Carnegie Mellon University
April 17, 2017

EST&P students win Solutions Challenge for Social Innovation

The 2017 Solutions challenge for Social Innovation was held in April 2017 by the Heinz College at CMU in conjunction with the Institute for Social Innovation, CMU Idea Space and the Schwartz Center for Graduate Entrepreneurship. An EST&P student team won first place in this competition and were awarded iPads as their prize. This challenge was two-rounds where teams had to send a one-page abstract in the first round. Three teams were then chosen as finalists and gave 15-minute presentations to a panel comprised of professors and entrepreneurs.

The EST&P master's students entered this challenge with the goal of providing a solution that will greatly encourage community development. This team consisting of Ashwin Kumar Balaji, Nathan Cheng, Vasudevan Nambeesan and Akshay Patil presented a solution titled ‘Solar Kiosks for Rural Communities in South India’. Their idea involved constructing solar kiosks that would provide the local community with essential appliances like rechargeable lamps, rice cookers and fans. This was aimed to provide cleaner and more efficient appliances to the local community in order to improve their overall quality of life. Additionally, the solar kiosk would act as a local hub that would stock essentials along with medicines. Finally, the team designed a business model around their idea where they would be able to sustainably operate these kiosks in addition to providing an affordable payment structure for the local community.

The team has entered this idea into other competitions and is currently awaiting their results. Their aim is to raise enough money for this idea so that they can do a test run of their model. They also plan on incorporating community involvement with their idea by launching an education initiative where they plan on teaching intelligent energy practices to the local community. We at EST&P certainly hope this idea comes to fruition and goes a long way in helping the community.