President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes

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(Clockwise, from top) Chicago Furniture Bank, rePurpose, Avisi, Alaiana Hall. Photo courtesy University Communications.

Nine graduating seniors were awarded the Class of 2018 President’s Engagement and Innovation prizes, which provide $100,000 in funding to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting 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:

President’s Engagement Prizes

Chicago Furniture Bank | Griffin Amdur W’18, James McPhail C’18, and Andrew Witherspoon W’18 will launch a nonprofit furniture bank in Chicago. Working with a senior relocation, downsizing, and estate sales company, they will collect gently used furniture from elderly people and give it to vulnerable populations, including women and children facing domestic violence, recovering addicts, and the formerly homeless. Mentor: Tyler Wry, Wharton assistant professor of management.

rePurpose | Svanika Balasubramanian W’18 and Peter Wang Hjemdahl W’18 will spearhead a nonprofit social venture to implement a digital waste marketplace for kabadiwalas, marginalized street-side sorters in Mumbai who serve as crucial entry points to the city’s vibrant recycling industry. By enabling them to access more waste on-demand and sell it at better margins, the project aims to double the income of kabadiwalas, as well as divert waste from landfills toward recycling. Mentor: Robert Jensen, David B. Ford Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy.

Healthy Pequeños | Alaina Hall Nu’18 will drive a nurse-led multi-interventional health-promotion effort that aims to address the global health problem of infectious disease in children. Working in partnership with the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico, it will work to improve health education for children and their caregivers, strengthen infection screening, and reduce exposure to infection-causing pathogens by providing filtered water and repairing damage to local sewage structures. Mentor: Cynthia Connolly, associate professor of nursing and the Rosemarie B. Greco Endowed Term Chair in Advocacy.

President’s Innovation Prize

Avisi Technologies (VisiPlate) | Rui Jing Jiang W’18, Brandon Kao EAS’18, and Adarsh Battu W’18 will further the development of a healthcare startup that is creating a revolutionary treatment for the second-leading cause of blindness in the world: glaucoma. VisiPlate, Avisi’s nanoscale ocular implant, has the potential to transform glaucoma treatment and vision-loss prevention. Mentor: Jeffrey Babin, associate professor of practice in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

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