NYU Abu Dhabi Team Takes Top Spot in Hult Global Case ChallengeApr 28, 2012 - 05:46 -
WAM Abu Dhabi, 28th April 2012 (WAM) - A team of four students from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), joined by one NYU alumnus, were awarded a portion of the $1 million prize to have their ideas implemented by the not-for-profit organization SolarAid after winning the Hult Global Case Challenge, an international case study competition for higher education institutions around the world. The annual competition hosted by Hult Business School in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Innovation, Excellence and Leadership Center challenges student teams to present actionable solutions to achieve the social and economic development goals of partner NGOs in the areas of energy, education and housing. Three not-for-profit organizations related to these three tracks share the $1 million prize to implement the ideas of the winning proposals. The finals, held in New York, were attended by former US President Bill Clinton, who presented the NYUAD students with their award, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of Grameen Bank Professor Muhammad Yunus.
The NYUAD team Sophomores Madhav Vaidyanathan, Songyishu Yang, Muhammad Awais Islam, Gary Chien, and Abu Dhabi-based NYU alumnus Neil Parmar won the energy track of the competition for their solution to providing solar lighting to one million homes in Africa by 2013. Ramesh Jagannathan, professor of Chemical Engineering at NYUAD, served as the team's faculty advisor.
The organization SolarAid has been working in rural areas across East and Southern Africa installing solar panels to create greater access to electricity. SolarAid's share of the prize money will be used to implement the team's solution of creating a network of entrepreneurs and technicians who will sell and fix solar lamps in a sustainable way.
Speaking in support of the winning team's solution, SolarAid CEO Steve Andrews said: "Our goal is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of this decade. That's simply a huge challenge, which will only be possible with massive innovation. Having the top students from around the world competing to come up with great ideas for how we will do this is an extraordinary boost. It's already changing the way we think and work." "NYU Abu Dhabi's social enterprise is unique and innovative and capitalizes on an incremental pay business model. Through making access to electricity affordable and bite size, I am confident their model will be widely scaled and adopted through communities across Africa and beyond," Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hult Global Case Challenge, said.
The students said that they were motivated by solving a very real problem, rather than winning a competition.
"If our model can actually achieve that goal and light up one million households, all of us will be very impressed and delighted that whatever we contributed to this can actually help those people out there," Gary Chien said.
"Our idea was simple and I really think that it can be implemented very soon," Madhav Vaidyanathan added.
Thousands of students representing more than 130 countries participated in five regional competitions in Boston, Dubai, London, San Francisco, and Shanghai, in addition to an online competition. The NYUAD team competed against 15 institutions in the energy track during the Dubai regional event, before moving on to compete against regional finalists in the energy track from five other institutions. A team from Carnegie Mellon won the prize for the education track, supporting the One Laptop Per Child initiative, and a Hult International Business School team took first place in the housing track, benefiting Habitat for Humanity.
Vice Chancellor of NYUAD Al Bloom said: "On behalf of the NYU Abu Dhabi and broader NYUAD communities, I congratulate our phenomenal students on their victory in the 2012 Hult Global Challenge. Our students' success emerges from their extraordinary intelligence, imagination, perseverance, and commitment to humanity, and terrific support from faculty, staff, and alumni. Their achievement is a wonderful reflection of the intellectual qualities and core values of NYU Abu Dhabi." WAM/TF