CGI U Innovation Fund

2016 Awardees

Act for the Future

Name: Jacquelin Meremable
School: University of Wisconsin – Parkside

In Kenscoff, Haiti, there are no large-scale local egg producers, forcing egg sellers to drive over 40 miles to the Dominican Republic to purchase eggs to sell in Kenscoff. Meremable commits to start a Haitian-run egg farm, creating jobs, allowing sellers to buy and sell eggs at a decreased cost, and reinvesting profits back into the local community. He will hire local staff to serve as farm administrators and hen caretakers, while working to add apprenticeships in poultry management and offer microloans to small retailers wanting to sell eggs at local markets. Jacquelin will partner with the Haitian Solidarity Fund for Rural Development of Kenscoff and a prior CGI U commitment, Hens for Haiti.

Billion Bottle Project

Name: Sanjit Datta
School: Case Western Reserve University

Despite tremendous improvements in the supply of clean drinking water around the world, unclean water remains a major contributor to the nearly 3.4 million annual deaths due to diarrheal disease. SODIS has traditionally served as an affordable and effective technique for household-level water disinfection. To use SODIS, users fill a clear plastic bottle with pathogen-contaminated water and leave the bottle in sunlight.  Ultraviolet light from the sun destroys bacteria, viruses, and parasites, rendering the water safe to drink. However, this method is typically used ineffectively, with water not being left out for a sufficient period of time. The goal of this project is to create a user-friendly device called OSPRI that simplifies SODIS, transforming it from a technique that only excels in the laboratory to a simple routine that anyone can use reliably. OSPRI, which looks like a small colored cylinder, is a water-activated sensor that changes color when the water has received sufficient UV irradiation. OSPRI is reusable - once the device is removed from the bottle, the color change reverses so OSPRI can be used day after day with a low cost of just $0.17 for one device. Currently, the OSPRI concept is being evaluated in the field by SODIS researchers as prototype development in the laboratory continues. Datta’s group aims to have a fully-validated prototype ready for field testing by the end of 2016 and existing international partnerships will allow the team to conduct more extensive field testing throughout 2017.

Global Voice for Autism

Name: Melissa Diamond
School: University of Bradford

Autistic children who live in refugee camps in Turkey are rarely allowed to attend school, and face severe social stigmas given that very little is known about how to manage and support autistic children in the immediate community. Diamond will implement evidence-based, in-depth training programs for parents, siblings, and aid workers to raise awareness and share best practices for supporting children with autism in refugee camps in Turkey. The program aims to increase autistic children’s communication and social skills while decreasing restrictive and challenging behaviors, thereby reducing stress for families, improving relationships, and increasing community awareness and acceptance of autism. Diamond will partner with a local nonprofit, AMENA, to establish the program in a culturally-sensitive context. She will host feedback sessions for parents to measure their activation and stress levels, and will require parents to complete pre- and post-program behavioral assessments of their child to measure improved communication and social skills.


Name: Naomi Poyser
School: University College London

In an effort to boost access to local, sustainable agriculture in the London region, Naomi Poyser and her team will develop and scale a mobile application that allows users to buy, sell, and trade local produce, establish new urban farming sites, purchase gardening products and services, customize a gardening calendar to track progress, and get real-time urban gardening advice.  The Greenseed team plans to expand rapidly in other cities, adding additional features specific to each location. Poyser’s metrics for success will be the number of users and activity within the app; she hopes to have 1,000 users in London by the end of 2016 and 10,000 users by the end of 2017, with at least 10 percent of users taking advantage of the new Marketplace feature to buy, sell, and trade local produce with one another.


