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2019 Ideas to Serve Winners Focus on Healthcare Workers in India and Off-Grid Agriculture Practices

Ideas to Serve Participants

Ideas to Serve Participants

written by Anne Lynch

Georgia Tech, known for producing concrete results, nurtures a culture of innovation and technological breakthroughs. With so many competing demands, students push to complete task after task under a heightened time constraint and strive to have intelligent, creative, correct answers. Until this year, the Ideas to Serve Competition aligned with every other solution-based competition on campus. However, this year’s competition focused on showcasing the unknown, the problem, or the path to understanding the problem, as a prerequisite to introducing any solution.

Now with two competition tracks, the Problem Discovery Track and the Solutions Track, Ideas to Serve was more closely mirroring industry. Judge Jessica White, Senior Vice President of Good Measure Meals writes, “Proud of my alma mater for hosting such an impactful and inspiring competition! I truly love speaking with all of these future leaders and am blown away by what they are able to dream up.”

For ten years now, Scheller College’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE) has facilitated the Ideas to Serve Competition to promote solving social and environmental issues with the hopes that they might ignite a passion that lasts beyond the competition and most importantly beyond graduation. ILE Assistant Director Dόri Pap says, “On average about one project a year makes a go of it for the long run. This year we had two previous winners return as judges.” Jasmine Burton of Wish4Wash and Shannon Evanchec of TruePani both continue to pursue their projects and spoke to the audience about their unique journey and less typical career path compared to their Tech counterparts.

Over the academic year leading up to the competition, Dόri Pap partnered with the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, and Susan Davis, Global Coordinator at Agenda for Change, to turn Ideas to Serve on its head and challenge the Georgia Tech culture of always knowing, always “Creating the Next.” April 11, 2019, was the culmination of their academic experiment and the shift opened up a world of possibilities at this year’s Ideas to Serve Finals.

Undergraduate participant and IE student, Morgan Knowlton, said, “I really like that this competition places such an emphasis on in-depth problem exploration. I hope that this competition grows so that more students can receive this critical training.” Her entry explored LaAmistad, a Latino afterschool program, and why their students struggle with attendance.

Dr. Michael Smith, Sr. Lecturer at Scheller College of Business, said, “Humility. It starts with accepting that you have a lot to learn.” He added, “I’m going to start using the Impact Gaps Canvas in my classroom for MGT 4052 Analysis & Design.” This framework by Systems-led Leadership’s Daniela Papi-Thornton sets students on an in-depth discovery track that gives them permission not to solve the problem but identify the gaps in the problem’s ecosystem.

The Problem Discovery Track winners, in order from first to third place, were Chitra, OASIS, and Code Red. Chitra focused on improving data collection and infrastructure in India’s healthcare system, OASIS (Opportunities for Accessible Sustenance through Integrated Solutions) explored the issue of food insecurity in minority communities around metro Atlanta, and Code Red identified the stigma associated with menstruation in India and looked to expand awareness and education around the topic. 

Problem Discover Chitra presented by Judge Susan Davis
Problem Discovery Winner Chitra presented by Susan Davis

 Quinetha Frasier, Senior Program Director for Impact and Sustainability at Network for Good, judged this year’s Finals along with 22 industry leaders from across Atlanta. After hearing pitches from a subset of 18 finalists, she said, “It’s inspiring. I’m encouraged because the social innovators at Georgia Tech are taking seriously how to ground the solution.” She added, “The solutions are not pie in the sky, they are practical, and tied to well-designed models to address actual community needs.”

Speaking of solutions, Abigail Cohen of Cultúrea, a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering took home the First Place award in the Solutions Track. Her well-established project empowers small-holder farmers to “grow off grid.” Cohen, whose USDA grant-funded research focuses on merging urban wastewater treatment with agtech, also won Best Poster for her succinct ability to tell her story visually. The Runner-up project in the Solutions Track, Cheers, looked at the role technology could have in helping Georgia Tech students develop and maintain meaningful relationships. 

Solutions Winner Culturea presented by Judge Kathleen Kurre
Solution Winner Culterea presented by Kathleen Kurre

Before leaving the event, Cohen and Judge Kathleen Kurre, Director of Programs at digitalundivided, exchanged contact information to stay connected. Cohen wasn’t the only one pocketing cards, and the Cheers team wasn’t the only one that understood the value of relationships: finding ways to stay in touch was a common discussion between the judges and participants throughout the evening. And as Dόri Pap announced at the event’s closure, “The prize money won’t last forever, but the connections you make tonight can. Ask questions and ask for help. We’re all here to support you.”

 2019 Ideas to Serve Prize Winners

 Problem Discovery Track, First Place - $3,000 Chitra

Azra Ismail, Ph.D. (Human-Centered Computing)

 Problem Discovery Track, Second Place - $1,500 OASIS (Opportunities for Accessible Sustenance through Integrated Solutions)

Julian Acosta, Undergraduate (Chemical Engineering) 

Mia Floyd, Undergraduate (International Affairs)           

Carrie Wehmeyer, Undergraduate (Mechanical Engineering)

 Problem Discovery Track, Third Place - $1,000 Code Red

Emily Finger, Undergraduate (International Affairs)

Elianna Paljug, Undergraduate (Biomedical Engineering)

 Solutions Discovery Track, Winner - $3,000 Cultúrea

Abi Rae Cohen, Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering)

Amanda Lai, Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering)

 Solutions Discovery Track, Runner-up - $1,500 Cheers

Braxton Madison, Undergraduate (Computer Science)

Jesse Wu, Graduate (Human-Computer Interaction)

People’s Choice Award - $500 Sustainability Clock

Leo Chen, Undergraduate (Computer Science)

Kian Halim, Undergraduate (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)

Hayden McLeod, Recent Alumni (Business Administration)

Gigi Pavur, Undergraduate (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)

 Best Video Award - $500 Educating Women Changes the World

Mason Pisciotta, Undergraduate (Business Administration)

Best Poster Award - $500 Cultúrea

Abi Rae Cohen, Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering)

Amanda Lai, Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering)

 Scheller MBA Award - $500 Manewr

Zoie Konneker, Undergraduate (Literature, Media, and Communication)

Taylor Reitano, Undergraduate (International Affairs)

Ideas to Serve is made possible through the generous support of Georgia Tech and Community Partners, including: The Cecil B. Day Program for Business Ethics (sponsoring the awards in each track), the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, Denning Technology & Management Program, the Innovation and Design Collaborative, LEAD Program, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, and Speechworks.


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