HomeEducationAcaraPresenting the 2021 Acara Challenge Finalists!

Presenting the 2021 Acara Challenge Finalists!

Acara is a program of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment focused on leadership incubation for students interested in environmental and social challenges at home and abroad. The Acara Challenge is an opportunity for students who want to solve grand challenges and have project ideas to compete for funding to further their projects. 

Acara Challenge fellowships and internship prizes are funded by many generous individuals. Our network of partners provides ongoing support to Acara students, helping them better understand the challenges communities face and how to develop scalable, viable solutions.

Acara is more than a program, it’s a community. Let’s learn more about the 2021 Acara Challenge Finalists with quick information about each project below!

And don’t forget to register to join us for the 2021 Acara Challenge Virtual Reception on Wednesday, April 21st from 5 – 6 pm!


Graduate Division

Co-creating through Design seeks to increase the postsecondary outcomes of underserved learners by transforming educational institutions into equitable, student-ready organizations, through leveraging equity-centered design thinking.

Jessica Thompson, Phd, Higher Education, 2023


Doktah Telemedicine provides Ghanaians with timely, accessible and affordable health care services by connecting them to doctors and nurses via voice calls and SMS.

Joseph Akambase MBChB, MPH Epidemiology, 2022; Jay-Sheree Allen MD, Family Medicine Physician; Benson Owusu, Registered Nurse; Andrew Marshall MD, Emergency Medicine Physician


EcoCiclo produces biodegradable sanitary pads and employs women in vulnerable situations because we believe that taking care of the environment is also taking care of people.

Karla Godoy, Masters in Development Practice, 2022; Hellen Nzinga, Masters in Business Intelligence, 2022; Patricia Zanella, Masters in International Relations, 2020; Adriele Menezes, BS Chemical Engineer, 2019


Mexico in Minneapolis (description forthcoming)

Topic: Reconstructing Lake Street

Intervention: Grow organizing capacity of Latino artists and cultural leaders to create a cultural revival vision. 


Plant Hibernation recognizes that the economic shock of COVID-19 has increased teen homelessness 4-fold – this project aims to connect those kids with economic opportunities in the Twin Cities.

Ullas Pathak, MBA, Carlson Consulting Enterprise, 2022; Sean Lundy, MBA, Carlson Ventures Enterprise, 2022


Sense of Self seeks to transform the way BIPOC people address chronic stress and systemic racism by affirming their resilience and providing radical restorative tools that allow them to thrive.

Kania Johnson, Master of Public Policy Candidate, 2021


STEMtelling centers student interests, experiences, and cultures as the foundation for scientific exploration and innovation.

Jenny Tilsen, Phd STEM Curriculum and Instruction, 2024; Edwin Jaquez, Web Developer


Turia.ai is an app designed to solve the problem of stress, distractions, and burnout for digital workers by uniquely combining key mindfulness and productivity techniques.

Rahul Bhojwani, Phd Computer Science, 2023


Undergraduate Division

EcoPerks is an app that collects data on students’ composting habits and rewards positive behaviors with discounts at local businesses.

Eesha Bharti, BS Neuroscience, 2022; Jordan Peterson, BSB Marketing and Communication Studies, Business Analytics Minor, 2021; Rebekka Gaerber, BDA Architecture, Product Design Minor, 2021; Annika Fisher, BS Developmental Psychology, Sustainability Studies Minor, 2022


HEAL-ED strives to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors, specifically decreased alcohol consumption, to increase productivity and success amongst Ugandan entrepreneurs via motivational career development programming.

Hannah Fleming (She/Her), BS Neuroscience, 2020; Alanalyn Pinaula-Toves (She/Her), BA Human Physiology, 2022; Ethan Robertson (He/Him), BS Genetics, Cell Biology, & Development BA Psychology, 2022


Heart to Heart about a Healthy Heart utilizes a community-based and patient empowerment-focused approach to educate adults in Uganda about hypertension and promote routine screening.

Sakshi Aul, BS Neuroscience & Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development 2022; Lidia Hadera, Biochemistry BS, 2023


Open Spaces Healing Initiative seeks to activate an urban green space by rejuvenating a historically significant cemetery to address environmental injustice, revitalize the existing community, and improve overall quality of life.                                                                           

Sage Brinton, BS in Business, Supply Chain and Operations Management, International Business, and Public & Nonprofit Management, 2021; Olga Acuna, BA Urban Studies, Sustainable Urban and Landscape Design and Planning concentration, 2020. Bemnet Kika, BS in Inter College Program, Concentrations in Health Service Management and Public Health, 2022


Ourogami seeks to add value to plastic waste using synthetic microbes. Popular plastics  – particularly PET – can be upcycled into target compounds, promoting a circular economy.

Kovic Odhiambo, BA Statistics, 2021; Azion White, BS Biochemistry, 2021; Raajii Daniel, BA Economics, 2021; Abby Aseefa, BA Marketing, 2021; Kabor Namarra, BS Computer Engineering, 2021


Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming “Food Waste Reduction and Composting Education at UMD,” promotes sustainable agriculture by centralizing compost practices through demonstration and closing gaps within our food system. 

Camryn Appert, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, 2021; Maggie Salwei, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, and Biology, 2022; Matthew Sperrazza, BA Environment, Sustainability and Geography, 2022; Paxton Zirpel, BA Environment and Sustainability and Geography, International Studies, 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *