And this years’ Big Ideas Grand Prize Award Goes To…

Fourth-year UC Irvine medical student Daniel Haik of SMART Cookies, the 2022 Big Ideas Grand Prize winner.

BERKELEY, May 6, 2022 – In its annual Grand Prize Pitch Day and Awards Celebration on May 4, judges of the UC-wide Rudd Family Foundation Big Ideas Contest awarded the 2022 Grand Prize to the “SMART Cookies” project from UC Irvine, a community-based solution to iron-deficiency anemia. The Grand Prize award winner takes home $10,000 on top of any earlier awards earned in the past year.

SMART Cookies is the brainchild of UCI fourth-year medical student Daniel Haik and Ghanaian partners from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr. Marina Aferiba Tandoh and Abigail Owusuaa Appiah. Through this collaboration, their team has developed “a bioavailable, plant-based, iron-supplemented biscuit” made from turkey berries, a tropical fruit packed with iron, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. In a randomized, controlled trial at a school in Ahafo, Ghana, the fortified biscuits were found to be far more effective than a UNICEF initiative similarly aimed at lessening iron-deficiency anemia in adolescent girls. 

“Working with Big Ideas introduced our team to a vast network of experts in international development economics and clinical trial design in the earlier stages of our growth,” said Haik. “Their support will enable our team to begin a nationwide distribution of SMART cookies, which is a dream come true.”

The Madojo team, (L-R) Daniel Huang, Victor Okoro and Joshua Iokua Albano, winners of the Binance-LIFT “Blockchain for Social Good” Grand Prize. (Credit: Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering)

The other big winner of the night was the Madojo team, inventors of a blockchain-certified recruiting platform enabling Nigerian students to close the gap between job seekers and employers. They won the inaugural Binance CharityLIFT Initiative Award. Binance Charity and the Lab for Inclusive FinTech (LIFT) have partnered with Big Ideas to nurture students and young social entrepreneurs working on Fintech and Blockchain solutions that promote legitimacy, humanitarian relief, financial health, gamification solutions, and workforce development, among many others. The Lab for Inclusive FinTech (LIFT), established with generous support from Ripple Impact and Binance Charity, is a research partnership led by IBSI aiming at unlocking the potential of digital financial technologies to benefit underserved populations around the world. LIFT has three major thrusts: research, experiential learning, and community building. 

“This is only the beginning for Madojo,” said Victor Inya Okoro, a Master in Development Engineering student on the all-MDevEng Madojo team. “We plan to use the network we built during the program to continue to iterate on our idea, and the funding will help us get started in the right direction.”

Other Grand Prize finalist teams included UC San Diego’s Algeon Materials, creating biodegradable and sustainable bioplastics from kelp to replace traditional petroleum-based packaging; the Foot Powered Cooler from UC Davis, a low-cost, energy-efficient cooling system designed to reduce post-harvest food losses at marketplaces in Uganda; and Carbon Pricing DAOs from UC Berkeley, a decentralized autonomous organization tool that enables the most accurate and scientifically rigorous pricing of carbon.

Of nearly 200 Big Ideas applications received last fall — from 700 grad and undergrad students representing every University of California campus and more than 70 disciplines — 16 finalists were selected in February, across the Social Impact Tracks of Global Health, Food and Agriculture, Financial Inclusion, Energy and Resources, Education and Literacy, Cities and Communities, Data and AI, and Art and Social Change.

Pitch Day judges, Rhonda Schrader (center), Francis Gonzales (left), and Rick Rasmussen (right).

“The multidisciplinary focus was incredible — all of the finalists harnessed the power of their teammates to provide powerful solutions,” said Rhonda Shrader, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship and NSF I-Corp program at Berkeley Haas School of Business and one of three Grand Prize judges. “So inspiring to see the energy, imagination and connectivity across all of the UCs — we’re stronger together.”

Founded in 2006 at UC Berkeley, and managed by the Blum Center for Developing Economies,  Big Ideas has grown from an annual contest at Berkeley to an innovation ecosystem that serves students at all 10 campuses across the University of California, with year-round programming including industry and alumni speakers and mentors, toolkits, and courses and workshops on innovation and social entrepreneurship. Over its history, Big Ideas has supported over 3,000 innovations, involving more than 9,000 students, and awarded $3M in funding to 500 winning projects that have gone on to secure approximately $1B in additional funding. 

More Articles

The Global Poverty and Practice minor Class of 2023 (Photo by Amy Sullivan)

“Audacious Hope in the World and Each Other”: GPP Class of 2023 Celebrates Graduation After a Uniquely Challenging 4 Years

While the paths taken by the 60 newly minted GPP alumni to and through the minor differed greatly, they ultimately converged May 15 at Sutardja Dai Hall’s Banatao Auditorium following classes on poverty alleviation, a hands-on “practice experience” combining theory with practice, and deep reflection on what they learned. GPP’s 16th graduating class drew from 25 different majors and has joined an alumni community numbering over 1,000.

Read More »
Ingrid Xhafa and Greg Berger in Rwanda (all photos courtesy of them)

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: How MDevEng Students Ingrid Xhafa and Greg Berger Investigated the Efficacy of Outsider-Supported, Off-Grid Power Systems in Remote Rwandan Health Clinics

Xhafa has worked in the development sector for a decade and graduated from the Master of Development Engineering program last December with a focus on energy and environment. The intersection of healthcare and energy was also the focus of another recent MDevEng graduate, Greg Berger. Together, Berger and Xhafa, both in the program’s Energy, Water, and the Environment track, examined the energy needs of healthcare clinics in one sub-Saharan country, Rwanda, as their MDevEng capstone project. 

Read More »

© 2021 Blum Center for Developing Economies

Design by Joseph Kim

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