Name: Viraj Sikand
School: Brown University

In the rural village of Msambweni, Kenya, illegal fishing for fish that is processed and sold as animal feed has threatened local ecosystems. Sikand commits to develop a high-protein, low-cost alternative feed for fish farms in Kenya, one that will simultaneously contribute to ocean conservation while bolstering the sustainable development of a rapidly growing industry. His venture will grow, harvest, and process black soldier fly larvae into a complete feed for use on small-scale fish farms. Unlike the nutritionally-inadequate animal feed used widely by farmers today, Sikand’s insect feed will be nutrient-rich, allowing the agriculture industry in Kenya to reach its full potential and enabling farmers to make a living wage.  He will partner with Brown University and the University of Michigan, and expects to be in a position to scale his animal feed venture to an industrial warehouse by 2017.

The Larvicide Automatic Dispenser

Name: Karen Cheng
School: Boston University

Countries in the Caribbean and South America use water tanks as their main source of potable water, but standing water in these devices are often breeding grounds for mosquitoes that are key transmitters of the Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. Most current methods of larvicide application involve labor-intensive, door-to-door distributions by government health officials. The Larvicide Automatic Dispenser (LAD) is a device designed to resolve the difficulties and inefficiencies of larvicide distribution methods in South America by safely delivering the optimal concentration of larvicide in water supplies with minimal human intervention. The group will also employ mechanical automation that requires zero electrical power to measure the water level and to dispense the larvicide. A member of LAD attended the International Zika Summit this year, and received interest from Dr. Gubio Soares Campos, a virologist from Federal University of Bahia, who was the first to identify the presence of Zika in Brazil.  The team is partnering with the State of Bahia to test LAD in 100 households in the city of Lauro de Freitas, among the hardest hit cities facing the triple epidemic of Zika, dengue and chikungunya.


Name: Fanice Nyatigo
School: University of California, Berkeley

Many pregnant women in rural and low-income communities in Kenya do not have the resources to visit clinics during their pregnancy, or the resources give birth in a hospital with a qualified delivery specialist present. Nyatigo will establish a voice call and SMS program that informs mothers-to-be about how to be healthy during pregnancy, how babies develop in the womb, and how to detect warning signs during pregnancy. Due to high mobile phone penetration in Kenya, using voice calls and SMS in both English and Swahili can accommodate illiterate populations and those who speak either or both of the two national languages in Kenya. The service will be modified based on household schedules, but will contact women three times per week with tips and advice. Nyatigo has partnered with AmmiTips and mMitra, two organizations that provide similar services in Pakistan and India, in order to access their automated voice system and learn how to expand the service appropriately in Kenya. She will also work with the Kijabe Hospital to identify pregnant women, and will partner with the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action to draft effective messages. She hopes to expand her market to new mothers with children up to age three. Nyatigo will consider the pilot successful if she attracts 100-200 pregnant women in Kijabe, Kenya to the program, and will call each woman after participating for 8 weeks to receive feedback.


Name: Benjamin Rostoker
School: University of Southern California

For patients covered by Medicaid, the average medical appointment is merely seven minutes long, and a majority of this time is spent answering standardized questions. MedZango is an interactive chat-bot that guides patients through the recording of symptoms in their own words, increasing the efficacy of a seven minute medical appointment. Its AI system extracts the pertinent details and sends a summarized version to the physician in advance of the appointment. With MedZango, physicians can quickly review symptoms, medical history and medication compliance. The team is actively exploring partnerships with local hospitals, affordable housing organizations, and academic programs in public health.  While quality of care is a function of a complex system, the team has identified three key variables that MedZango can directly measure and positively impact: quality of life, health literacy, and patient satisfaction.

On Her Own

Name: Woyneab Habte
School: Mount Holyoke College

Many female college students in Ethiopia struggle to earn an income while enrolled in school due to low student employment rates, forcing them to enter the sex trade to be able to pay for essential expenses. Habte is aiming to establish a viable employment program for low-income female students to provide marketable skills for post-college careers and allow for financial independence. The program – a laundromat run by low-income female students at Adama University – is also a response to the high demand for clean clothes on a campus where there currently are no mechanized laundry machines. The students working in the laundromat will keep their salaries and earn enough to cover their living expenses. Habte will work with the Gender and HIV/AIDS Directorate at Adama University to identify the female students who would benefit most from the work-study program. Her first benchmark is to hire 5 female students and 2 permanent female employees for the laundromat and generate enough profit to be able to hire more students in need. She also will track graduation rates of student employees and usage of the laundry machines by other students.


