A record 12 Earlham College students from three teams have been selected to compete in the regional rounds of the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student social entrepreneurship competition.
Each team will compete at different regional events in Latin American countries by showcasing novel solutions to the Hult Prize’s challenge of “Empowering the Earth: Bold Businesses for a Better Planet.” Six teams will emerge from the competition’s regional events for a chance to win the $1 million grand prize.
“Earlham and the Hult Prize share a common goal of creating a stronger, more sustainable planet,” says Gene Hambrick, the director of Earlham’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which has been supporting the student teams. “This year’s students are introducing real solutions that can help us change the way we think about the world around us— and how we can make smarter decisions as consumers. We’re thrilled to support these students and their innovative thinking as they prepare for the next level of the competition.”
Earlham has a strong history of engagement with the Hult Prize and supports a quarterfinal competition on campus every year. In 2016, the College’s second year of participation, Team Magic Bus won the $1 million grand prize for a text message-based ticketing system that has fulfilled its potential to optimize Kenya’s public transportation system. That team, now a company called BuuPass, has become a top marketplace for bus, shuttle, and train bookings in east Africa. Earlham has sent two teams of students to the regionals every year since, finishing as high as second place.
“Harvest” is this year’s winning team from Earlham’s quarterfinal competition on campus. They are developing an internet browser extension that collects information about the products people eat. The team — Austin Burt, Ruslan Dominic, Charles Ces and Justin DeGraff — will compete in the Monterrey, Mexico, regional on March 27 and 28.
“Harvest sits in the background while you go shopping and indicates if a company is using fair labor practices or is affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance or other organizations,” says Austin Bart, a first-year neuroscience major from Kansas City, Mo. “Our challenge as a whole is to change consumer behaviors and challenge companies to become more environmentally sustainable.”
The browser extension rewards users who purchase sustainable goods and services online. “We’re interested in creating incentives that people like, including discounts on streaming services like Netflix, to encourage use of our product,” says Ruslan Dominic, a first-year Global Management major from Moldova.
Two other teams have earned at-large bids to compete in other regional events. “My Footprint” is a team that is developing an application to track an individual’s carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon dioxide they emit into the environment. The resource also offers ideas and alternatives to lower a consumer’s environmental impact by generating recommendations for living more sustainable lives.
“The Hult Prize wants us to impact over a million people and have a global positive net impact,” says Nathan Mynatt, a senior Global Management major from Indianapolis. “One of the challenge’s categories was changing our inner behaviors and lifestyles, and that really resonated with me and my team. Our product tracks what we do every day and offers alternative ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Being able to quantify our impact on the environment is a huge part of what we’re trying to do.”
Mynatt is joined by team members Marc Gendreau, Jordan Christian, and Alec Bryan. They will compete in the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on April 24 and 25.
“EduWater” is an app that connects wirelessly to a water censor that measures water usage, detects leaks, recommends local plumbers and offers tips to decrease water consumption.
“We’re educating and empowering our consumers to save water,” says Kyle Barbour, a senior Global Management major from Chicago. “We’re showing consumers how much water they’re using and how much they could be saving. We’re changing lives, changing families through education by preserving water, and encouraging future generations of adults to become better consumers.”
Barbour is joined by team members Aaron Crichton, Rance Albert, and Eva Lyon on the venture.
They compete in the Bogota, Colombia regional on April 24 and 25.
The Hult Prize is just one way that students can work in teams and develop social ventures on campus. Another, the Epic Grand Challenge, is a competition that encourages social entrepreneurship and innovative coursework across the curriculum. Similar to the Hult Prize, this event encourages interdisciplinary teams of students to work with faculty, staff and community partners to develop solutions to some of the world’s most press challenges. This year’s event is focused on transforming lives in Wayne County. Participating students are developing social ventures that can help to address gaps in the county’s workforce, reverse downward trends in population and homeownership, or increase property values by 2025.
These competitions are one way Earlham integrates the academic major with out-of-the-classroom learning experiences, including research, study abroad, internships, and leadership development, to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond college.