Three innovative ideas to address the country’s toughest challenges
Three student teams tackled critical issues as part of the MSNBC Growing Hope Challenge and discovered ways to make the world a better place.
Solving our world’s biggest challenges is tough work – sometimes it’s hard to even know where to start. The issues seem so daunting that we don’t think about them on a daily basis. Not today. Here, we’re showcasing three ideas from students who decided to sit down, hash out their ideas, and come up with solutions for meaningful change.
Through the MSNBC and Net Impact Growing Hope Challenge, American undergraduate and graduate students were asked to create innovative solutions to three important issues: increasing access to renewable energy, using technology to fight hunger and malnourishment, and increasing opportunities for women and girls in the STEM fields.
The winning teams had inspiring ideas to share.
Team Hy (Pi* tia): Baruch College, New York
The challenge: Increase opportunities for women and girls in the STEM fields.
The idea: Hy(pi*tia) is an online game in which girls take on the persona of famous women in STEM careers and solve their challenges, helping to spark their creativity and showing them how crucial STEM skills can be used in a wide variety of appealing jobs.
Team Hy(pi*tia), whose name is a play on mathematical coefficients and the famous Greek female mathematician Hypatia, says their solution required a lot of research. “We surveyed female friends and family members in the science and engineering careers,” the team says.
“We asked two main questions—what made you pursue your major and what do you think could be done to create more interest in STEM. The replies had one common idea – target girls at a younger age. We decided that a game would be the best medium to really captivate young girls by creating a fun, educational, and motivating experience.”
Team FreshSpire: University of North Carolina, East Carolina State, North Carolina State University, University of Pennsylvania
The challenge: Use technology to fight hunger and malnourishment.
The idea: FreshSpire is a mobile app that alerts consumers when grocers discount fresh produce they are about to discard, making it easier for low-income communities to access nutritious foods at low prices.
Team FreshSpire, made up of five current college freshmen, created this idea when they were all in high school. They say they “brainstormed a lot of different sustainable solution ideas (in areas like water filters, clean energy, air pollution, and more) before getting to what is now FreshSpire.” Their biggest inspiration was each other. “We work really well together, and the idea was truly a result of our collaboration. We were also in a really supportive environment for innovation, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which helped encourage us and lead us to new opportunities,” the team says.
Now in the process of app development, Team FreshSpire is well on their way to creating an impact in their community--one grocery store at a time.
Team ChargeRage: University of California, Santa Barbara
The challenge: Increase access to renewable energy.
The idea: ChargeRage will bundle parking, charging, and access to guaranteed renewable energy in urban areas in order to encourage wider use of environmentally friendly vehicles, while also making sure the vehicles are powered by renewable energy sources and not a dirty grid.
Determined to tackle the issue of climate change, Team ChargeRage focused their efforts on solving the issue of “range anxiety” for Electric Vehicle (EV) owners. “We all feel strongly that climate change is the most pressing issue of our generation,” the team says. “We’re dedicated to creating solutions to address climate change through the reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.”
Their team first met in an Introduction to Eco-Entrepreneurship course last year and report that they’re all “passionate about creating market-based solutions to tackle climate change and see huge opportunity for EVs, if the inconveniences of EV charging can be overcome.”
All three teams will be heading to Seattle this fall for the annual Net Impact Conference, where they’ll participate in a VIP meet and greet session with conference keynote speakers. They’ll also talk to industry leaders about their ideas and ways to put them into motion.
Thanks to these three teams of innovative students, confronting America’s toughest challenges doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.