Winners of the 9th Annual MIT IDEAS Competition

Graduate students Aaron Zinman and Greg Elliott at the IDEAS Competition Project Display and Judging Session. Photo: Aditi Verma

Graduate students Aaron Zinman and Greg Elliott at the IDEAS Competition Project Display and Judging Session. Photo: Aditi Verma

The ninth annual MIT IDEAS Competition celebrated student achievement on Monday evening, May 3, at MIT’s Raymond and Maria Stata Center. Seven student teams received IDEAS awards to implement their projects over the next year. IDEAS — which stands for Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Action and Service — recognizes student teams that have developed outstanding projects that apply invention as a public service. Each award, funded by a corporate or individual sponsor, will enable a team to develop their prototype into a working solution in collaboration with community partners around the world.

The awards, presented by a selection of MIT staff and sponsors, went to the following teams:

Konbit was awarded the $8,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. Team members Greg Elliott and Aaron Zinman designed a service via phone, Short Message Service (SMS), and web that helps communities rebuild themselves after a crisis by indexing the skill sets of local residents, and allowing NGOs to find and employ them.

PerfectSight was awarded the $5,000 Award sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program. Team members Chika Ekeji, Margaret McKenna, Ankit Mohan, and Vitor Pamplona designed an innovative, mobile system for diagnosing refractive eye conditions for under $1 using cell phones.

Komera Komera was awarded the $5,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by Eberhard and Shahla Wunderlich. Team members Abdulaziz Albahar, Laura Aust, Kamyin Cheng, Amrita Saigal, Ariadne Smith, Katherine Smyth, and Zachary Rose worked closely with Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a 2008 IDEAS Competition award winning team. The team developed a method that uses locally available materials to make both the manufacturing process for sanitary pads as well as the pads themselves — made in part from banana tree pulp — in Rwanda. The Komera machine can be fabricated out of simple materials, and assembled at local workshops.

My City, My Future (ArteRio) was awarded the $3,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the Silicon Spice Founders Fund. Katarzyna Balug, Alix Beranger, and Andy Merki developed innovative ways to empower youth in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Through high resolution mapping tools coupled with a website, children of the favelas can envision an improved and officially recognized neighborhood.

DeNovoMeter was awarded the $3,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the Baruch family. Team members Paul Hlebowitsh, Priyanka Jain, Shichao Liang, Allen Lin, Deepali Ravel, and Yi Wang developed an optical glucometer paired with 2-cent paper test strips that provide a rapid, safe, and low-cost way for diabetics in resource poor settings to monitor their blood glucose levels.

The Grease Project was awarded the $3,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the Coop. Team members Ana Bonomi, Sara Barnowski, Hossam El-Asrag, Samantha Fox, Angela Hojnacki, and Ana Luisa Santos addressed solutions to provide a better livelihood for Catadores (wastepickers) who collect waste vegetable oil in Brazil. With a network of partners, the team designed an inexpensive, low-tech conversion method that allows diesel vehicles to run on waste vegetable oil and married the technology with training workshops and a novel dissemination plan.

PieceMeal Vendors was awarded the $1,000 Community Choice Award. Kim Liao, Katy Olesnavage, Ashis Shrestha, and Liz Theurer designed hygienic, stable, and affordable street vendor carts that can improve street vendors’ lives in developing countries. The cart features a modular design with add-ons like solar power, water filtration system, and awnings.

In addition to the award sponsors, the IDEAS Competition receives vital funding and support from many individual donors.

Article written by Camilla Brinkman. Photo caption courtesy of MIT News Office.

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