Name: Trang Duong
School: Brown University

According to the World Health Organization, disabled persons account for 15.3% of Vietnam’s population, and 29.4% of that population faces physically debilitating challenges. Duong’s venture, Penta, will work with a Vietnamese cocoa bean farm to create employment opportunities for workers with limb disabilities. The program will also generate the revenue necessary to purchase prosthetics for others in the region. In this joint venture, the already established cocoa bean farm will be in charge of the growing, harvesting, fermenting, and roasting of cocoa beans, while Penta will set up a factory to conduct the latter stages of the chocolate production: blending, tempering, molding, storing, and dispatching the chocolate. Penta will employ six to ten workers with limb disabilities to administer the chocolate manufacturing in the factory. The team has already secured verbal agreements with five major hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that are interested in purchasing their chocolates. They plan to have initial rounds of prosthetic fittings distributed every 3 months, with approximately two dozen prosthetics fitted and distributed in each round. 

Reusable and Low Cost Core Needle Biopsy Device

Name: Richard Shi
School: Johns Hopkins University

Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) due to inadequate screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs. In developed countries, tissue samples from tumor regions are biopsied by core needle biopsy devices and pathologically analyzed to diagnose cancers with great accuracy. However, reusable CNB devices cost $130-$300 and disposable CNBs costs $48, which are too expensive for most patients in LMICs. This venture is focused on improving the accessibility of CNB devices and pathological analysis to resource-limited hospitals. Shi’s group envisions the creation of an inexpensive, ergonomic, and intuitive 3D-printed CNB tool and biopsy tissue analysis kit to help nurses and general practitioners provide on-site diagnoses for breast cancer patients in LMICs. They are in the early stages of product development, needs validation, and stakeholder analysis. Once a prototype is developed, they will test their devices in breast cancer models and gain IRB approval to research the efficacy of the device compared to current ones on the market. Next, they will begin approved, small studies in LMIC hospitals to measure the device’s efficacy and impact on reducing diagnosis delays. Then, they will work to partner with and license their technology to local manufacturers and distributors in LMICs so that the device can be utilized by a wide range of hospitals.

Ribosense Diagnostics

Name: Theoren Loo
School: University of California, Berkeley

A crucial component of effective HIV management is regular testing of viral load, as a sudden increase can signify a failure of a patient’s treatment regimen. However, only 25% of individuals living in low-resource settings have access to suitable viral load testing and other crucial HIV management tools. Theoren Loo commits to increase the accessibility of HIV healthcare products in low-income South African communities by providing vending machines that supply over-the-counter healthcare items, including male and female contraceptives, at-home HIV diagnostic tests, free educational pamphlets with a list of local resources for acquiring help, and future access to viral load testing. The for-sale items will cost less than typical South African retail prices, and profits made from vending machine sales will be used to expand the model to other communities within South Africa. By the end of 2017, he plans to have enough vending machines installed to be financially independent, scaling his ability to provide HIV management tools in low-resource settings across South Africa.

The Science Education Initiative Fellowship

Name: Abhilash Mishra
School: California Institute of Technology

There are over two million teachers in India without STEM expertise, and there is no standardization and benchmarking system for key STEM education indicators. The Science Education Initiative Fellowship (SEI) will train and place undergraduates as part-time STEM teachers in low-income classrooms in India. In 2016, SEI has been implemented in 52 classrooms, impacting over 1,700 students, and SEI’s goal is to scale to 150 classrooms by 2017, reaching over 5,000 students. The SEI model will collect data on STEM learning at regular intervals through formative assessments, and test the overall impact of its program through randomized evaluations.


