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Undergraduate Innovation at Berkeley 2015 Reinvention Center Conference Catherine P. Koshland Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, UC Berkeley

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Undergraduate Innovationat Berkeley2015 Reinvention Center Conference

Catherine P. KoshlandVice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, UC Berkeley1Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Entrepreneurship and Innovation are fostered across Berkeley and the UC System through a number of programs and projects. At the center of this map is the Big Ideas contest.2Annual competition that provides funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students with Big Ideas.

Encourages students to think creatively, rigorously & independently about how to apply classroom learning to their own individual passions

Seeds the energy and innovation that results when students from various disciplines and departments come together

Gives students more autonomy earlier in their career a scaffolding of project management, entrepreneurship and leadership support

Serves as a replicable model for tapping the creativity and energy of students to address the challenges of the 21st century

From the programs web site: bigideas.berkeley.edu

The program includes 9 months of mentorship, advisory hours, editing blitzes, information sessions, writing workshops, judging feedback (one round of judging to get into the program, one round after months of work to determine winners). The visual timeline is posted on the slide.

3Initially administered as an award-only program, roughly 65% of submissions came from teams of graduate students from the business and engineering schoolsareas that are generally considered entrepreneurship centers. In 2009, the program was moved to the Blum Center for Developing Economies with the following intentions/actions: Make the program more accessible to students from all disciplines. Emphasize a multidisciplinary team approachBroaden category descriptions Broaden outreach efforts to attract a diverse set of studentsMake the program more accessible to undergraduate students.Increase marketing efforts to raise awareness about the program for lower-level studentsProvide an ecosystem of resources to assist and encourage students as they develop their ideas.Incorporate mentorship, workshop, and networking activitiesIn the most recent competition, 65% of submissions came from undergraduates in 9 Topical Areas. The award aspect of the program is no longer the incentive, but the bonus after 9 months of concentrated effort which helps to launch the Big Idea into the next phase of development.

Make the program more accessible to students from all disciplines. Surveys indicated that students from all disciplines were equally interested in participating in student innovation competitions.

Make the program more accessible to undergraduate students. Although 80% of first and second-year undergraduates indicated they were interested in participating in an idea contest, only 30% had heard of Big Ideas.

Provide an ecosystem of resources to assist and encourage students as they develop their ideas. Although 72% of students surveyed said they would be interested in participating in a business plan or idea contest, less than 10% had actually done so. The development of the support ecosystem and mentorship aspect of the competition helped to level the playing field between undergraduate and graduate student applicants. 4Big Ideas: Project Profiles & CategoriesBCAPI (2015) all undergraduate interdisciplinary team won Information Technology for SocietyBack to the Roots (2011) undergraduate team won Scaling UpNext Drop (2010) interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students won Scaling UpWe Care Solar (2008) Led by MPH student, interdisciplinary team for Technology for Social Good


An interdisciplinary team with backgrounds in software engineering, cognitive neuroscience, signal processing, machine learning, and business developed an idea to leverage emerging technologies to improve systems for people with disabilities. Their Big Idea uses a brain-computer application program interface (BCAPI) to deliver commands to a motorized wheelchair.

This team of undergraduates won the 2015 competition in the Information Technology for Society category of the contest. The team outfitted a helmet with electrodes that combine electroencephalography and computer algorithms that connects to a laptop on the wheelchair. The wearer of the helmet uses his thoughts to interact with the computer and command his wheelchair to move.

One team member has a brother who is visually-impaired and has cerebral palsy. They are 2 of four children raised by a single father in Los Gatos. The brothers had previously consulted with tech firms to improve technology for people with disabilities.One team member won CalHacks in 2014 for building a flying drone that could be maneuvered by neurological signals. (Project MindDrone)Two team members met in a class focused on rapid prototyping at the CITRIS Invention Lab then brought in colleagues from other areas of campus to help develop the project.

6Back to the RootsThese 2011 Big Ideas winners were on their way into corporate careers in investment banking and consulting when they got their Big Idea: to turn coffee groundsone of Americas largest urban waste streams into mushroom farms.

Today, the company has an expanded product line available in major retail outlets across the country.

This story is about the impact of this small award on the trajectory of the individualthese two were headed into corporate careers and became entrepreneurs after having their ideas validated in this process. The program provided lessons on measured risk-taking that validated these individuals passions and ideas.

Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez were inspired in their senior year as undergraduates to grow mushrooms in a fraternity house when a business ethics professor made passing mention that spent coffee grounds could be used in this way. The two entrepreneurs developed this idea into a business that turns waste into wages and sustainable food systems.

Aroras interest in sustainability and job creation led him to spend 6 months in Ghana as an undergraduate student, implementing a profitable recycling program at the 30,000+ student University of Ghana campus.

Velez, who was born in Colombia, was raised by a single mother who came to this country with the money in her pocket and two boys to raise. He is a cancer survivor and donates 11 percent of the companys proceeds to the Livestrong Foundation. While a student, he cofounded of the SAGE mentorship program, a program that creates mentorship pairings for UC Berkeley mentors and low-income students in the Berkeley and Oakland areas.

The company has a Grow One, Give One model and allows consumers who purchase a product to designate a school to receive a product in return.7NextDrop

In almost every city in South Asia, residents have access to mobile phones but not to water. The taps work intermittently and must be monitored for collection. This results in wasted time: missed work, events, and school.

