The World Series of Innovation is an annual global competition that invites young people ages 13 to 24 to tackle innovation challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The challenges help young people learn about the critical issues addressed by the UN Global Goals while developing their entrepreneurial mindset. NFTE’s World Series of Innovation challenge series is presented by Citi Foundation, with additional support from leading global companies that prioritize investment in the UN SDGs.
The nine innovation challenges offered in the 2020-21 competition were sponsored by leading global companies and corporate philanthropies including Bank of the West, Citi Foundation, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), Mary Kay, Inc., Mastercard, Moody’s Foundation, PayPal, and PIMCO. Hundreds of employees from these organizations also donated their time to run coaching sessions for student competitors or serve on judging panels. In total, more than 800 volunteers put in more than 2,200 hours supporting the competition.
“The World Series of Innovation was developed to help young people hone their design thinking skills but has grown into something more,” said Dr. J.D. LaRock, President and CEO of NFTE. “It offers youth a chance to act on issues they’re passionate about. As they tackle these challenges, they ideate solutions to some of the most important challenges facing humanity today – poverty, hunger, economic opportunity, equity and inclusion, social and environmental justice.”
“As we continue working towards economic recovery from COVID-19, young people can play a meaningful role in helping to build an inclusive and equitable future,” added Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “That’s why Citi and the Citi Foundation have long supported NFTE’s mission to empower youth through entrepreneurship education, providing the opportunity to learn more about the SDGs and how to apply their creativity to develop solutions that addresses challenges in their communities.”
Thousands of young people across the U.S. and in scores of other countries around the world began working on the challenges last fall. Judging concluded in March and prizes are currently being awarded to the top finishers in each challenge category. First place winners receive $1500, second place winners receive $600, and third place winners receive $300.
These are the 2020-21 World Series of Innovation winners, listed by challenge category:
Bank of the West Clean Energy Challenge (SDG 7) winning ideas:
- First Place: Micro Hydro Home, a hydroelectric generator system. Developed by 14-year-old Leyla Parsi and 15-year-old Riya Aswani of the Brentwood School in Los Angeles, CA.
- Second Place: ElectroMat, floor mats to capture kinetic energy. Developed by 18-year-old Cleo Lu, 17-year-old Elaine Ma, and 17-year-old Yuetong Zheng of Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, CA.
- Third Place: eC02 Schools, energy use tracking and carbon footprint analysis software. Developed by 13-year-old Sahasra Yellepeddi of Ereckson Middle School in Allen, TX.
Citi Foundation COVID Recovery Challenge (SDG 10) winning ideas:
- First Place: Green Careers, a retraining program focused on green energy jobs. Developed by 15-year-old Vidya Balachander of Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, CO.
- Second Place: Bazaar Technologies, an online platform to help small local businesses compete with ecommerce giants. Developed by 16-year-old Alice Liu, 16-year-old Claire Lantsman, 16-year-old Conor Ruane, and 17-year-old Zhao Wang of Boston Latin School in Boston, MA.
- Third Place: Project Falcon, a way for teen web developers to help local businesses. Developed by 17-year-old Arjun Gupta of Lynbrook High School in San Jose, CA, 15-year-old Ellen Xu of Del Norte High School in San Diego, CA, and 17-year-old Rayan Garg of San Jose, CA.
EY Educational Equity Challenge (SDG 4) winning ideas:
- First Place: Techquity Repairs, a program that offers free tech support and job training for low-income teens. Developed by 17-year-old Abby Kearny, 16-year-old Aybala Turkarsian, 17-year-old Erica Newell, and 16-year-old Kaitlyn Sauntry of Eastside Preparatory School in Seattle, WA.
- Second Place: EduMatch, a college mentorship program. Developed by 16-year-old Dashawn Sheffield, a NFTE student at North Star Academy Washington Park High School in Newark, NJ.
- Third Place: Rise, online computer science instruction for under-resourced communities. Developed by 16-year-old Shrawani Pal of the Oberoi International School in Mumbai, India.
Mary Kay Textiles Upcycle Challenge (SDG 12) winning ideas:
- First Place: Loop Tee Loop, a sustainable clothing loop uniting textile manufacturing and recycling. Developed by 21-year-old Ernest Bernstein Zarate, 21-year-old John Kevin Genova, and 21-year-old Clarence Louise Caperal of Far Eastern University in Manila, Philippines.
- Second Place: SwagSwap, a social network for teens into thrifting and upcycling. Developed by 14-year-old Aairah Koujalgi, 14-year-old Bhargavi Karthikeyan, 14-year-old Diya Shah, and 16-year-old Rhea Kamkolkar of South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction, NJ.