Name: Sanchit Chirania
School: Arizona State University, Tempe Campus

In the United States, sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of over 400,000 people outside of the hospital every year. One primary driver for this is the technological gap between care providers and the therapy provided. The manual way of administering chest compressions is an unregulated process that often reduces the quality of compressions. To address this issue, Chirania commits to develop an automated and patentable chest compression device that can administer regulated and quality chest compressions with minimal human effort. Based on an identified need and ongoing engagement with local stakeholders, Chirania and his team plan to sell these devices to fire departments and emergency medicine practitioners in the Tempe region for use by their care providers.

The SolarBerry

Name: James Turing
School: University of Edinburgh

Less than 10% of Kenyans living in rural areas have access to reliable electricity or computing facilities, restricting access to information and communications technology education. Turing will develop a self-financing, community-owned, off-grid, and solar-powered computer lab in a small primary school in Nyamira County, Kenya.  This lab will provide the entire community with access to comprehensive ICT education opportunities and firsthand experience using Raspberry Pi computers. The portable lab, manufactured in a recycled shipping container, will not only house the computers and a comprehensive eLibrary to provide resources for students, teachers, and the community, but will also produce solar energy to charge the computers. Excess solar energy will also be sold back to the community at a rate 2000% cheaper than other locally-available electricity. Turing and his team have partnered with ComplitKenya, and will enlist their help to train the local community in how to properly maintain the facility. Turing will measure success by monitoring ICT exam results from local students, evaluating energy readings from the SolarBerry, tracking resident use of the eLibrary software and other available programs, and calculating repayment rates from the community.

Violence Against Women Centers

Name: Hafsah Lak
School: University of Chicago

As rates of violence against women (VAW) in Pakistan continue to increase, the conviction rate for these crimes is less than three percent, largely due to disconnected evidence collection, societal pressure for victims to retract their accusations, and a lack of law-enforcement training and medical personnel. Hafsah Lak, in partnership with the Punjab Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit - Law and Order Wing, will launch several Violence Against Women Centers, which will provide legal services to increase the prosecution rate of VAW crimes, along with housing, immediate medical care, and post-trauma therapy and rehabilitation for victims. The Centers will be run 24 hours per day by all-female teams who have been trained extensively to care for victims of this specific type of crime. Lak worked with the Punjab government to pass the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act in 2006, which led to a surge in the reporting rate of VAW crimes. Lak will partner with the District Women Protection Committee to implement the Centers in the 36 districts of Punjab.


Name: Julia Kramer
School: University of California, Berkeley

In Ghana, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancerous death for women, but fewer than 5% of women are ever screened for the disease. Kramer created a training simulator model to assist in training midwives and midwifery students to perform visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), a low-cost cervical cancer screening procedure. Julia commits to implement this training model and its associated educational curriculum in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana in order to increase the number of midwives performing cervical cancer screenings. She will manufacture 10 training devices and partner with Ghana Health Services and local midwifery schools to train midwives and implement the model. Kramer’s expected outcomes are an increase in the number of VIAs performed by midwives, as well as an increase in the number of hospitals where VIA is available in Accra and Kumasi.

Zawadi Healthcare Services

Name: Gift Kiti
School: Bates College

In rural regions outside of Mombasa, Kenya, access to health facilities is limited, requiring residents to walk up to 20 kilometers to reach the nearest clinic. As a result, residents often delay medical treatment until their health has significantly deteriorated, or they opt for unproven alternative healthcare methods instead. To address this issue, Kiti commits to make healthcare accessible to the residents of Mombasa through the establishment of a health clinic and a Chicken Rearing and Sharing Project (CRSP). The clinic will improve nutritional intake within the community, provide sexual education, counseling, family planning and elderly care services, and will be staffed by trained community healthcare workers. In addition, Kiti will create the CRSP, a program which will provide women with chickens to raise for protein and to sell for income, where part of the proceeds will generate revenue for the clinic. Gift plans to partner with Partners for World Health of Portland, Carolina for Kibera, and local religious institutions in the Mombasa region.