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Mary Hoff, Institute on the Environment, firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-626-2670
Rhonda Zurn, College of Science and Engineering, email@example.com, 612-626-7959
Brooke Dillon, University News Service, firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-624-2801
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (02/27/2014) – Eleven teams of student entrepreneurs from across the University of Minnesota have been selected winners of the 2014 Acara Challenge, a competition co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the College of Science and Engineering. The selected teams will have the opportunity and resources to further develop their innovative business solutions for environmental and social challenges.
Two international teams and one domestic team are Gold Level winners and will receive $1,000 toward pilot expenses. Silver Level honorees will receive $750 and Bronze Level recipients get $500. Winning teams on all three levels also receive individual scholarships to the Acara Spring Institute in St. Paul or Summer Institute in Bangalore, India. Select ventures are also invited to receive up to $5,000 in additional venture funding to pilot their idea.
“On this fifth anniversary of the Acara Challenge, we are especially proud of this year's teams, which form the most promising and diverse cohort of U of M change-makers we've had the opportunity to work with," said Acara co-director Fred Rose. "We are excited to fund and incubate the winning start-ups over the coming year as they develop their venture plans into operational social enterprises, generating revenue and impact in Minnesota and abroad.” The Acara Challenge, which began in 2009, spurs start-ups with creative, sustainable solutions that can have an impact in the real world.
The 2013–14 Acara Challenge winners are:
This venture will employ waste pickers to collect and sort waste from Indian households, then sell plastic and organic material to scrap dealers and recycling plants. The team includes students from the College of Continuing Education, College of Design, College of Science and Engineering, and Carlson School of Management. The College of Science and Engineering students include Matt Bechle (civil and environmental engineering) and Stefan Lundell (mechanical engineering).
For every pair of underwear sold domestically, Skivvies will donate a pair to a young girl in Haiti as a way to help girls discretely manage their periods, allowing them to regularly attend school. The team includes students from the Carlson School of Management, College of Continuing Education and College of Education and Human Development.
Mighty Axe Hops
This Minnesota business is dedicated to producing locally grown specialty hops for local brewers. The team includes students from the College of Continuing Education and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The start-up will teach rural Ugandan students how to use computers through a mobile computer laboratory with the help of computer engineering students and staff from Mbarara University in western Uganda. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering. The College of Science and Engineering students include Addah Kyarisiima (computer engineering).
Women for Water
The organization recruits women from low-income families in Bangalore, India, to give their friends and families educational presentations and promote and sell water treatment technologies. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering, College of Design, Carlson School of Management and the School of Public Health. The College of Science and Engineering students include Reed Saunders (mechanical engineering) and Kathleen Thumes (civil engineering).
This venture will partner with colleges and universities to deliver engaging online financial literacy courses to students, encouraging them to make decisions while still in college that will improve their financial situation. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The organization makes beautiful furniture using sustainably sourced East African hardwoods, with profits going to make classroom improvements in underequipped Ugandan schools. The team includes students from the College of Design.
The group will establish small centers in rural communities to purchase and dry local fruits and vegetables, thereby decreasing food spoilage and increasing farmer profits in rural India. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, College of Science and Engineering, and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. The College of Science and Engineering students include Gareth Westler (civil engineering), Ben Bakk (civil engineering), and Anton Tillmann (civil engineering).
Veterans Capital Partners
This start-up creates networking and capital resources to help military veteran entrepreneurs. The team includes students from the Carlson School of Management.
Sustainability Solutions is developing a region-specific, stochastic water management model to address the risks posed by the water-energy interdependence in Shandong, China. The team includes students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
This organization will institute a process for genetically engineering probiotic bacteria to produce antimicrobial peptides in response to a change in the local environment, such as an infection. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering and the Law School. The College of Science and Engineering students include Adam Woodruff (chemical engineering and materials science), and Yogesh Dhande (chemical engineering and materials science.)
This start-up's product will change the chemical environment of the toilet so that consumers can forego frequent flushing. The team includes students from the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.The College of Science and Engineering students include Graham Krumpelmann.