Student teams set up to world’s ‘Challenges’

These teams were up to the Challenge.

As part of Western’s inaugural International Week, the World’s Challenge Challenge competition brought together diverse student teams from across campus, each presenting an innovative approach to an issue facing the world today.

Students were tasked with thinking of a problem, as well as a solution, which they then presented to a panel of judges. The final round, featuring six teams of three, was held Tuesday evening in the Dr. David S. H. Chu International Student Centre. The judges for the final panel included Social Science Dean Brian Timney, Science Dean Charmaine Dean and Western’s Provost and Vice President Janice Deakin.

The winning team was awarded a $1,000 scholarship, per team member, to be used on an international learning opportunity sanctioned by Western.


First place
Develop innovative, inexpensive, and safe alternatives to space heating and cooking using solar energy in developing communities

Sep Pashang, Kevin Vuong and Joseph Kangmen

Solar energy is an innovative, inexpensive and safe alternative to space heating and cooking. With many individuals in the developing world still using fires and solid biomasses to cook and heat spaces, they continue to rely on ineffective and potentially dangerous methods that have harmful effects on health, the environment and personal safety.

In terms of dangers to health, the risk involved is a prolonged exposure to emissions from burning solid biomasses, which has been proven to contribute to increased child mortality rates and maternal health. When it comes to the environment, the burning of solid biomasses produces pollutants such as black carbon and methane, contributing to not only deforestation but also climate change and global warming. And finally, concerning safety, in developing communities, it is often women and children who must leave the safety of their homes to gather biomasses such as wood to burn in order to cook and heat their homes.

One solution is the use of solar cookers, which would utilize widely available satellite dishes in the developing world, covering them in aluminum foil to concentrate sunlight and solar energy underneath a cooking pot.

Another solution is the use of PCM – phase change material – something that can store and release large amounts of energy. PCM can be stored inside the walls and rooftops of homes, releasing heat energy at night. These two solutions would be cost-effective and safe for developing communities, reducing negative environmental impact.


Second place:
Payback Rates for Microcredit Loans
Anderson Petergeorge, Kaiz Alarakyia, Marco Chan

A lack of access to capital is one of the biggest problems facing developing countries that cannot grow their gross domestic product (GDP) without credit. In a country without credit, the only way to increase GDP is to increase increment spending, by increasing productivity. In developing countries, GDP grows by way of spending and the lending of credit.

Microfinancing of small businesses in the developing world isn’t working the way it’s promised to, with the biggest problem being low payback rates, which cause banks to hike up interest rates, making it more difficult for individuals to pay back loans, so they can’t borrow credit. The best way to solve this cycle is by way of education.

There needs to be education on the individual level with a business owner in a developing country. Owners must be taught proper accounting and cost differentiation, looking at material, time and utilities. The best way to deliver education is to partner with international microfinance banks, not for profits and groups at the Ivey Business School, as well as MBAs Without Boarders, many of who have already expressed an interest in such initiatives.

If banks increase credit, credit will increase consumption. That will increase productivity, in turn increasing income, which will drive GDP growth, completing the cycle by increasing the amount of available credit. This solution presents microfinance at its full potential.


Third place:
Food security in Africa
Aaron Pinto, Soheil Milani, Richard Schuett

The issue of solving world hunger and food security needs to be a team effort. For instance, Canada is in a unique position in the international community as a moderator in a neutral position. This gives the country leeway in what it can do and how it can reach out to the developing world. Canada has done a lot to improve its relations with China and in renewing its relations with Tanzania.

This presents an opportunity for a South-South cooperation initiative in which Canada reaches out to China and Tanzania to bring them together, helping them work out a deal where they can invest in agriculture and the development of Agriculture in Tanzania, together. In Tanzania, a large percentage of the land is unused and being destroyed through foreign investment. Setting up a system in which the two countries can come together to develop the land and take the surplus would work well, with China already investing in agricultural lands to feed a growing population. This solution would serve both nations well, with the provision of Canadian technology and mediation, and would help address the issue of food security in both China and Tanzania.