At the Generator Dinner.

Last Wednesday we launched this year’s IDEAS Competition and the Global Challenge with a stellar gathering at the Generator Dinner here on campus. Over 100 people attended — students, alums, supporters, and community partners.

The conversation began with a panel on international development organized by our office mate Alison Hynd and Amy Smith with MIT’s D-Lab. Five organizations spoke on what they work towards on a daily basis and what are the key gaps that could benefit from attention and innovation of students. The five organizations:

Lars was live tweeting and caught the scope of challenges presented there.

And then came the pitches! The mic was opened to anyone who wanted to pitch their skills to get hired or pitch their idea to recruit their dream team. The pitches:

1. Team Name: Assistive Technology at MIT

Retro Microphone (vector)

Project: We are developing a universal access portable device for residents with Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis at the Leonard Florence Center for Living. This device will make it possible for residents who use wheelchairs and have limited fine motor skills to open doors, call elevators, and communicate with nurses and each other.

Recruiting Needs: students with an interest in assistive technology for
people with disabilities, product development, hardware and software design, open source, and technology commercialization

2. Team Name: WikiLCA

Project: The idea is a collaborative online tool that allows companies to perform what is called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or cradle-to-grave analysis of their products’ environmental impact.  With LCA, the two largest problems are data availability and data quality/consistency.  The collaborative wiki-style of the tool will allow the data grow over time (aiding the availability problem) as more users do assessments, and to self-correct over time as users dispute the values.  This will all be done using a clear and easy-to-use graphical interface.

Recruiting Needs: Skilled web and database programmer, business person, data collector, or life cycle analyst

3. Team Name: Smart Education (Smart Homework is a tool of the Smart Education platform)

Project: Technology education tools aimed at enhancing learning efficiency of students, teachers and schools.
All our products seek to:

  1. Produce instant feedback
  2. Provide individualized learning
  3. Improve performance
  4. Monitor results

Smart Homework (SHW): SHW is a unique tool which adapts the difficulty level of homework according to each student’s performance. The application applies small increases in the difficulty level so that students can cement new learning before going on to more challenging questions. I This process allows professors to monitor and create opportunities for performance improvement.

SHW provides a quick, on-demand method to help students improve their performance. If a student needs to study a specific topic more, the program not only reports the need for further study but also directs the user to videos of the concept (created also by the creator of the test) and solutions and then re-tests the student on that topic.

Recruiting Needs:
Developers to create a prototype.

4. Project: understanding foraging

Description: In Sao Paulo, most recyclables are collected by informal waste picker cooperatives. The city has understood the potential of their work and aims to integrate the “Catadores” tighter into the municipal waste system. Together with one of the cooperatives we will map and investigate how the pickers navigate through the city and how they organize their work. The goal of the project is to help the cooperative to further improve their collection system.

Recruitment needs:

  • communicative, open nature
  • interest in waste infrastructures and informal economies
  • interest in sensing technologies such as GPS logging
  • Portuguese speaking highly desired

5. Team Name: PoSAT Networks

Project: POS-AutoTeller (PoSAT) is a Point-of Sale terminal infrastructure that connects the unbanked  and underbanked in developing economies to financial services by providing a one-stop-automated tellering for account activation, cash deposits, withdrawals and transaction payments with the use of Bank Cards and deployed through trained Agents; typically owners of retail stores.

Recruiting Needs:

  • 1 person in the field of electrical engineering and computer science with knowledge in communication networks and software designs.
  • 1 person with background/knowledge in retail business and channel development

6. Team name: WaterWalla

Project: WaterWalla is a non-profit initiative focused on bringing clean water in a sustainable form to slums across the world by utilizing existing infrastructure coupled with a widespread educational campaign/profit incentive to create self-sustaining micro water enterprises in slums. WaterWalla’s initial pilot was in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India.

Recruiting needs:

  • Web Developer
  • Persons experienced in designing epidemiological/economic studies
  • Marketing experts
  • Open to anyone who feels like they can help with the work!

7. Team Name: Project BUILD

Project: 6 Million students in China cannot find jobs after they graduate each year.  So how can we solve this issue?  The idea is to combine resources from the top universities around the world, such as MIT, China, and Cambridge Universities, onto an online platform.  This online platform will be divided into three major areas: The first is Resources – anyone who does not know about entrepreneurship can access resources and learn.  The second is a network, which connects teams and potential team members with investors.  The third is a competition, where teams with a business plan can execute their projects.  We start from China and then scale internationally, to make entrepreneurship into something shared and global.

Recruiting Needs: Anyone interested in large-scale global impact who are very interested in (1) programming and web-development – to maintain the website, or (2) expand the impact of our project by reaching out and linking BUILD to programs around the world to create more entrepreneurial opportunities for our project’s users

8. Team name: SeaChange

Project: We’re a fair trade, organic company that rewards farmers for quality and diversity of produce, utilizes cellular and solar technologies to process and aggregate goods, and delivers fully traceable, healthy foods to customers.  With these tools, participating farmers can their own make smart, impactful, and transformative livelihood choices.

Recruiting needs:

  • Computer programmer familiar with SMS and database interaction systems.
  • Spanish speaker preferred
  • US market researcher
  • Solar engineer to research and eventually build portable fruit processing units

9. Team Name: Food by Solar

Summary: We are developing a low-cost solar powered drip irrigation kit that is coupled with a manually powered water pump using repurposed materials to serve rural communities in the developing world.

Recruiting Needs: Anybody interested in alternative energy solutions for sustainable growth in rural or isolated communities.

10. Team Name: Positive Tourism

Project: Building a software platform to bring tourism revenue from multinationals back to local producers in Mexico.

Recruiting Needs: We are looking for software developers to create the platform  and community outreach skills to find and develop local partnerships.

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* I’ll  update with links in the next week as teams start to fill out their profiles. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a team, sign up at the MIT Global Challenge. Or, if you pitched your skills, drop me a note with your profile link.

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