The Lemelson Foundation and the Blum Center Partner to Equip Students to Deliver on Big Ideas with a Small Environmental Footprint

The Lemelson Foundation and the Blum Center Partner to Equip Students to Deliver on Big Ideas with a Small Environmental Footprint

The Lemelson Foundation, the world’s leading funder of invention in service of social and economic change, and the Blum Center for Developing Economies are embarking on a yearlong collaboration to enable students participating in the University of California Big Ideas Contest to increase their expertise in developing environmentally responsible inventions and innovations. The initiative exposes students to sustainable practices with the goal of increasing awareness around environmental impact throughout the invention and business model development process–from the materials used to the end of lifecycle implications.

The partnership between The Lemelson Foundation and the Blum Center will enhance the importance of environmental responsibility in the Big Ideas Contest, with special emphasis on the Hardware for Good category. Additionally, there will be an increased focus on engaging students from low-income and underserved backgrounds to participate in the contest.

Since 2006, the Blum Center has hosted the Big Ideas student innovation prize, to provide mentorship, training, and resources for budding social entrepreneurs across the University of California system. Hardware for Good encompasses everything from wearable and assistive technologies and devices to improve agricultural productivity to smart home systems that improve energy efficiency and safety. The 2017-2018 winner in the Hardware for Good category was Innovis Medical, a blood clotting prevention device for civilian and military trauma care that is being tested on cardiac patients at UC Davis Medical with the aim of FDA approval by 2021.

Said Phillip Denny, director of Big Ideas: “Since 2006, over 6,000 students from more than 100 majors have participated in the Big Ideas Contest, raising more than $2.4 million in seed funding that has been invested across 450 ventures. In this age of climate change and resource constraints, we need more students focused on planet-saving big ideas. We are thus immensely grateful to The Lemelson Foundation for making environmental responsibility an explicit element of the competition and for strengthening our outreach to low-income and first-generation college students. Diversity in innovators leads to diversity of innovations.”

With support from The Lemelson Foundation, Big Ideas 2018-2019 activities will include educational programs coupled with outreach to keep environmental responsibility top-of-mind as student inventors and innovators design new devices and ventures. Judging criteria will also be modified to reflect greater emphasis on environmental impact. Among the student education programs will be the “Inventing Green” workshop on October 22 to raise awareness and understanding of environmental responsibility in innovation and entrepreneurship among the University of California’s 240,000 undergraduate and graduate students and participating students from Makerere University in Uganda and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Lemelson Foundation funding will also support Blum Center practitioners-in-residence who will provide environmentally responsible design expertise to Big Ideas student teams and their projects.

“Students have the passion and drive to make the world better through inventions and entrepreneurship, and the Big Ideas program will better prepare them to ensure the solutions of today don’t become the problems of tomorrow,” said Cindy Cooper, program officer for The Lemelson Foundation. “Thinking holistically about environmental impact early on can also lead to more creative product ideas and put startups on a path to being more competitive and resilient as they grow to scale. We’re excited to see what students come up with.”


Thirty One UC Berkeley Students Headed to Clinton Global Initiative University

Thirty One UC Berkeley Students Headed to Clinton Global Initiative University

Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) is President Clinton’s initiative to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. Each year, CGI U hosts a conference where students, youth organizations, and topic experts come together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges with policy makers, topic experts, philanthropic, and leaders from the public, private, and NGO sectors. Participants attend plenary sessions, workshops, networking events, and a day-long service project. This year CGI U 2018 will take place at the University of Chicago from October 19 to 21.

Each CGI U student must make a “commitment to action”: a specific plan of action that addresses a pressing challenge on campus, in the community, or in a different part of the world. Students can apply within five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.

This year, 31 UC Berkeley students were accepted to attend CGI U. Their projects are described below.

Artists in Residents

Students: Monica Schreiber (Public Health), Kyle Gibson (Public Health)

Summary: Artists in Residents (AiR), is an initiative of the Suitcase Clinic, a weekly student-run organization that has been serving Berkeley’s homeless community for over 30 years. In response to the mental health needs of this population, AiR seeks to provide arts and music programming within clinic spaces while leveraging the Suitcase Clinic’s unique ability to elevate and advocate for unhoused Berkeley residents. The team will partner with local community partners to implement art and music workshops, galleries, and performances. AiR will provide creative outlets for self-expression, promote mental health, and foster self-efficacy and upward mobility. Over one year, AiR will work with 30-50 individuals to provide safe spaces to practice, develop, and showcase their artistic talents. AiR won 1st place in the Art & Social Change category of the 2018 Big Ideas Contest.

Our Campus Kitchen

Students: Lucinda Laurence (Architecture), Sara Tsai (Business), Ibrahim Ramoul (Public Health)

Summary: In the 2018-2019 year, Lucinda Laurence, Sara Tsai, and Ibrahim Ramoul are committed to enact a centralized waste recovery kitchen on UC Berkeley campus. They will establish a closed-loop ecosystem that streams food waste from the dining halls and transforms them into edible meals for students at an accessible sliding-scale price model. The team plans to improve the lives of marginalized students by offering affordable meals while educating more than 35,000 students in food recovery and security. Each semester, they will lead 125 volunteers to make 600 meals daily by transforming 200 pounds of dining hall waste. Their partners include the Berkeley Student Food Collective, Berkeley Food Institute, Copia, Food Pantry, Educational Opportunity Program, University Health Services, and Cal Dining. Our Campus Kitchen won second place in the Food Systems category of the 2018 Big Ideas Contest.

Project S.a.F.E.

Students: Briana Boaz (Biology), Carrie Trible (Biology) Emily Kearney (Graduate Student – Environmental Science)

Summary: In 2018, Emily Kearney, Briana Boaz, and Carrie Tribble committed to eradicating sexual harassment/assault from fieldwork in order to create safe spaces off-campus in which everyone could contribute to science effectively. This team will survey the campus community to understand this issue and will use this information to write a code of conduct and create resources to prevent field sexual harassment/assault in partnership with several UC Berkeley campus organizations. These efforts are expected to reach everyone involved in fieldwork and increase the use and awareness of field preparation resources by 50 percent.

Project Air Mask

Students: Anirudh (Rudy) Venguswamy (Economics)

Summary: Rudy Venguswamy has committed to creating an affordable respirator mask to help reduce the number of people who die due to pollution and biomass burning related diseases in India. The team will sustainably produce a waterproof, fashionable, and functional respirator that people can wear while outside or engaged in hazardous activity. Project Air Mask will partner with hospitals to distribute masks first to pregnant women, young children, and at risk populations. The team expects to reduce the cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory infections by 20 percent in 24 months in the states in which this solution is deployed.

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Host and Fellow Responsibilities

Host Organizations

  • Identify staff supervisor to manage I&E Climate Action Fellow
  • Submit fellowship description and tasks
  • Engage in the matching process
  • Mentor and advise students
  • Communicate with Berkeley program director and give feedback on the program.

Berkeley Program Director​

  • Communicate with host organizations, students, and other university departments to ensure smooth program operations

Student Fellows

  • Complete application and cohort activities
  • Communicate with staff and host organizations
  • Successfully complete assignments from host organization during summer practicum
  • Summarize and report summer experience activities post-fellowship