International Studies & Programs

GARD Forum 2024 Innovation Challenge

Real-World Problems Require Innovative Solutions

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Published: Wednesday, 27 Mar 2024 Author: Global Youth Advancement Network

Founded by Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja, MSU Professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the Global Alliance for Rapid Diagnostics (GARD) is "a village of innovators; a multidisciplinary and multicultural peer-to-peer network of equals committed to improving global health through early diagnosis."

Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja, founder of GARD

Since 2021, the virtual GARD Forum has allowed experts and academics from different regions worldwide to hold technical sessions, short courses, mock simulations, and cross-continent discussions about the use of innovative technologies to sustain all aspects of health. Another component of the GARD Forum is the Innovation Challenge, a competition in the form of three-minute elevator pitches open to undergraduate/graduate students and professionals worldwide, with the goal of promoting fresh perspectives and creative solutions to local and global challenges.

The GARD Forum 2024 took place virtually on March 14-16, and the Innovation Challenge was open to individual or team proposals related to challenges in Antimicrobial Resistance In Respiratory Diseases And Sepsis In Immunocompromised Populations (ARSIP), Transboundary, Emerging, And Aquaculture Diseases (TEAD), Sustainable Health Initiative (SHI), human, animal/food, and environment in alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Affordable And Accessible Diagnostic Technologies (AADT), and Pandemic Preparedness And Surveillance (PPAS). MSU’s Global Youth Advancement Network (GYAN) was responsible for organizing, implementing, and promoting this year’s Innovation Challenge, also serving as a sponsor, together with the support of De La Salle University (Manila, Philippines) and the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute at Michigan State University.

In preparation for the competition, all individuals or teams had the opportunity to participate in synchronous/asynchronous online mentoring, and a website for the Innovation Challenge was also made available featuring a comprehensive mix of resources as well as important information such as judging criteria, for example. Additionally, the organizers put together a Winner’s Roundtable event, where some of the 2023 winners provided an overview of their winning projects, shared updates on their progress and recent accomplishments, and engaged in interactive discussions regarding implementation strategies. Previous judges also interacted with the winners, asking questions, providing feedback, and offering advice to potential participants for the 2024 Innovation Challenge.

GYAN Global Citizenship Representative Intern and youth moderator Sarah Potts

GYAN is proud to report that the 2024 Innovation Challenge received 35 submissions representing six distinct countries: Brazil, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. In total, 91 participants were involved, and the most popular themes across all received proposals were related to aspects of Health, Environment, and Food Systems. 

After a pre-screening of all proposals, the best six pitches were chosen and presented to all GARD Forum 2024 attendees during the final round of the Innovation Challenge, a live online synchronous event on March 14 moderated by MSU graduate student and GYAN Global Citizenship Representative Intern Sarah Potts. Opening remarks were given by Dr. Alocilja and Dr. Leo Kempel, the Dennis P. Nyquist Endowed Professor of Electromagnetics and Dean of MSU’s College of Engineering. An esteemed panel of judges was also in attendance, as shown in the image below. The judges were able to provide constructive feedback and ask questions to the teams after their presentations, followed by a Q&A session open to all event attendees.

After deliberation, three winners were selected and awarded professional development cash prizes to further develop and implement their solutions. The winners are featured below together with their proposals:

  • 1st place with proposal “BioCoatZ: Controlling Insect Damage on Cacao Using Particle Film Technology”: Juan Miguel D. Esguerra and Kris Lord T. Santos from the Biological Control Research Unit, Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Research at De La Salle University.
  • 2nd place with proposal “Low Emission Heating System for Mongolian Homes and Beyond”: Anne Marie Clinger, Rachel White, and Turbold Ariunbold from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan State University.
  • 3rd place with proposal “Invasa Green: Sabotaging Superbugs with Invasive Infusions”: Ethan Claucherty and Dani Cummins from the Axia Institute at Michigan State University.

When reflecting upon this year’s Innovation Challenge, 2nd place winner Rachel White said: “My group’s innovation is unique and solves challenges including minimizing coal combustion and decreasing overall cost for heat. I am thankful for this opportunity to show my electrical engineering expertise and help make the world a better place.”

Congratulations to all Innovation Challenge participants and thanks to all judges and other involved parties in making this event a resounding success! Echoing the words of Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja: “Participants in the Innovation Challenge hope to add value to society through their innovation. We may never be able to measure the direct effect but giving the opportunity to scientists and students from around the world to get to know one another across time zones is worth the effort and sacrifices.”

GYAN looks forward to future collaborations with GARD and invites you to know more about them and the GARD Forum by visiting their website.

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