The inaugural World’s Challenge Challenge competition – a three-day event during which student teams from around the world gathered to propose solutions to issues of global concern – wrapped up at Western last week.
Having won similar competitions at their home universities, 10 student teams, representing six countries, tackled heavy-hitting global issues, including farming to address food security in urban centres; closing the gap in world digital literacy; using biotechnology to remediate electronic waste; plastic pollution; and technology to prevent the poaching of rhinos and elephants in Africa.
“We’re proud to be a university that celebrates the ways international collaboration can change our futures for the better,” said Julie McMullin, Western Vice Provost (International). “Big challenges need bold solutions and we’re looking forward to hearing how some of the world’s brightest young minds propose we tackle the issues.”
Heidi Balsillie, philanthropist and founder of the Fairmount Foundation; Janet De Silva, President & CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade and former Dean of Ivey Asia; Anne van Leeuwen, Consul-General of The Netherlands in Toronto; and Twee Brown, Vice-President, Marketing and Public Relations, Adamas Group, sat on the panel of judges for the competition.
Taking part were teams from Hong Kong University, University at Buffalo, Monash University (Australia), University of Otago (New Zealand), Radboud University (Netherlands) and Canadian teams from the University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University and Western.
The event reinforced the idea the best young minds can both compete and co-operate as global citizens, said Western President Amit Chakma.
“This is the kind of ingenuity and collaboration that the world needs now more than ever. As an academic community, and indeed as a global community, we must continue to create bridges between disciplines, between cultures and between different regions of our world,” Chakma said.
The team designed a mobile clinic to make 3D-printed prosthetic limbs from recycled plastics in Uganda, where demand for prosthetic limbs is high and accessibility to health care is low. The team showed a sample of a lower-leg prosthetic, made of recycled plastic and created with a 3D printer in about five hours at a cost of about $400. Using conventional technology, a custom-fit prosthesis would take at least 10 days to make and cost about $4,000, making it out of reach for most in developing countries. Calling themselves Total Dimension Prosthetics, the team aims to help amputees get lightweight and affordable limbs and to train women prosthetists, in particular, to help reduce inequities caused by gender, disability and economic disparity.
The team proposed community-based crews that would gather ubiquitous plastics littering the beaches, recycling the litter into re-useable ice packs, which would be chilled in solar-powered freezers. The ice packs would then be used on fishing boats instead of disposable plastic bags to keep their catch fresh, and that, in turn, would reduce plastic waste on beaches.
Even prior to the winners being announced, the Radboud team approached the team from Dalhousie, offering recycled plastics to help manufacture prosthetics.