President's Challenge 2015

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Announcing the 2015 President's Challenge Finalists

Ten student teams are finalists for the 2015 President’s Challenge, Harvard President Drew Faust announced Thursday. Now in its fourth year, the challenge gives students across Harvard the opportunity to refine their entrepreneurial ideas and develop them with the support of the University and the Harvard Innovation Lab.

“The President’s Challenge brings together talented people from across the University and supports their efforts to address the world’s most pressing challenges, embodying the spirit in which Harvard launched the i-lab more than three years ago,” said President Drew Faust. “It has been a pleasure to see firsthand the entrepreneurial and innovative work undertaken through the Challenge, and I am eager to learn more about this year’s finalist teams.”

This year’s Challenge included a new area of emphasis, Connected Cities. This new topic, in addition to Education Innovation, Affordable Health, Energy & Environment, and Economic Development & Sustainable Employment, highlight a spectrum of areas that require renewed ideas and creative solutions to address the need for high impact change.

More than 100 student teams applied for this year’s President’s Challenge. Industry experts that formed a committee of 71 judges, co-chaired by Provost Alan M. Garber and Professor Margo I. Seltzer from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, generously offered their expertise and feedback to the teams.

“It has been immensely rewarding watching the creativity and passion emerge from the teams participating in the challenge,” Professor Seltzer said.

This year’s finalist teams are:

Clear Breath – develops a low-cost pollution mask that can save millions of lives in polluted impoverished environments

Colterwell – develops a low cost downhole pumping solution for deliquification of mature natural gas wells

Labs on Wheels – combats the dearth in STEM and hands on learning education through a resource sharing platform

PolityPro – utilizes a crowdfunding platform that serves as the basis for a non-partisan, political consulting service

Porter’s Referral Center (PRC) – addressing information asymmetry in Nepal's trekking industry as it relates to recruitment practices for mountain porters

RapidSOS - commercializes a suite of advanced communication technologies to revolutionize emergency response and communication

RumiSpice - seeks to cultivate peace in Afghanistan through sustainable market-driven economic development in Afghan saffron

Safire - works with local farmers to make clean cooking fuel from organic waste

The Urban Farmers Project - harnesses the technology of aquaponics to bring sustainable food production, employment, and nutrition to the urban core

TetraScience – develops an Internet-of-Things platform for drug discovery

Over the next several weeks these 10 teams will work to further their entrepreneurial ideas. With the help of $5,000 in seed money, mentorship from i-lab and University alumni experts, and programming provided by the i-lab, these student led teams will be well-positioned to take their venture idea to the next level.

President Drew Faust will announce the grand prize winners on April 23rd at the President’s Challenge Demo Day. The grand prize winners will take home a share of the $100,000 award, and three runners’ up will also be named.

The President’s Challenge is one of five Challenges hosted at the i-lab. TheDeans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge,Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge,Deans’ Food System Challenge, and Deans’ Innovation in Sport Challenge are additional ways that the University helps to convene students around shared interest areas, and encourage students to apply classroom education to the world’s opportunities.

“At their core, the i-lab challenges are a great mechanism for these student teams to further refine their ideas and prepare themselves to put those ideas into action. I believe every team participating in the challenge has the opportunity to make an impact on the world around them,” said Gordon Jones, Managing Director of the i-lab. “And these finalists are shining examples of what Harvard students can do.”