Winners of the 7th Annual MIT IDEAS Competition

Braille Pencil was awarded the $7,500 Health Innovation Award sponsored by Aleksander and Anna Anita Leyfell. This award supports teams that devise creative solutions to support elderly people or those living with disabilities. Team members Nadia Elkordy, Zahra Kanji, Orly Lahav, Ted Moallem, Harris Sussman, and Svetlana Sussman invented a unique Braille-writing device for the blind. Similar to a pencil in size and ease of use, the device enables Braille users to take notes and write for extensive periods of time.

Leveraged Freedom Chair was awarded the $7,500 International Technology Award sponsored by The Lemelson-MIT Program. Team members Mario Bollini, Shirley Fung, Gwyn Jones, Peter Mbuguah, Abdullah Munish, Daniel Namkessa, Quoc Nguyen, Tish Scolnik and Amos Winter invented a mobility aid for people with disabilities in developing countries by morphing between a standard wheelchair and a long distance lever-powered traveler. In wheelchair mode, it is small enough to use indoors. In lever mode, it is designed to efficiently harness upper body power to cope with rugged terrain and extremely poor road conditions.

WiiHabilitation was awarded the $5,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the MIT Coop and The Lemelson-MIT Program. Team members Alex Pak, Brandon Pung, Justin Tan, Vivian Tang, and Austin Tzou developed a system that adapts virtual reality gaming technologies to function as rehabilitation aids for stroke patients in contexts where there are few healthcare professionals.

Assured Labor was awarded the $5,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the MIT Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. Team members David Reich, Joe Bondi, Joseph Bamber, Matt Albrecht, Sidd Goval, and Ximena Fernandez Ordonez seek to improve the lives of workers in developing countries by using mobile phones and a custom web platform to rapidly connect dependable workers with honest employers who have labor needs.

Sustainable Health Enterprises was awarded the $5,000 IDEAS Award sponsored by the Baruch family. Team members Hannah Brice, Bernice Huang, and Hannah Poole aim to improve women’s education in developing countries by providing access to affordable, high-quality sanitary napkins (the lack of sanitary napkins causes many girls to miss up to 50 days of school a year). They propose female-led manufacturing cooperatives which produce and sell locally-appropriate sanitary napkins.

Two IDEAS Yunus Innovation Challenge Awards, sponsored by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, were awarded to the teams Ghonsla and SolSource Tibet. The focus of this year’s Yunus Innovation Challenge was to improve indoor air quality to break the cycle of poverty in developing countries.

Ghonsla team members Zehra Ali, Emmanuel Arnaud, Mubarik Imam, and Monica Le won a $5,000 award for their high quality and affordable housing insulation made from agricultural and urban waste. By improving home energy efficiency and thermal comfort, Ghonsla seeks to reduce indoor air pollution, prevent deforestation, and increase disposable income in poor communities.

SolSource Tibet team members Scot Frank, Catlin Powers, Brad Simpson, Tsering Chotso, Tenchen Tso, and Orian Welling won a $3,000 award for developing a portable solar cooker intended to withstand the high winds on the plateau of Western China while remaining light enough to be portable. The dish and reflector are formed by mylar sewn into a yak wool canvas.

In addition to the award sponsors, the IDEAS Competition receives vital funding and support from Bose, the Silicon Spice Founders Fund, Medtronic, the MIT10 Alumni and many individual donors..

Posted on May 2, 2008