Big Ideas Competition 2017 IT for Society Category Winners Announced

Big Ideas

CITRIS and the Banatao Institute are pleased to announce four winners in the ‘IT for Society’ category of the annual Big Ideas competition. This category recognizes student ideas that demonstrate the capacity of information technology to address a significant societal challenge. Selected from a competitive pool of more than 45 proposals from 8 UC campuses, these innovative projects shared a total of $20,000 in prizes. Congratulations to this year’s competitors!

In the IT for Society category, 45 pre-proposals were submitted (8 campuses: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UCSF, UCSB, UCSC), 6 finalists (4 UC Berkeley, 1 UCSF, 1 UC Davis), and 4 winners (1 UCSF, 3 UC Berkeley). $20,000 was awarded in this category.

First-place winner, Serify, participated in the 6th Annual Big Ideas Grand Prize Pitch Day competition on April 26th. For more information about the competition and the full list of winners in each category, please visit the Big Ideas website.

1st Place: Serify

Team Members: Jason Parad, Kristine Tran, Alexander Haddad
Campus: UC San Francisco

The skyrocketing popularity of dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, and Jack’d may also contribute to an increase in the transmission of HIV and other STDs. This has caused great concern among dating app users as well as heightened response by the public health community. While prevention efforts have varied, recent strategies focus on dating app-facilitated dialogue about sexual health, widespread campaigning for HIV and STD testing, and targeted HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Yet as each approach has its drawbacks, the worry and risk of HIV/STD infection continue to grow. Serify aims to address these trends. Developed through a fall 2016 interprofessional entrepreneurship course at UCSF, Serify allows dating app users to conveniently verify and share their negative HIV/STD test results.

2nd Place: Reach 1600 Foundation

Team Members: Gloria Chen, Panny Shan, Amy Lam, Janny Tran
Campus: UC Berkeley

Reach 1600 Foundation provides free, adaptive SAT preparation for students in underserved communities. The organization collects and analyzes data on students’ academic strengths and areas of growth, as well as their psychological assets and needs. The SAT curriculum, pedagogical methods, and psychological approaches are then customized to each student using insights distilled from this data. This personalized approach fosters students’ intrinsic motivation and is intended to support them in achieving goals beyond the SAT. In Reach 1600’s pilot testing, participating students achieved an average SAT score increase of 410 points.

3rd Place: Information For Action

Team Members: Emily Thomas, John Toner
Campus: UC Berkeley

Information for Action (IFA) is dedicated to social change powered by citizens and technology. After months of gathering user feedback, IFA is launching the first ever browser extension and web application that links breaking news to community action. When a natural disaster strikes and citizens read about it online, they will be able to click the IFA icon and immediately sign up to hand out meals to victims, distribute supplies, and help people find shelter. Community organizations can also interact with citizens through a personalized account and advanced analytics tools. The IFA team is comprised of students with experience in journalism, community organizing, policy and planning, and technology development.

3rd Place: Paladin Drones

Team Members: Divyaditya Shrivastava, Adithya Sriram, Trevor Pennypacker
Campus: UC Berkeley

Information sharing and exchange are at the forefront of technological innovation, yet. they haven’t been utilized to solve widespread public safety problems such as household fires. In Berkeley and similar cities, firefighter response time is a brisk 3-7 minutes, but undefined conditions at traffic and fire scenes can add up to 5 minutes before fire fighting begins. Paladin Drones, a Berkeley-based drone startup, aims to eliminate this uncertainty and further decrease response times. Paladin’s drones will autonomously rush to a fire scene well before first-responders arrive, analyze hotspots and traffic conditions using a thermal camera, and relay the information to units through a webapp that runs on first-responders’ laptops. With access to this information while en route, firefighters can begin the appropriate firefighting strategies immediately upon arrival, thus dramatically decreasing response times.


The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.

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