NAE Selects Five Student Teams to Represent U.S. at the 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit


Fri, May 10, 2019

Washington, DC, United States, May 10, 2019 —

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) today announced five teams and an alternate, selected from more than two dozen U.S. competitors, to represent the United States in a business plan competition at the 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit in London on September 12–18, 2019.

The summit is a collaboration of the NAE, the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE). Each Academy is selecting five student teams that will propose an innovation or novel approach for addressing aspects of the theme of this year’s summit, “Engineering in an Unpredictable World.” The teams will convene in London to compete, and then will be reassigned on-site to mixed country teams for additional challenges.

The U.S. teams are:

  • Dartmouth College

Team Members: Anna Dodson, Alexandria Chen, Jack Sadoff, John Weingart, Joshua de la Cruz, and Suraj Srivats.

Mentor: Raina White

Project: Dartmouth College students have developed The Compost Tea Project, which aims to deliver sustainable organic fertilizing solutions to low-income urban farmers who face soil nutrient deficiency, but lack the space, time, and finances needed to implement traditional composting systems.


  • North Carolina State University

Team Members: Pippin Payne, Silvana Alfieri, Grant Jordan, Rachel Figard, and Kevin Duke

Mentor: Dr. David Parish

Project: NC State students have created Peak Coffee Processing, a business that developed an affordable treatment process to filter wastewater into clean water and fertilizer. This will produce purified water while creating a product that economically benefits coffee producers through increasing crop yields and reducing topsoil erosion.


  • Oklahoma State University

Team Members: Muwanika Jdiobe, Angela Peter, Christian Griffith, and Jackson Moore

Mentor: Amanda Williams

Project: Oklahoma State students are developing an innovative technological system that increases yields and reduces input costs and waste for farmers. This system employs sensors that collect data from farms, transmitting it to a data hub for processing, and communicating that information back to individual farmers.


  • University of California, San Diego

Team Members: Ayush Sapra, Stephanie Le, Angela Joung, Hao-In Choi, Eric Richards, and Daniel Vazquez

Mentors: Dr. Mandy Bratton and Lin Hein

Project:  UCSD students have created Sulo, a business that is working with rural villagers in the Philippines to sell an affordable, reliable, and safe solar-powered lantern. They aim to bring a reliable source of light and economic development to rural communities.


  • University of Southern California

Team Members: Roxanna Pakkar, Celeste Goodwin, Sofia Tavella, Siena Applebaum, and Maria Camasmie

Mentor: Chris Denniston

Project: USC students have created Marlink, a product that serves as the link between operators and their underwater exploration vehicles. Marlink enables the next generation of underwater communication by pairing the robust, long-range effects of acoustic technology with the high data rates of optical technology.


  • (Alternate) University of Rochester

Team Members: Syed Miqdad, Sara Anis, Kareem Abdel, and Afnan Ahmed

Mentor: Mark Mathias

Project: University of Rochester students have created EZ Water, a business that leverages locally available resources to set up a network of water shops run by micropreneurs who filter water locally without electricity and serve the needs of people in low-income communities. University of Rochester has been selected as the alternate team that will represent the U.S. if any of the above teams drop out.

In an effort to insure that solutions address the most pressing issues facing targeted populations, the NAE teams participated in a version of the National Science Foundation's I-Corps program. Teams were trained to identify, access, and interview key members of the ecosystems who are directly impacted by the problems they are attempting to solve. Teams interviewed numerous 'customers' and in doing so, came to a deeper understanding of the specific challenges they must address.

The 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit will be broadcast worldwide, with satellite events on every continent, creating a truly global effort in addressing global grand challenges through engineering. The summit was inspired by the NAE 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering.


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The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. The NAE is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science, technology, and health.

Brandon  Green
Contact Brandon Green
Communications/Media Specialist
National Academy of Engineering