Published December 13, 2018
Collectively, it’s called “Hacking Our World.” Individually, each of the three competitions UB Sustainability is bringing to campus this academic year will offer students the chance to take on some of the region’s and the world’s most pressing problems.
All three have taken place at the university previously, but never in the same academic year. This year, however, the World’s Challenge Challenge, Erie Hack and Transforming Our Tomorrow: A New Clean Energy Vision beckon students’ best ideas, all for the chance to win prize money ranging from $3,000 to $50,000.
“Using both the Sustainable Development Goals and the triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability as lenses, these three competitions provide a way for students to show off creativity and ingenuity in their work in sustainability, and potentially be rewarded for it,” says Derek Nichols, UB Sustainability engagement coordinator. “They promote collaboration across disciplines, which is not always an easy thing to do at our large campus, and lead to well-thought-out, revolutionary projects.”
The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is assisting with funding for the competitions.
Organized locally by Blackstone LaunchPad, International Education and UB Sustainability, the World’s Challenge Challenge calls on students to address a global issue.
In teams of three, students from diverse backgrounds will choose one idea and relate it to one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the global community. The competition, organized by Western University in London, Ontario, gives students a chance to gain real-world experience through social innovation and entrepreneurship.
Student teams interested in participating are asked to submit a short video presentation by Feb. 8. The UB competition will take place April 2, with the winning group taking home $3,000. The UB winner will also advance to the World’s Challenge Challenge finals at Western University in June, where $30,000 Canadian will be awarded to the gold medalist.
First held two years ago, Erie Hack is returning for spring 2019. Erie Hack is an innovation challenge that accelerates technology solutions to Lake Erie’s most significant problems. Student teams can compete for more than $100,000 in prizes.
The Cleveland Water Alliance launched Erie Hack in 2017. The program generated more than 40 innovative solutions to water challenges and engaged 100-plus partner organizations as it put the region’s best minds to work for our most precious resource. UB fared particularly well. The ExtremeComms Lab team from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences won second place in the finals, while a Nichols School senior won the high school division.
Working from challenge statements derived from ideation sessions with NASA representatives and regional stakeholders, teams are charged with creating innovative digital tools, hardware innovations and engineering solutions that build “the Blue Economy,” the emergent economic sector dedicated to the sustainable stewardship of bodies of freshwater around the globe.
Erie Hack 2.0 will kick off in January and culminate on June 20, near the 50th anniversary of the burning of the Cuyahoga River, which caught fire June 22, 1969, when sparks from a passing train ignited oil-slicked debris that had collected on the river.
The local part of the competition kicks off Feb. 19 with Buffalo hacking day. UB will host the Buffalo quarterfinals April 19, with the winners advancing to the June 6 semifinals in Detroit. The finals will be held in conjunction with an Innovation Summit in Cleveland June 20.
UB Sustainability is searching for students from across New York State to present their revolutionary clean-energy ideas. Students that have completed a project or program, or have an idea for a new policy or invention can apply to win a cash prize at the Transforming our Tomorrow: A New Clean Energy Vision pitch competition.
Participants will have five minutes to showcase their work, either in teams or individually, in front of a panel of judges April 30 at UB, with the chance to win $1,000 to $3,000.
One project will be awarded a bonus prize of $200 for its consideration on the social impacts of clean energy.
A one-to-two-minute video application is due Feb. 8.
Last year, five teams — three from UB and one each from Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University — shared their innovations. Funding for this competition comes from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority’s REV Campus Challenge. More information on the competition is available on the UB Sustainability website, along with a recap of last year’s event.