Our Planet, Our Purpose, STEM for Changemaking Challenge 2021: Meet the 25 Winning teams!

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On April 8, 2021 Ashoka and General Motors announced the 25 teams whose projects have been named winners of the Our Planet, Our Purpose: STEM for Changemaking Challenge. These innovative teams were selected for their impactful projects that use STEM skills to build a more sustainable planet. They represent the incredible diversity and creativity of young changemakers and leaders across our country.

Each winner received $2,000 in seed funding for their initiative, ongoing mentorship from Ashoka and General Motors, and attendance at the virtual Changemaker Summit in June.

Read on to meet the winning teams and learn about their work!

 

Agriculture 

Green Tiles: Green Tiles transforms unused roofs across cities into plant and animal oases. Their durable, interlocking planters are made with sustainable materials and can be filled with native plants and shrubs to attract insects, bees and butterflies. Each Green Tile has a water reservoir at the bottom which interlocks with one another and captures runoff from roofs. 

Zumwalt Acres: A youth-led initiative dedicated to restoring the environment through farming, community building, and applied science. Zumwalt Acres works to offset climate catastrophes with geo-engineered farming solutions that are low-risk, cost-effective, and viable for the conventional farmer. 

 

Biodiversity

AI4COYOTES: AI4COYOTES is working to resolve the tensions between human population and coyote packs in communities. AI4COYOTES is developing a Deep Neural Network called CoyoteNet to detect and alert individuals about the presence of coyotes, allowing people to secure livestock and small pets from harm. 

CLIMATE MINI-MAKEOVERS: Climate Mini-Makeovers combats the climate crisis by empowering young people to perform bird-friendly mini-makeovers on their homes, schools, and parks. By recognizing and removing invasive species in favor of native plants, young people are providing local bird populations the food they need to survive and ensuring a balanced ecosystem. 

 

Climate Education 

Climate Cardinals: Among the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, none are majority English-speaking, leaving them unable to access sufficient climate change research in their native languages. Climate Cardinals is an international youth-led nonprofit with 8,000 volunteers in 41 countries working to translate climate information into 100 languages, breaking down the barriers between communities and science. 

Climate Kidz: Climate literacy is climate resiliency. Climate Kidz is an initiative that educates children across America in climate resiliency projects.  First, by creating accessible “climate libraries” where climate literature can be easily accessed, and then by engaging kids in resiliency projects like composting, vertical gardening, and seed banking. 

EcoDivine: More than 80% of the global population practices religion. But often religious traditions, like scattering cremated ashes in rivers, negatively affect our ecosystem. EcoDivine is developing a mobile app to provide individuals with curriculum and activities that transform religion as a solution, rather than cause, for environmental concerns.  

Student Environmental Action Club: The Student Environmental Action Club is a youth-led project that aims to educate students about the environment and encourage them to take action in their communities. They work closely with STEM professionals, hold a yearly Environmental Field Day, as well as other smaller events, and provide students hands-on experience to learn and take action to protect the environment. 

The Ecolibrium Project: The Ecolibrium Project is an international non-profit organization developing a global platform to empower, educate, and connect climate leaders and their organizations. The Ecolibrium Project platform shared climate research and resources, along with an open Slack community for young climate changemakers to connect and collaborate together. 

 

Food 

Branching Out: Branching Out seeks to combat urban food insecurity and encourage sustainable, organic food production through customizable grafted fruit trees. The organization uses the latest in grafting technology to combine branches from several different species, allowing a single plant to product multiple fruits. Branching out aims to work with elementary schools and the food insecure to provide access to fresh food and agricultural education. 

FreshDetect: FreshDetect is a smart shipping container solution that utilizes Internet of Things and machine learning to prevent food waste during transportation. It protects both consumers and suppliers by eliminating food wastage problems and addressing inefficiency in the supply chain. 

KeepItFresh: KeepItFresh provides an intelligent software powered by Artificial Intelligence for grocery stores to reduce food waste by forecasting demand and optimizing store decisions through Machine Learning Models. Their goal is to reduce the carbon footprint by reducing grocery waste. 

