Four Texas A&M student teams seek votes in Dell competition

Innovative ideas from four Texas A&M student teams that could revolutionize conditions in the Third World and expand educational opportunities for nontraditional students have reached the semifinal round in a national innovation contest.

Anyone can register and cast a vote to propel the Aggie teams to victory in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a competition between student innovators who provide transformative ideas for addressing the world’s most pressing problems.

The top entries, including five grand prize finalists, will be announced April 8.

Top entries in the 2012 contest raked in more than $350,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, with a grand prize award of $50,000. Since the annual contest’s launch in 2007, more than $450,000 has been awarded to approximately 50 student teams.

The Texas A&M teams represent a wide mix of majors consisting of current or former students in The Design Process and Cultural and Ethical Global Practices classes led by Rodney Hill, professor of architecture.

One team, focusing on the land-locked western Africa country of Mali, proposes using its abundant resources of gold and silicon and the multiple hydroelectric dams along two major rivers to help establish computer chip assembly plants, to boost the impoverished nation's economy.

The team, consisting of Daniel Cortines, Michael Koernig, Emily Kossa, Kasey Kram, Giovanni Tavani and John Wleczyk, believes that computer chips built with Mali’s low labor costs would easily be competitive in the global marketplace with chips built by existing companies.

Another Texas A&M team want to construct lifelong-learning-communities on historically underutilized and nonrevenue producing university-owned lands in the Texas A&M University System.

A surge in aging baby boomers, states the proposal, created by Natalie Attaya, Beau Barnette and Shelly Brenckman, provides an opportunity to engage a potential donor base as well as volunteer manpower from often-affluent population.

The idea, they argue, has worldwide expansion potential at system campuses in Mexico, Italy, Qatar and China.

When nontraditional students participate in study abroad and exchange programs, they said, they can also engage in economic development and service components.

Another team wants to teach people in developing nations how to create a sustainable source of nutrition through aquaponics, a system that combines raising aquatic animals and growing plants in a symbiotic environment, in which animal by-products are used by plants as nutrition and the plant-cleansed water is recirculated to the animals.

Aquaponic systems could empower people in developing countries to support themselves and their families and decrease malnutrition, said the team consisting of Cody Burcham, Cassandra Cathey, Sam Holton, Rebecca Pitman, Marilea Schmidt and Clarissa Valdez.

Another team wants to establish a nonprofit group to provide potable water to communities in Guatemala. They would pay for the project, including the purchase and delivery of filters that fit on water bottles, with funds generated by the development and sell of mobile device applications.

The potable water plan was created by David Bood, Alex Durkee, Mary Gallander, Kaley Harper, Jacob Klemp and Connor Lynch.

posted March 6, 2013