Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Entrepreneurism & Leadership Programs Teams Advanced to USD Social Innovation Challenge Semi-Finals

Last month, 17 UC San Diego teams advanced to the semi-finals of the Social Innovation Challenge hosted by the University of San Diego Center for Peace and Commerce. We are proud to announce that six out of those 17 teams hail from the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Entrepreneurism and Leadership programs. Bystanders to Upstanders, CaroSoul, Fiji Kindergarten Project, One Village Philippines, VivaScope and Wastelights await the announcement of the teams to compete in the final round at the end of this week.

The Social Innovation Challenge aims to promote, guide and support student-driven ideas to launch or contribute to social enterprises, leveraging the university’s Center for Peace and Commerce as the initiative’s catalyst and mentor. The first USD Social Innovation Challenge was held in 2011 and had 16 submitted projects. This year, the SIC received project submissions from 100 student teams, and since their first challenge in 2011, the SIC has awarded over $150,000 in cash prizes to student projects that present novel, sustainable and effective solutions for social problems. The teams that make it to the third, final round will pitch their ideas in front of a live panel of experts.

Bystanders to Upstanders developed an application that aims to effectively engage people in communities and promote volunteer work through the power of social media and game design. In their Social Innovation project, the team wrote: “the ultimate goal is to lead our users toward a more socially conscious lifestyle.” Their application hopes to localize, personalize and gamify community service, allowing “local volunteer event planners who do not have the means necessary to raise awareness for their cause [by making] events with [their] platform and reach[ing] out to a larger community than they would be able to access by themselves.” Bystanders to Upstanders is a team at Mystartupxx, a UC San Diego accelerator supported by the von Liebig Entpreneurism Center and Rady School of Management to promote female entrepreneurship.

Another Mystartupxx team, CaroSoul is a sustainable wetsuit company with a focus on decreasing landfill neoprene wetsuit waste and creating quality women’s wetsuits. Founder and CEO Caroline McCandless is a Masters student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and has been surfing since she was seven years old. Her inspiration and drive for the project is drawn from her experience and love for the natural world, as a surfer and San Diego environmentalist. McCandless explained that “Neoprene is petroleum based synthetic material that is difficult to breakdown… when it goes into landfills, it says in landfills.” CaroSoul has established a wetsuit recycling campaign with six drop-off locations in San Diego and hopes to expand its operations.

Global TIES: Fiji Kindergarten Project works to create a kindergarten center in Taveuni, Fiji out of recycled shipping containers. Project lead Cathy Yu compares the costs a sustainable center versus a traditional one, explaining that “through the use of sustainable engineering, we are able to create a kindergarten center with a composting toilet, potable sink and rainwater harvesting catchment for less than $10,000, while a normal brick and mortar kindergarten center would cost an upwards of $25,000 electricity.” Yu reflected on how the Global Teams in Engineering Service program brought their team members together, stating that without the program, the group would not have been able to connect with their client in Fiji and mobilize students from all over the university to put their education to use through a tangible project.

One Village Philippines’s project is their solar powered street lamp, a vehicle for ending poverty in Philippine communities. The team has designed the street lamp to be affordable, sustainable and reproducible for the low-income communities in the Philippines that they serve. Project lead Minh Dao told us that the team work aims to provide an environmentally-friendly and affordable lighting system to low-income communities and foster entrepreneurship within the Philippines. One Village Philippines has had on-going projects with the Global TIES program for four years now, and Dao said "we were motivated to compete in the USD Social Innovation Challenge and other social innovation competitions alike by our TIES faculty advisor, Dr. Mandy Bratton and Undergraduate Advisor, Caitlyn Smith."

VivaScope is working towards expanding the availability of viral load testing in the developing world by providing a novel system that will dramatically reduce costs for tests. VivaScope’s project tackles the costs that prevent millions of people from receiving the care that they need. Project lead Kirk Hutchison explained that VivaScope reduces costs significantly from $10,000 per machine and $20 per test to $1000 per device and $5 per test. VivaScope is a partnership between Global TIES and Engineering World Health, a UC San Diego student organization. “We are all working on this project because we truly believe in the importance of our goals and our ability to make a positive difference in the world through the application of our engineering skills,” said Hutchison.

The Wastelights team aims to eliminate waste by converting it into a source of energy—making sewage into electricity and kitchen waste into biofuel and biochar. Wastelights, led by Joyce Sunday, hopes to create three different types of systems: small, medium and large for portable, home and power grid units. The team has already created a basic prototype and is supported by the Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. Wastelights has also completed the NSF I-Corps Program.

Congratulations to our teams on their accomplishments! We are so proud of their social innovation projects and we wish them luck in advancing to the finals!

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