President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes

Nine graduating seniors were awarded the 2019 President’s Engagement and Innovation prizes, which provide $100,000 in funding for projects designed to make a positive difference in the world. Each team member also receives a $50,000 living stipend and mentorship from a Penn faculty member. Here are the winning projects:


Rebound Liberia | Princess Aghayere C’19, Summer Kollie C’19, and Oladunni Alomaja EAS’19 seek to bridge the literacy gap between men and women in post-conflict Liberia through basketball, using the sport as a mechanism for coping with the trauma and stress of daily life. After building an indoor basketball court and community resource center, the group will host an annual three-month summer program comprised of hoops clinics, daily reading and writing sessions, and personal development workshops. Mentor: Ocek Eke, director of global and local service-learning programs at Penn Engineering.

Cultivando Juntos | José Á. Maciel Nu’19 and Antonio E. Renteria Nu’19 GNu’20 will pioneer a community-based curriculum in the agricultural workplaces of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Although the area’s famous mushroom industry creates stable income opportunities throughout the year, the physical labor is arduous. Cultivando Juntos seeks to alleviate the adverse health effects that the work environment can have on the farmworkers, many of whom are Latino immigrants. Mentor: Adriana Perez, assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

Host Homes for LGBTQ Youth in Philadelphia | Brendan Taliaferro C’19’s project will place homeless LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia in the homes of vetted adult volunteers. The program will also connect the youth with intensive support services, following the lead of other US cities that have piloted the host homes model. Mentor: Amy Hillier, associate professor in the School of Social Policy and Practice.


Strella Biotechnology | Malika Shukurova EAS’19 GEng’20 and Katherine Sizov C’19 are developing a bio-sensor that can predict the maturity of virtually any fresh fruit. The sensors monitor apples as they ripen in controlled atmosphere storage rooms, thus allowing packers and distributors to easily pick the ripest fruit and significantly decrease spoilage and food waste. The start-up hopes to expand to other produce markets, including bananas and pears. Mentor: Jeffrey Babin, practice professor and associate director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program.

InstaHub | Michael Wong W’19’s objective is to eliminate energy waste through snap-on automation that enhances existing building infrastructure. The start-up was founded at Penn in 2016 and focuses on combatting climate change through cleantech building automation technology. Mentor: David Mazzocco, associate director for sustainability and projects at Wharton.

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