a chemical reaction. The biodiesel product will then be stored and made ready for campus distribution.
m-Omulimisa SMS Services: Mobile Extension Officers in Uganda (3rd Place)
Team Members: Linlin Liang, Tian Cai
School: Michigan State University
With m-Omulimisa, farmers can use their phones to ask questions in languages that they understand and receive comprehendible feedback from extension officers in the region via text messages. Farmers have to register when they use the platform for the first time. To register, they input their district, sub-county, and full name. They also type in a language keyword to indicate which language they use. To ask a question, farmers begin a text message with their specified language keyword. Then, they type their questions in the text, and send them to 8228. Upon sending the query, the text messages are instantly delivered to a web-based platform. Registered extension officers then check and respond directly to the questions on the platform. The answers are then sent back instantly to the farmers’ phones.
Kids Write (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Sandra “Sora” Edwards-Thro, Nick Rance, Lydia Boike
School: College of William & Mary
Through Kids Write, Haitian students in grades 1 to 4 can grow their literacy skills by reading and writing in their mother-tongue language, Haitian Creole, for 30 to 45 minutes every day. Students use tablets to download and read books from a digital library, and to write their own books. Kids Write provides training and support to these students. The project also shares exemplary student work between schools. To increase access, Kids Write loans equipment to schools and offers them a one year trial to decide whether they want to continue with the program before they start paying for equipment. Parents at participating schools pay a small fee of $6.21 per year. A recent pilot of the program found that it increased reading scores by 0.8 standard deviations, or 10 correct words per minute.
Mama-OPE (Honorable Mention)
Team Members: Besufekad Shifferaw, Olivia Koburongo, Rodney Sekate, Angella Namwase, Brian Turyabagye
School: Makerere University
The information obtained from listening to lung sounds using a microphone is limited. In order to reveal lung capacity and identify the different fluids that may be in a patient’s lungs, Mama-OPE is building upon software developed to analyze data and aid in the diagnosis of lung diseases. Health workers demonstrated the need to know the severity of diseases using the same device. In a statement about the product, a health worker at Mulago hospital said, “One of the most important things I first find out about the pneumonia patient is if they need oxygen supplementation or not and it would be great if I [could] get that using your same device.”  Mama-OPE’s product will be able to detect oxygen  saturation in the blood based on calorimetric principle.

Top Teams Compete at Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day!

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Big Ideas competition, a record-shattering 266 applications were received. On April 27, 2016, after months of working to develop their ideas, six teams were selected to present at “Pitch Day” before a packed audience at Blum Hall.

By Sarah Bernardo

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Big Ideas competition, a record-shattering 266 applications were received. “The volume, creativity and overall quality of the proposals submitted to the contest this year was amazing — and certainly demonstrates the passion and commitment of students to making the world a better place,” said Phillip Denny, Director of the Big Ideas Contest.

Open Viral Load_Pitch Day_CaptionOn April 27, 2016, after months of working to develop their ideas, six teams were selected to present at “Pitch Day” before a packed audience at Blum Hall.  Judging the contest this year were former Big Ideas winners, Anand Kulkarni, Founder & President of LeadGenius and Nick Pearson, Founder and Executive Director of Jacaranda Health. Joining them were leaders from industry, academia and the non-profit world. These included: Jean Shia: Head of Operations, Autodesk Foundation, Paul Alivisatos: Vice Chancellor for Research, University of California, Berkeley and Senior Faculty Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Rebecca Hopkins: Deputy Director, Oakland Public Education Fund, David Phillips: Associate Vice President for Energy and Sustainability, University of California Office of the President, Jennifer Walske: Visiting Fellow at the Blum Center and Social Innovation Program Director & Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco; Danielle Cass: Tech Sector Liaison, US Global Development Lab at USAID, Sophi Martin: Director of Partnerships, Blum Center for Developing Economies, and Doug Parker: Director, California Institute for Water Resources, University of California Office of the President.

Judge Rebecca Hopkins explained the importance of supporting student ideas through Big Ideas.  “Young people are the most creative,” she said, “In the real world they tell you what you can’t do — but students think about what’s possible. They focus on what they can do.”