 

Lifestyle 

Environ: Environ is a social media and goal-setting platform that promotes environmentalism and cultivates the next generation of changemakers. Environ harnesses the power of technology and the popularity of social media to enable users to make a difference in the environment and empowers them to influence and inspire others. 

Vital Education to Improve Lives (VEIL): VEIL is an organization that promotes community empowerment through sustainability education and access to sustainable products and options. Their aim is to combat educational disparities and promote a holistic approach to wellbeing by empowering and educating students and community members. 

 

Policy  

Poluino: Poluino (pollution + Arduino) is an educational initiative with the goal of distributing DIY air quality monitor kits to students. Poluino uses of Internet of Things to help students learn how technology forms a robust framework for increasing interconnectivity and for addressing social issues such as climate change. 

Effective Climate Action Project (ECAP): The Effective Climate Action Project (ECAP) uses data visualizations and climate simulations to advocate for systemic solutions to climate change. Their goal is to fight the lack of public focus on systemic solutions to climate change through interactive climate simulations, online advocacy, and support of youth voices for local environmental policy. 

The GenZ Trust Fund: The GenZ Trust Fund is a youth-led pledge created to ensure that Florida’s elected officials and candidates are willing to invest in GenZ’s future by advocating for a transition to renewable energy, preservation of natural resources, and sustainable agricultural practices that will reduce the impacts of climate change. 

 

Waste 

Erasing E-Waste: As we depart from an era of clunky mouses and monitors, we contribute to the burgeoning e-waste crisis, in which obsolete electronics are not recycled, but instead introduce chemicals like mercury and lead into our environment. As an international youth-led organization, Erasing E-Waste is using a three-fold approach to address this crisis: education, community events, and crowdsourced data. 

GoCompost: Food waste is the No. 1 component in US landfills and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting mitigates this problem and gives organic waste a new life. But plenty of people don’t know how — and only 6% of food waste is composted as a result. GoCompost empowers community composting and fosters green habits with its app, website, and events. 

Groundify: When coffee grounds end up in landfills, they contribute to greenhouse gases — and global warming. But when spent coffee grounds are part of a circular economy, they can actually benefit our environment. Groundify takes the end-to-end ownership of spent coffee grounds:  from the café to the consumer. They pick up spent coffee grounds from large producers, and will repurpose them into sustainable, eco-friendly goods, like candles and skincare products. 

MarbleWatch: The environmental issues we face seem endless. The MarbleWatch team is documenting them through crowdsourced photography of these issues and their impacts. So far, they’ve reached 4,000+ people by working with “ground teams” — raising local and international awareness by sharing out photos through social media, media publicity, local partnerships, and science-based online 'eco-journalism' rooted in STEM solutions. 

Precious Plastic Minnesota + 2nd Melt Solutions: We know recycling is broken. Precious Plastic Minnesota is a team of like-minded young people working to create a recycling workspace that converts ocean plastic and single use plastic items like coffee lids, plastic cups, and straws into usable art. They have a vision to partner with local businesses and schools to collect a constant stream of single-use plastics to create upcycled pieces with a powerful story. 

Sole2Soul: The Sole2Soul team takes in donated athletic shoes from the local community, inspects and washes them, then sends to youth in an underserved community — whether local or international. Through a vlog channel and social media campaigns, they’re connecting with others to work towards environmental awareness and sustainability. 

 

Water

H2Foam: Jessica and her team are addressing the water pollution crisis with a new, innovative approach: H2Foam (lignin foam). This sustainable biosorbent can be used to remove both heavy metals and oils from contaminated water at an efficient rate. They plan to first implement this idea within their community as a potential water-filtering technology. 

Maji: Maji is a mobile app that uses machine learning to determine water quality in real time and provide filtration and conservation options. Maji's approach goes beyond software (the mobile app)— they’re using hardware (PFAS contaminant filtration) and community education (TheCodeBakery nonprofit) to raise awareness of water quality and provide solutions to people of all ages.