Social entrepreneurs envision a better world — one with accessible healthcare and education, clean water and medicine. They imagine communities empowered by circular economies and they understand technology as a tool for social good. They ask themselves difficult questions like: How can I make a more sustainable and equitable future? — and from there, plan cohesive and multifaceted solutions to pressing social issues.
Each year since its founding in 2005, Big Ideas is inspired by the passion and drive of the student entrepreneurs who ask these same questions, motivated to innovate for a better world around them.
On September 23, from 12:00-2:00 pm PST, seven finalist teams, hailing from Makerere University, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley, will present their innovations to a panel of esteemed judges for the title of the Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Winner and a prize of $10,000. (RSVP HERE!)
These finalists asked and are now answering important questions:
“After seeing how student teams persevered during this incredibly challenging year, I am confident -–now more than ever–- that this generation of problem solvers and inventors possess the curiosity, compassion, and commitment for the multi-pronged attacks needed to make this world a better place for all,” said Phillip Denny, Big Ideas Director, on the unique challenges posed to this year’s finalists due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2019-2020 finalists have pursued complex social issues, rising to the top of 1,200 student innovators who submitted their visions to the Big Ideas Contest in the fall, all while enduring the chaos of 2020 and adapting their social innovations to uncertain and changing environments. Scroll down to learn more about each finalist team:
AUTOMATED AMBU BAG SYSTEM
Designing Medical Technology within a Country’s and Hosipital’s Limited Capital
In low-resource settings, medical support is limited and advanced respiratory support systems are rare. In Uganda, there are only 55 ICU beds to support the country’s population of nearly 42 million. Motivated to find a medical solution to an issue that plagues low-resource hospitals, Peter Kavuma and his team of biomedical engineers developed a low-cost, easy-to-maintain ventilatory device called the Automated Ambu Bag System.
Understanding Insects as an Underutilized Tool for Sustainable Food Systems
In 2019, a team of UC Davis researchers and students, including PhD student Ferisca Putri, discovered an underutilized tool that could solve the growing threat to human food systems: insects. Putri and her team launched BioMilitus, a sustainable business that harvests black soldier fly larvae with food byproducts, and as a result creates a sustainable animal feed, a product that traditionally relies on unsustainable ingredients like soybean, corn, and fishmeal.
Blocking Manipulated Media Content Through Advanced Detection Algorithms
The first time Raymond Lee, a 2019 graduate of UC Berkeley’s Master of Information and Data Science, saw a Deepfake, a video in which a person in an existing video is replaced with someone else’s likeness, he was surprised at how real it seemed. Concerned about the injustice that could result from manipulated news media and social media content, Lee and his team launched FakeNet AI, a Deepfake detection technology.
Empowering Rural Farmers through Disease Detection Technology
When Richard Mushusha, a master’s student at Makerere University in Uganda, conducted a series of interviews with rural farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, he discovered a common demand: livestock farmers need a low-cost device that can track major animal disease outbreaks. Inspired to design a portable tool used by farmers to detect Foot and Mouth Disease in their cattle, Mushusha and his team launched FootMo Kit.
Tapping into the Ocean: Supplying Drinking Water to Remote Island Communities
Increasing pollution and growing populations limit water access for communities around the world. Disproportionately affected are remote island populations, often left without reliable water sources as irregular weather patterns become a reality. This is why Kelly Conway and her team committed themselves to developing a flexible, off-grid desalination technology that can allow people to tap into abundant water sources, like the oceans.
Transforming Science into Protein: Two UC Berkeley Students’ Mission to Revolutionize the Alternative Meat Industry
In 2019, Jessica Schwabach, a UC Berkeley undergraduate and Siwen Deng, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley’s PhD program in Plant and Microbial Biology, met in an Engineering Challenge Lab on alternative meats. After the class was over, they put their science backgrounds together and co-founded Sundial Foods, a sustainable business that approaches plant-based meat creation from a new angle.
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG
Challenging Stigma and Silence: How “When You Were Young” Empowers Voices of Color
When Tracey Quezada learned her own family member had been sexually assaulted by a family member, she was surprised by how little mainstream media covered child sexual abuse (CSA) for communities of color. She became motivated to address the ongoing trauma CSA has on families, communities and society as a whole, sparking her interest to direct the documentary film “When You Were Young”.