I-Lab Showcases President's Challenge Projects

President’s Challenge finalists demonstrate social entrepreneurship projects

Ten finalists for the President’s Challenge showed demos of their social entrepreneurship projects to a large crowd at the Innovation Lab on Friday evening.

The ten final teams, who were chosen from a pool of over 170, have the chance to win part of a $100,000 pot, split among up to four teams. The winning team will be announced later this month by University President Drew G. Faust.

The finalists ranged from Harvard freshmen to graduate students. Their projects covered a broad range of innovative ideas within five predetermined categories—clean water, personal health, empowering education, global health, and clean air.

One of the teams, called Team Slum Sanitation Solutions, is composed of three freshmen whose goal is to improve the quality of life in certain slum areas by providing toilet systems in every household.

“[In some places], there’s no sewer system; no sanitation at all,” said Erik C. Schluntz ’15, one of the team members. “We started looking at serious problems and we found that sanitation was one of the most serious.

”They plan on providing households with a bucket-like toilet that will be collected and emptied every day. Another project took a unique approach to social problems by developing a prototype for a communications device that would allow people to send and receive scents through electronic chips attached to objects such as cell phones.

“We think it’s a really powerful dimension to the experience of communication,” said Ruirui Kuang ’12. “The power of scent can be harnessed to combat weight gain or help someone manage their weight.

”For their demo at the I-Lab, the team created a video showing the way the world would be like if their product were commonly used. Team Revolving Fund Pharmacy—a team that has created a financial plan to provide Kenyans with easy access to medicine—has already begun implementing their idea.

“We piloted three sites and served 17,000 patients,” said Kristin Huang, a team member and Harvard Medical School student. “We are hoping to expand with the eventual goal of convincing the Kenyan government to adopt this type of financial model for pharmacies.” She said that she and other team members came up with the idea after spending a year in Kenya.

Other projects covered a wide-spectrum of topics, from self-sustaining water filter factories to interactive electronic textbooks to a car-sharing business for Indian cities. All of the teams say they plan to continue to work on their projects even if they do not win a share of the prize money.

—Staff writer D. Simone Kovacs can be reached at


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