HomeEducationAcaraBig ideas to change the world: Meet the 2019 Acara Challenge finalists

Big ideas to change the world: Meet the 2019 Acara Challenge finalists

The Institute on the Environment’s Acara program, which outfits changemakers with the skills needed to develop innovative solutions to the world’s grand challenges, accepts applications each spring for its annual Acara Challenge. All graduate, undergraduate, and professional students at the University of Minnesota are invited to apply, regardless of campus or area of study. They’re asked: What’s your big idea to change the world?

The challenge finalists, named below, answered this question with everything from a social media campaign for mass adoption of clean energy to a farmer-run cocoa bean cooperative in Indonesia. They have been coached on preparing proposals and presenting pitches, and are ready to bring their projects which aim to make environmental and/or social change to life.

Winners will receive up to $5,500 and continued coaching to help their projects and ventures succeed. RSVP by February 27 to join us at the Acara Challenge Reception on March 7, 2019, to celebrate these emerging leaders and their bold ideas for addressing some of society’s most pressing concerns.

IonE is proud to announce the finalists of the 2019 Acara Challenge:


Undergraduate Division

BrightSide UMN is an economically viable solution to food insecurity in the Twin Cities. We do produce distribution better than food shelves or CSAs.

  • Clara Holder, BS Nutrition 2020
  • Carley Meyers, BS Health Services Management 2019

Care Share is an intergenerational child-care platform connecting families to elders by matching needs and abilities. Its unique payment plan allows for affordability and flexibility.

  • Emily Waller, BSB Entrepreneurial Management 2019
  • Jared Johnson, BS Architecture 2019
  • Sarah Zhao, BS Economics 2019
  • Emma Fiala, Community Partner

Engineer Mars: Research that aims to integrate novel technologies to improve Martian colony agriculture. Research areas include automated system operations, soil microbiome engineering, and crop genetic modification.

  • Benjamin Alva, BS Biomedical Engineering 2021
  • Xianyi(Sen) Xiong, BS Microbiology 2020
  • Patrick Leppink-Shands, BS Computer Engineering 2020

Furaharakati is a group exercise program aimed to improve the bone and joint pain of Ugandan elders through weight-bearing exercises.

  • Allison Berry, BS Biology and Public Health 2020
  • Allison Trask, BSN Nursing 2020
  • Anna Solfest, BS Kinesiology 2019

MoyoMate aims to raise hypertension awareness in Kampala, Uganda by providing blood pressure monitoring at commonly frequented locations using kiosks and telehealth referrals.

  • Amy Yi, BS Biology & BA Global Studies 2019
  • Tessa Day, BS Genetics, Cell Biology & Development 2019
  • Diane Kazlauski, BS Biochemistry 2020

Symba is a social platform that facilitates networking, collaboration, and growth to improve the quality of life for artists and creatives across the United States.

  • Haggai Simon, BS Digital Business for Artist Advocacy 2020


Graduate Division

Battery Brew uses a bacteria-based recycling process for lithium-ion batteries at the end of their lifecycle. This is a greener alternative to existing recycling techniques.

  • Arbresha Ibraimi, BS Global Studies, Public Health, and Management, 2019
  • Katie Page, MURP, 2019
  • Paul Weber, BS Global Studies, 2019

foodiker is an online platform for people to access environmental and health data about recipes in order to make informed decisions about what they eat.

  • Maggie Rogers, MS Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, 2019

The Green Neighbor Challenge is a social media campaign and web-based lookup tool designed to facilitate the mass adoption of clean energy.

  • Andrew Butts, MS Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, 2019

Koperasi Keluarga aims to start a cooperative for and run by farmers who grow cacao beans within the same region in Indonesia.

  • Juan Mogoginta, MS Food Science, 2019

Rising Earth aims to fight dehydration-related childhood mortality by sustainably funding effective nonprofits through a “drink-for-a-drink” model with the income gained from online wine sales.

  • Jack Schneeman, MBA, 2019
  • Morgan Schneeman, Community Partner

SafeStore: Farmers face tough decisions everyday; SafeStore eliminates one of them. It places protective equipment in the right place for the right job.

  • Scott Plooster, MBA 2020
  • Megan Schossow, MS Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, 2019

Tree of Hope Haiti built a water storage system in 2015 that serves 250-400 people and pumps 2,000 gallons per day. We are now partnering with the community to implement an income generating project to fund the water system into the future.

  • Michele Girard, Master of Development Practice, 2020

Udanta Market is a third-party marketplace in the pursuit of building lives of indigenous farmers, artisans, and small-scale entrepreneurs in India by promoting and selling their products.

  • Elizabeth Abraham, Ph.D. CEHD, 2019
  • Limasenla, Community Partner


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