Ashoka’s Youth Venture and Best Buy Present Winners of the ‘Technology for a Better World’ Campaign

Submitted by: John Converse Townsend on 07/12/11

Ashoka’s Youth Venture, a global organization supporting youth social entrepreneurs, and Best Buy Co., Inc. are proud to present the five winners of the Technology for a Better World Campaign. The winners were recognized for their innovative contributions to public and community service at the prestigious Jefferson Awards in Washington, D.C., late last month.

The five winners were selected based on their impact on a well-defined social issue and on their innovative use of technology, as well as on other criteria.

Judging the campaign were Christine Webster Moore, vice president, Strategy and Networking New Business Customer Solutions Group, Best Buy; Lisa H. Neuberger-Fernandez, director of corporate citizenship programs, Accenture; Alexander Lin, youth venturer, Project TGIF – Turn Grease Into Fuel; Jane Kim, senior manager, SuccessFactors Foundation;  Mike McKay, software programmer for international development, RTI International; and Phil Shapiro, educator and technology-access activist.

Without further ado, the Technology for a Better World winners are:

InvenTech Enterprises - Griffin Latulippe, 17, Wethersfield, Conn. InvenTech Enterprises is a social purpose business founded by 10 high school students inspired, in part, by Latulippe’s experience with muscular dystrophy. The team creates assistive technology devices for people with disabilities, filling an important gap often missed by large medical device firms due to the small market niche and low profit potential. The team has been recognized nationally by the Junior Engineering Technical Society for their wheelchair storage solution and adjustable walker. Latulippe is committed to building a future where all people, including those with disabilities, have the independence and ability to contribute to a changing world.

Jamii Capital - Joyce Yan, 16, Cupertino, Calif. Dynamic duo Joyce and Crystal Yan have set their sights on developing mobile application tools for data analysis to support aid agencies in gathering valuable feedback from communities. Dismayed that so little progress has been made in transforming developing countries, the sisters are committed to tapping into their vast and varied experience, including winning a mobile application development pitch competition, co-founding the Social Startup Summit for high school students, serving on a team that led 6,000 students to raise over $160,000 for water filters, and co-producing What's Next: 25 Big Ideas from Gen-Yers Under 25, a collaborative book project on the power of youth.

Oink‐A‐Saurus - Fabian Fernandez-Han, 13, Conroe, Texas. The Great Recession and housing crisis deepened Fernandez-Han’s understanding of the importance of financial literacy and compelled him to take action to educate his peers. An avid saver and investor (he had a 14 percent return during the recession), he makes finance fun and accessible for youth through technology. Oink-A-Saurus is an iPhone/iPad/iPod application and interactive website where students learn investing by building a ”porkfolio,” and setting financial goals through ”piggy banks.” Fabian was recognized by the New York Stock Exchange’s Financial Future Challenge for his innovative work.

GreenShields - Jonny Cohen, 15, Highland Park, Ill. Alarmed by the low gas mileage of school buses, Cohen began developing GreenShields, a polycarbonate shield that attaches to the front of school buses to make them more aerodynamic. Although he is in 10th grade, Cohen spends most of his time designing and testing prototypes with the help of his interns from Northwestern University Engineering department. Early tests on the GreenShields show significant gas savings. The team won the Illinois Governor's Green Youth Award and received a donated school bus from Cook-Illinois Bus Company for conducting ongoing tests.

TEDxHomer Teens - McKenzy Haber, 14, Homer, Ark.
Haber and his team are passionate about wild places, animals, food justice, conservation, and sustainability and have won many awards for their efforts. These young changemakers wanted to connect globally with other young environmentalists and policy leaders to broaden their impact and exchange ideas. The team took advantage of technology and new online platforms to organize a TEDx event on the topic of environmental sustainability, attended by 140 Alaskans and streamed to 1,800 people globally. The experience was transformative for the youth involved; they’ve committed to supporting more teens in using the TEDx format to share their ideas and bring about positive social change.

“These teams exemplify that youth view technology not only as a means of entertainment, but as a tool that can be harnessed for a wide-reaching, positive impact on their communities and even on the world,” said Gretchen Zucker, executive director of Youth Venture. “Hopefully the work these young changemakers are doing will inspire other youth to tackle social problems in their own communities.”

Latulippe, Cupertino, Fernandez-Han, Cohen, and Haber also spent a day at Ashoka’s Global Headquarters in Rosslyn, Va., learning how to further expand their local ventures. The winners had breakfast with Youth Venture president Roy Gamse, Jason Bernhart-Lanier, and Stephanie Potter. They also received management consulting from Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hai Huynh and discussed strategy with Mike McKay, software programmer for International Development at RTI International and Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile.

Ashoka, Youth Venture and Best Buy Co., Inc. extend a warm congratulations to the five young winners.

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The Technology for a Better World campaign is supported by Best Buy’s Children’s Foundation. The campaign includes opportunities for up to fifty teams of young people, age 13 to 18, to tackle social issues with support from advisors, access to seed funding and fundraising tools, and opportunities to learn from Youth Venture’s network of partners and over 4,000 Venture Teams worldwide.