• The 6Dot Braille Labeler, a portable, electronic labelmaker for the visually impaired, which was a 2009 IDEAS Competition winner.

    Photo: Karina Pikhart

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  • First-Step Coral, a system for replenishing coral reefs using solar, wind and tidal energy to speed up the electrochemical Biorock™ process.

    Photo courtesy of First-Step Coral

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  • The uBox, a smart pillbox that helps patients adhere to the difficult six-month regimen of tuberculosis medication.

    Photo courtesy of uBox

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  • Ghonsla, an affordable insulation made from agricultural and urban waste.

    Photo courtesy of Ghonsla

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  • SolSource 3-in-1, a lightweight and portable solar energy device for cooking, heating and electricity.

    Photo: Scot Frank

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  • Green Grease, a method for utilizing waste vegetable oil as fuel in Sao Paulo waste picker cooperatives.

    Photo courtesy of Green Grease

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  • PerfectSight, an inexpensive mobile system for diagnosing refractive eye conditions for under $1 using cell phones.

    Photo: Andy Ryan

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Coming soon: The MIT Global Challenge

For 10 years, student innovators have helped underserved communities through the IDEAS Competition. Soon, the global MIT community can join the effort.


Ten years ago, the MIT Public Service Center and the Edgerton Center jointly created the IDEAS Competition to support student-led invention and entrepreneurship as public service. Since then, IDEAS — which stands for Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Action and Service — has enabled teams to work in partnership with communities in 26 countries implementing solutions to quality-of-life issues such as access to education, access to medicine and access to safe water.

In response to growing student interest in social entrepreneurship and international development activities, and as a key part of MIT’s celebration of 150 years of service to the world, IDEAS will expand its scope online through the MIT Global Challenge. By leveraging a robust online platform and social-networking tools, the MIT Global Challenge will match the passion and talent of students with the experience and resources of MIT alumni to augment students’ efforts in devising solutions for those who need them the most.

Through the IDEAS competition, MIT students often work with students from other universities — 1,300 people have participated so far — partnering with communities around the world to develop and implement their ideas.

“Through the IDEAS competition, I learned a lot about what it takes to turn an engineered project into a product that you can market and sell to people, and ultimately make a difference in peoples' lives,” said Karina Pikhart, of the 2009 IDEAS-winning team 6Dot Braille Labeler. “You can be a team of incredible engineers, and make prototype after prototype until you have a robust and elegant device, but another level of learning needs to happen to turn that one perfect prototype into 10,000, 100,000 or 1,000,000 devices with a market, a corporate structure, and goals and plans that are driving future development.” The 6Dot Braille Labeler, a portable electronic labelmaker for the visually impaired, originated in MIT Professor David Wallace’s 2.009 Product Engineering Processes class. The team is currently working to advance their prototype.

Augmenting students efforts with the experience and resources of MIT alumni

The MIT Global Challenge is presented by the MIT Public Service Center, in partnership with MIT150 and the MIT Alumni Association. The MIT Global Challenge is supported by MIT150, the Legatum Center at MIT, the Lemelson-MIT Program, Monster Worldwide, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, the SEVEN Fund, and many generous individual donors.

With $150,000 in awards to mark the occasion, IDEAS and the MIT Global Challenge will provide up to $25,000 in implementation awards to teams that demonstrate the greatest innovation, feasibility, and potential for impact.

This year, with the celebration of 10 years of the IDEAS Competition and with the launch of the MIT Global Challenge, more than 30 teams are anticipated to enter, putting their knowledge to work challenging barriers to well-being around the world.

Stay tuned for the launch on Jan. 7 of http://globalchallenge.mit.edu.


Topics: Alumni/ae, Global Education and Career Development, IDEAS competition, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), MIT150, Public service, Students, Entrepreneurship

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