Product, Service & Design Innovation
ASU Awards $40K to Student-Led Innovations in Waste, Agriculture, Community Development

Now in its fourth year, the ASU Innovation Challenge, which provides ASU students “an opportunity to create products and services that address some of the greatest challenges facing the world today,” has awarded a total of $40,000 to 11 student-innovator teams, according to a recent announcement.

The $10,000 grand prize went to Philyra Paper Company (led by David Anaya and San Johnson, graduate students at the Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering), which aims to divert organic palm tree waste from landfills in Phoenix and other municipalities by converting them into high-quality paper and packaging materials.

"Since the announcement at the awards ceremony, I've done nothing but think about the future," Anaya said. "It's now time to work even harder and put in longer hours to truly make this a success."

The venture has already been adopted by the City of Phoenix in their waste diversion goals, and currently supports small businesses impacting 1.4 million Phoenix residents.

"I was so inspired and humbled by the amazing work that teams have collaborated on for the Innovation Challenge," said Rebecca Garcia, co-founder of CoderDojo NYC and keynote speaker at the award ceremony.

The remaining finalists:

  • Growth Alternatives in Action, which partners with communities in developing countries to help rural farmers implement sustainable agricultural methods. — $7,500
  • Force Impact Technologies, maker of a mouth guard that visually displays the force of impacts caused by athletic injuries. It displays a color correlating to the probability that the individual suffered a concussion based on impact. — $7,500
  • Devils Connect, an academic website for ASU Sun Devils to collaborate with fellow classmates, forming personalized study groups based on classes and location. — $2,500
  • VeriFarm, a web and mobile platform that provides small farms with increased market and distribution opportunities by empowering them to more easily meet food safety regulations. — $2,500
  • HEROES for Students, which exposes students to community role models with diverse experiences, knowledge and skills and empower them to set and reach short- and long-term goals. — $2,500
  • Creative Giving, which aims to change the charity financial model by enabling contributors to give financial support without requiring financial means. It allows supporters to convert daily activities into contributions for the charity of their choice. — $1,500
  • GreenLight Solutions, which connects sustainability-minded students with experiential learning opportunities to help organizations in need of innovative, cost-effective strategies to embrace sustainability. — $1,500
  • PHX Pack Co., which offers paid internships to young people who are out of school and out of work. Interns engage in rigorous GED-prep services, professional development and community engagement experiences. Services are supported by the sale of backpacks made in Phoenix. — $1,500
  • The Three Sisters, a program centered on sustainable gardening, a healthy lifestyle and holistic treatment and support to help women successfully transition into their communities following incarceration. — $1,500
  • TriChange, which allows people to create and track small, daily personal goals online while also pledging 10 cents to benefit a global charity of their choice upon completion of their goal. — $1,500

Another enterprising ASU student, Nicole Pannuzzo, made news recently with her redesign of the toothpaste tube, which will release every last drop of paste, minimizing wastage. The origami-inspired redesign has garnered interest from Colgate's advertising team.

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