Despite some last minute jitters, all of the students found Pitch Day to be an incredible learning experience. Clarence Ford, a member of the FITE Film team who won first place in the Campus and Community Impact category, said, “the experience was nerve-wracking, and the three minutes were really short, but it was insightful to be able to hear the other pitches because it made me realize that the world is so big and that there are so many innovative ideas out there.”

During Pitch Day, students, faculty, and community members listened as each team gave a three minute presentation followed by a question and answer session with the judges. Each team explained the pressing social development challenge they were addressing, and included visual representations of apps, product samples, and long-term business models. The judges then asked the teams questions focused on their pilots, initial user response, sustainability, and implementation tactics.

Dost_Pitch Day_CaptionThe winning teams were stand-outs in their respective categories. Judge Doug Parker praised the Dost team for their work in developing a mobile platform for parent engagement in their children’s education.  Parker said, “The team was really down-on-the ground working directly in the communities they wanted to affect. Their project had long-term impacts for children which is important because you can really make a difference when you help individuals when they’re young.”

FITE_Pitch Day_CaptionJudge Jennifer Walske noted that the FITE Film team addressed an important population that is often neglected—incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Walske explained, “The team addressed a clear social problem that is underserved on so many different levels. There are many institutional obstacles for a project like this to get funding, so we (the judges) felt that it was important to give them a vote of endorsement because if we don’t, who will.”

Then asked why other students should apply to the Big Ideas contest, the students emphasized that the resources and mentorship provided by Big Ideas were all important to both their project and their long-term career aspirations. Skylar Economy, team lead of the FITE Film project, stated, “The constant deadlines of the program helped us keep a good pace. Most importantly, Big Ideas helped us believe in ourselves and allowed us to view our project as a possible reality rather than some abstract concept.” Devanshi Unakdat, member of the Dost team, added, “The Big Ideas program was a great way to put our idea into practice. The feedback provided by our mentors has been a useful tool. It gave us the momentum to really transform our idea.”

The Big Ideas contest is made possible by the generous support of the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation. We invite you to join us in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Big Ideas contest this Wednesday, May 4 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm in B100 Blum Hall! RSVP here to attend the event.

2016 Pitch Day Winners:
Campus and Community Impact
1st Place ($5,000): FITE Film (From Incarceration to Education) and Resource Connection (UC Berkeley) This project is focused on the production of a documentary film that will combat recidivism in the prison system by motivating currently incarcerated individuals to seek higher education and mentorship opportunities. The creation of a structured resource connection will provide assistance to incarcerated individuals seeking to attain higher education.
2nd Place ($3,000):  LiftEd (UC Berkeley) LiftEd is an iPad application that enables special education professionals to measure students’ academic & behavioral performance on individualized learning goals, analyze learning trends to modify instruction and intervention methods real-time, and ultimately share student progress with districts & parents on-demand.
3rd Place ($1,000): SafeSpace (UC Berkeley) – Poor mental health is a widespread issue plaguing college students across the country. SafeSpace is a website and mobile application for UC Berkeley undergraduates to comfortably share their similar mental health issues through an anonymous, peer-led chat.
Global Impact
1st Place ($5,000): Dost–A Mobile Platform to Promote Parent Engagement and Early Childhood Education (UC Berkeley) Dost will give low-income moms a leg-up on their child’s primary school readiness and amplify the impact of existing early childhood education programs. Through short, prerecorded voice messages delivered via a call to feature mobile phones, Dost offers moms a low-cost and highly scalable approach to access the knowledge they crave and unleash their child’s potential.
2nd Place ($3,000): Safi Organics (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)Safi Organics provides a carbon-negative soil conditioner for rural farmers who suffer from long-term crop loss due to soil degradation. Their product, Safi Sarvi, provides the essential nutrients and a biochar-based stabilizer that leads to a 30% increase in crop yield and 50% increase in income.
3rd Place ($1,000): Open Viral Load (UC San Diego) – The Open Viral Load project aims to develop an open-source, affordable genetic assay test for HIV that can be easily modified to test other pathogenic diseases, such as tuberculosis and the Zika virus.  This project will allow low resource communities to receive the regular testing they need in order to know the status of their viral disease or to quickly diagnose patients with other pathogenic illnesses.