2010 Big Idea winner uses simple technology and mobile phones to alert residents when water is available in their neighborhood. In addition to the impact on residents, the system delivers data on reservoir levels to help utilities to improve distribution decisions.

The NextDrop project came out of another Big Ideas project. When students working on the hand-washing for health project in the Hubli-Dharwad region of Karnataka, she realized that most of her time was spent waiting for water, instead of analyzing the water samples.

The project team included:Thejovarhana Kote, Masters in Information Science, BerkeleyEmily Krumpel, PhD Civil and Environmental Engineering, (M.S. Civil Systems, CEE), BerkeleyAri Olmos, MPP, BerkeleyAnu Sridharan, BS, Civil Engineering, MS, Civil Systems Engineering, Berkeley; Regents and Chancellors Scholarship8We Care SolarLaura Satchel, a gynecologist and public health graduate student, won an honorable mention from Big Ideas that catapulted her into nonprofit work that provides portable, solar-powered suitcases for use in maternity hospitals, health clinics, and emergency situations. Stachel has been named a CNN Top 10 Hero and a UN Global Citizen, and her organizations Solar Suitcases have been distributed to more than 30 developing countries.

Laura Stachel never meant to be a social innovator. She never imagined working in developing countries. And if you told her 10 years ago, that she and her husband, Hal Aronson, would come to focus on energy poverty in healthcareand that they would deliver their 1000thSolar Suitcase to provide electricity to health clinics trying to recover from the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, she would have looked at you with undisguised amusement.But this, in an overly simplified way, is what has happened to Stachel.

In 2008, after a back injury ended her career as an obstetrician, she enrolled at University of California, Berkeley, to earn a masters degree in public health. An invitation to observe the maternity ward at a state hospital in northern Nigeria came from Daniel Perlman, a medical anthropologist at the universitysBixby Center for Population, Health & Sustainability. Stachel leapt at the chance to connect her expertise in maternal health to her current studies, and headed to Abuja. Struck by the grim conditions, she recognized that the frequent power outages created an immense barrier to care and meant that emergency patient care was delayed, disrupted, or just impossible.

She described the desperate hospital conditions in an email to her husband. Aronson, who taught solar energy technology in California, decided the sun could provide electricity to the hospital during outages. And when Stachel returned, they embarked on what could become a lifelong journey to provide portable solar energy solutions to places like the state hospital in Zaria, Nigeria.

Stachel credits UC Berkeley and theBlum Center for Developing Economiesas among the main forces that enabled her and Aronson to pursue their ideas and then implement them. This project has always been part of the university, she said on a typically busy morning of staff, student interns, and masses of email in her Blum Center office. Weve been able to tap into the universitys amazing human resourcesfaculty advisers in the School of Public Health,the School of Engineering,Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory,Haas School of Business, and students from across campus. I would never even have been put into a position to see the problems I saw without having the university context of people doing research in Nigeria and exploring maternal mortality through hospital ethnography.

The Blum Center has provided crucial support from the beginning. When Stachel returned home from Nigeria in April 2008, Aronson worked with her to sketch a design for a stand-alone solar electric system for the Nigerian hospitals maternity ward, labor and operating rooms, and lab. The problem was how to pay for it. Stachel noticed that the campus-wide innovation contestBig Ideas @ Berkeley, now run by the Blum Center, was advertising a $12,500 prize for a social good technology. But the deadline was less than two weeks away.

Stachel, Aronson, and two students from theSchool of Informationand theEnergy & Resources Group, Melissa Ho and Christain Casillas, applied anyway and won a $1,000 honorable mention, not enough to fund the project. Then, a few hours after the winners were announced, Thomas Kalil, a university technology policy advisor who had created Big Ideas, called. You should have won, he said. How much do you need? Three weeks later, Kalil secured more funding through the Blum Center, whose mission is to alleviate global poverty through education and innovation.

The first year ofWe Care Solar, as Stachel dubbed the nonprofit, was devoted to developing the solar electric system for the state hospital in Zaria. To prepare for a trip in which hospital workers would give feedback, Aronson placed demonstration solar equipment in a large suitcase for his wife to carry. After she unpacked the suitcase and got the components to work, not only did the head of hospital give approval for the full installation six months hencean operating room technician by the name of Aminu Abdullahi, said: You must leave your suitcase here. This will help us save lives now. The idea for a portable solar system in a suitcase was born.9In the last year alone, entries were received from 124 teams, consisting of more than 435 UC Berkeley students from 75 majors. $1,536,900 awarded to winning projectswinners have leveraged an additional $55M through Venture Capital, grants, and other funding streamsBig Ideas projects have been placed in 66 countries (including USA)A recent survey showed that 27 (out of 28) Big Ideas winners were still involved in their project in some capacity, one year after the competitionwhether as a student or as a professional.

It is important to note:The competitions numbers are since 2011 because this is when the program moved to the Blum Center. Numbers werent tracked in the same way prior to that point.

Big Ideas $$ is not significant. But the exposure and planning are, and clearly lead to more significant financial backing for these entrepreneurs.

There are 196 countries in the worldthis represents roughly 1/3 of the world. The Blum Center indicated that this is a partnership between Big Ideas and Blum Center, but that the Big Ideas program is the launch-point.

The post-award survey is a recent addition so there is only one cohort represented. 10