ASU students awarded seed money for innovative ventures

April 21, 2014

Arizona State University students with a passion for innovation received a total of $40,000 at the fourth annual ASU Innovation Challenge awards ceremony April 17.

The ceremony featured keynote speaker Rebecca Garcia, co-founder of CoderDojo NYC, a nonprofit movement to help youth learn how to code. A social entrepreneur whose goal is to bring STEM education to underrepresented groups, Garcia received the 2013 U.S. White House "Champion of Change" award for Tech Inclusion. ASU students accepting $10,000 check at Innovation Challenge awards Download Full Image

"ASU's commitment to social entrepreneurship and fostering innovation is unprecedented," said Garcia. "I was so inspired and humbled by the amazing work that teams have collaborated on for the Innovation Challenge."

The ASU Innovation Challenge provides an opportunity for students from across the university to create products and services that address some of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Eleven finalist teams received $1,500-$10,000.

This year’s $10,000 grand prize winner is Philyra Paper Company, which aims to divert organic palm tree waste from landfills in Phoenix and other U.S. municipalities by converting it into a high quality paper and packaging substitute. Led by Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering graduate students David Anaya and Sam Johnson, the venture has already been adopted by the City of Phoenix in their waste diversion goals, and currently supports small businesses impacting 1.4 million Phoenix residents.

Team lead David Anaya is optimistic about the future of his venture.

"Since the announcement at the awards ceremony, I've done nothing but think about the future," said Anaya. "It's now time to work even harder and put in longer hours to truly make this a success."

The 10 remaining finalists, awards and start-up projects are:

Growth Alternatives in Action - $7,500
Growth Alternatives in Action focuses on creating long-lasting partnerships with communities in developing countries to help rural farmers implement sustainable agricultural methods.

Force Impact Technologies - $7,500
Force Impact Technologies creates a mouthguard that visually displays the force of an impact caused by athletic injuries. Using technology, the product displays a color correlated to the probability that the individual suffered a concussion based on impact.

Devils Connect - $2,500
Devils Connect is an academic website built by ASU students for Sun Devils to help collaborate with fellow classmates. This site forms a personalized study group based on student classes and location.

VeriFarm - $2,500
VeriFarm is a web and mobile platform that provides small farms with increased market and distribution opportunities by empowering them to more easily meet food safety regulations.

HEROES For Students- $2,500
HEROES For Students exposes students to community role models with diverse experiences, knowledge and skills who will help them apply real world application to the classroom, and empower them to set and reach short- and long-term goals.

Creative Giving - $1,500
Creative Giving aims to change the charity financial model by contributing financial support without requiring financial means. Creative Giving allows supporters of a cause to convert daily activities into contributions for the charity of their choice.

GreenLight Solutions - $1,500
GreenLight Solutions enables sustainability-minded students to utilize their knowledge through experiential learning to help organizations in need of innovative, cost-effective strategies to embrace sustainability.

PHX Pack Co. - $1,500
PHX Pack Co. offers paid internships to young people who are out of school and out of work. Interns engage in rigorous GED prep services, professional development and community engagement experiences. Services are supported by the sale of a socially conscious, high quality backpack made in Phoenix.

The Three Sisters - $1,500
The Three Sisters is an ecologically-minded program centered on sustainable gardening, a healthy lifestyle and holistic treatment and support to help women successfully transition into their communities following incarceration.

TriChange - $1,500
TriChange allows people to create and track small, daily personal goals online while also pledging 10 cents to benefit a global charity of their choice upon completion of their goal.

ASU Innovation Challenge is a signature program of Changemaker Central at ASU, and is sponsored by Perkins Coie, Follet, Sun Devil Bookstore, DPR Construction, Conservice and ZIVELO. Prizes are used to advance the students’ innovation endeavors.

ASU undergrads advocate for international family planning on Capitol Hill

April 21, 2014

Earlier this month, a group of Arizona State University undergraduate students traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of Capitol Hill Days. Sponsored by Population Connection, the event brought together students to learn about and lobby for international family planning in our nation’s seat of political power.

Participants from across the country attended lectures and workshops led by public health workers, professional lobbyists and leaders of aid organizations. They then prepared presentations for their senators and representatives on pieces of legislation they wanted them to support. The event culminated in the students visiting and lobbying their legislators’ aides. Arizona State University students at Capitol Hill Days Download Full Image

“Capitol Hill Days is a unique and important opportunity for activists as the largest advocacy conference of its kind,” explains Rebecca Harrington, Population Connection’s national field director. “We were delighted to have a vibrant, engaged group of ASU students join us for this year’s event, and to meet with Arizona Senators and Congressmen and women to advocate for greater access to reproductive health care for women around the globe.”

The ASU contingent represented a wide range of majors, from communications to biomedical engineering, but most are pursuing global health degrees in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jose “Pete” Galvan, Lillia Mrza and Amran Ahmed are three of the 12 global health majors who attended.

Mrza says the event was one of the best experiences she has had since coming to ASU.

“It was amazing to know that I was finally making an impact as a global health student by advocating for women’s health rights and international family planning,” she says.

For Ahmed, Capitol Hill Days carried a deep meaning. “Personally, I benefited from this conference because I was born in Somalia, a country that overlooks the importance of sex education and preventive measures, such as family planning.”

Calling the experience “awesome,” Ahmed was particularly impressed by the opportunity to network with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ken Weiss and countless students from other universities.

Galvan, who is double majoring in global health and justice studies, found a lot of food for thought during his time in Washington, D.C. With an interest in health and all its aspects, from health care systems to international aid, he is particularly focused on minority health issues, women’s health and health legislation. Capitol Hill Days seemed custom made for him.

“Being able to learn about and represent the ideas behind global health – in D.C., much less – was a great experience,” he says. “It was exciting to discuss issues with aides from our various representatives’ offices, especially when they were able to offer perspectives on what the representatives were leaning toward and what the environment is like inside the Senate and the House.”

That insight opened Galvan’s eyes to the complexity of politics behind certain pieces of health legislation and the challenges that differing opinions can create. But, he says, it also illuminated the fact that the United States holds great power to influence domestic and international change, and that people from all walks of life can play a part in that change.

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change