Penn President Amy Gutmann announced the winning teams for the President’s Engagement Prize and President's Innovation Prize for the Class of 2019, providing funding for five teams of students to implement engagement-focused projects.
The President’s Engagement Prize recognizes projects that promote community involvement on local, national, or global scales, while the President’s Innovation Prize is awarded to students who develop impactful commercial ventures. Both prizes are available to full-time graduating seniors. They award teams up to $100,000 to implement projects in the year after graduation, as well as providing $50,000 stipends for living expenses for each student.
The President’s Engagement Prize was awarded to six students across three teams.
Engineering senior Oladunni Alomaja and College seniors Princess Aghayere and Summer Kollie won the award for their project Rebound Liberia, which will establish an indoor basketball court and community resource center in Liberia. The students hope to run an annual summer program combining basketball training with reading and writing instruction, helping Liberian youth deal with the difficulties of everyday life and reducing the literacy gap between men and women.
Nursing seniors José Maciel and Antonio Renteria won the Engagement Prize for Cultivando Juntos. Their project aims to alleviate difficult conditions for people working in the mushroom industry in Kennett Square, Pa., many of whom are Latinx immigrants. The team will create a community-based curriculum for the agricultural workers in order to mitigate the occupation's negative health effects.
College senior Brendan Taliaferro received an Engagement Prize for Host Homes for LGBTQ Youth in Philadelphia, which will provide emergency housing for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.
The Innovation Prize was awarded to two teams of students: Engineering senior Malika Shukurova and College senior Katherine Sizov won the prize for Strella Biotechnology, while Wharton senior Michael Wong received the award for Instahub.
Strella Biotechnology is developing a sensor technology to help apple distributors and packers reduce food waste by identifying which fruits are the ripest. While Shukurova and Sizov are currently focusing on apples, they hope to expand the technology to predict the maturity of other fruits as well, such as bananas and pears. Strella has won innovation prizes in the past and has received funding from various entrepreneurship groups at Penn.
Wong founded InstaHub, a light switch attachment which automatically turns electricity on and off through machine learning, in 2016. InstaHub also won the Hult Prize Ivy competition last year. Wong hopes to expand InstaHub to promote sustainability through technologies that reduce water, food, and energy waste without replacing infrastructure.
“Each of the Prize recipients has demonstrated a purpose-driven desire to get out and make a difference—in their community, across the country, and around the world,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in her announcement of the winners. "I am immensely proud of our students’ commitment to meaningful work that extends beyond the classroom and the campus.”