$25,000 awarded to STEAM Challenge 2020 winners

The Wayne State University 2020 STEAM Challenge, which brings together interdisciplinary student teams to address a social problem in our city, has concluded. The final pitch competition, which transitioned this year from a public, in-person event to a private virtual event, due to COVID-19 concerns, consisted of six teams vying for their share of $25,000 in cash prizes. The final pitches were judged by four local experts.

The first-place winner, Detroit AirNet, will receive $12,000 plus $2,500 in business services from TechTown. Not Alone came in second and will receive $8,000. Creative Collection took third and will receive $5,000.

STEAM Challenge participants have been meeting since late October. The competition has included comprehensive business development services, coaching, and mentoring support that leveraged the time and talents of individuals and organizations that make up Detroit's growing social entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The six student teams that made it through a preliminary pitch to the final stage of the competition created application videos to explain the ways they plan to improve the lives of Detroiters. Those videos can be found here.

Detroit AirnetFirst place, $12,000 + $2,500 in business services from TechTown: Detroit AirNet

  • Rachel Akers (Engineering - Civil Engineering)
  • Allison Diehl (Engineering - Civil Engineering)
  • Hector Esparra-Escalera (Liberal Arts & Sciences - Biological Sciences)
  • Dimitrios Kakaris (Engineering - Civil Engineering)
  • Allison Lucas (CFPCA - Communications)
  • Brendan O'Leary (Engineering - Civil Engineering)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are pervasive air pollutants in urban environments and contribute to a wide range of acute and long-term health issues. VOC exposure is linked to an increasing preterm birth rate, which has risen to 15.3% in the city of Detroit. Currently there is only one location that monitors Detroit’s ambient VOC concentration as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

Given the local variations in urban air quality, there is a void in the available data on VOC concentrations. The Detroit AirNet team seeks to address this data need and will assist local communities by implementing low-cost and high-quality VOC air sensors. The team proposes to build these sensors, known as SPods, at Wayne State University where students and faculty will provide the physical and technical expertise necessary for community groups interested in air quality data analysis. Detroit AirNet will create a partnership with volunteer community members to mount the SPods on community-defined zones of concern and provide subsequent analysis of the information collected via the sensors. This data will provide a platform to inform and guide urban planning and policy decisions, on behalf of the impacted communities.

Second place, $8,000: Not Alone

  • Laila Ameerah Alexander (Education)
  • Naje Safford (Engineering - Electrical Engineering)
  • Yakeem Tatum (CFPCA)
  • De'Jon White (Engineering - Computer Science)

In 2020, there isn’t an easy way for young people to access local, state and federal laws. We believe accessing the updated laws of your state should be as easy as getting on an app and seeing it, so we are doing just that. Knowing the laws translates to the safety of all people especially when engaging with law enforcement. Not Alone will provide tutorials on how to engage with police in scenarios like routine traffic stops, etc. Giving young people access to local, state and federal laws could lead to a more politically aware and engaged population, and it’s time to push our country in a more politically aware direction. It’s time to let the people know that they are Not Alone.

Third place, $5,000: Creative Collective

  • Cameron Blackwell (CFPCA - Theatre)
  • Miriam DeWolf (Liberal Arts & Sciences - Biological Sciences)
  • Lana Elzein (CFPCA – Theatre)
  • Genia Marsee (CFPCA - Theatre)
  • Hannah Rittmueller (CFPCA - Dance)

Creative Collective aims to provide Detroit Public School youth with alternative education workshops using the dramatic arts. When budget cuts occur arts program are the first to go, and students miss valuable skill-building experiences provided by the performing arts, losing a creative outlet. All of the Creative Collective team members have experience as both cast and crew of various theatre troupes and musicals. The team is comprised of dancers, actors, costume designers and stage managers alike. Creative Collective will visit various Detroit Public Schools and provide students with the opportunity to create and perform a small-scale theater production. This will assist students in learning more about themselves and the world around them while building both practical and creative skills through theater. The desired impact is that students will develop useful skills to help with innovative problem-solving and teamwork outside of their school.

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STEAM Challenge