- Third Place: Project dBrand, uniform de-branding and recycling service. Developed by 17-year-old Aisha Gupta and 17-year-old Twisha Chawla of California High School in San Ramon, CA.
Mastercard Gateway for the Unbanked Challenge (SDG 9) winning ideas:
- First Place: FinanciAll, an app that uses AI to create “starter” credit ratings. Developed by 15-year-old Tina Mai of St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
- Second Place: Safehandle, a reloadable prepaid debit card distributed through homeless shelters. Developed by 17-year-old Ashveen Banga, 18-year-old Brett Kim, 17-year-old Caeden Mujahed, and 17-year-old Lena Luostarinen of the Francis Parker School in San Diego, CA.
- Third Place: CropSwap, a mobile banking system for smallholder farms. Developed by 16-year-old Eddie Nguyen and 16-year-old Hoang Tran of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA.
Moody’s Foundation Climate Action Challenge (SDG 13) winning ideas:
- First Place: Croptimize, a drone system and data-sharing platform for farmers worldwide. Developed by 16-year-old Ashok Devireddy, 16-year-old Pranav Palleti, 17-year-old Pranav Prabhuram, and 16-year-old Shivam Pathak of Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose, CA.
- Second Place: BioNet, biodegradable fishing nets to reduce ocean plastics. Developed by 14-year-old Maanav Rajesh and 16-year-old Maanya Rajesh of Carmel High School in Carmel, IN.
- Third Place: Groundify, eco-friendly products made from recycled coffee grounds. Developed by 15-year-old Arshia Narula and 17-year-old Gurnoor Narula of Liberty High School in Frisco, TX.
Moody’s Foundation Peace & Justice Challenge (SDG 16) winning ideas:
- First Place: Equally, a software platform leveraging artificial intelligence and natural language processing to detect implicit bias Developed by 16-year-old Moniola Odunsi of The Madeira School in Boyds, MD, 15-year-old Rushank Goyal of Rajeev Gandhi Higher Secondary School in Bhopal, India, 15-year-old Sora Shirai of Hanover High School in Hanover, NH, and 16-year-old Sualeha Irshad of Early College High School at Tarrant County College Southeast in Mansfield, TX.
- Second Place: CityPoll, a geo-targeted app allowing citizens to discuss and vote on local issues. Developed by 16-year-old Sienna Narzarian of Brentwood School in Los Angeles, CA.
- Third Place: Asfalis, a system to manage drug dosage/timing to reduce overdose. Developed by 17-year-old Abhiram Tamvada, 18-year-old Akul Gokaram, 17-year-old Lori Khadse, and 17-year-old Manas Bommakanti of South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction, NJ.
PayPal Environmental Justice Challenge (SDG 1) winning ideas:
- First Place: EnviroFleet, a drone system to collect geospatial data in disaster zones. Developed by 17-year-old Daniel Gu and 17-year-old Parthiv Nair of Westview High School in Portland, OR.
- Second Place: CropSafe, crop insurance and financial services for areas at risk from climate change and natural disasters. Developed by 18-year-old Brent Piper of Presentation College and 18-year-old Amy Narine of ASJA Girls College in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.
- Third Place: ShoreSpectate, an app making shore erosion and ecosystem health data available to the public. Developed by 17-year-old Angela Mao of Syosset High School in Syosset, NY.
PIMCO Zero Hunger Challenge (SDG 2) winning ideas:
- First Place: Robin Food, a bidding system to help food banks manage inventory. Developed by 17-year-old Robin Ye and 17-year-old Bryan Ng of the Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore.
- Second Place: ProduceCycle, a system for managing food waste. Developed by 16-year-old Ace Kim of Northern Valley Old Tappan High School in Harrington Park, NJ.
- Third Place: Best Before, a fleet of healthy food trucks to replace “pagpag” in impoverished communities. Developed by 17-year-old students Amarra Cabangon and Rolan Domingo of Immaculate Conception Academy in Makati City (Metro Manila), Philippines.
Visit nfte.com/innovation for more information about the 2020-21 challenges, sponsors and prizes. See video entries from winners and finalists at nfte.com/wsifinalists. A whole new set of innovation challenges will launch in September for the 2021-22 competition.
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a global nonprofit organization that provides high-quality entrepreneurship education to middle and high school students from under-resourced communities, as well as programs for college students and adults. NFTE reaches 70,000+ students annually in 25 states across the U.S. and offers programs in 12 additional countries. We have educated more than a million students through in-school, out-of-school, college, and summer camp programs, offered in person and online. To learn more about how we are promoting inclusive capitalism and building the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs, visit nfte.com.
About Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant communities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit citifoundation.com.