President Clinton and Stephen Colbert with the top two teams from the 2013 CGI U Commitments Challenge
Mar 16
March 16, 2014

Meet the 16 Student Teams in the CGI U Bracket Challenge


UPDATE: The 2014 CGI U Commitments Challenge is done, and the winner will be announced today in the Closing Plenary session at 5:15 PT / 8:15 ET. You can watch live at
As the college sports world enters “March Madness" this week, teams of CGI University (CGI U) students are competing in a head-to-head bracket of their own. They’re fundraising for their CGI U Commitments to Action - new, specific, and measurable plans to address local and global challenges - in the lead-up to the 2014 CGI U Meeting. And the top students teams will each receive part of $10,000 in additional funding for their work.
This year, CGI U has partnered with CrowdRise to power the fourth annual Commitments Challenge. Like the NCAA "March Madness" tournament, student teams are matched up in each round and the team that raises the most money for their CGI U commitment advances to the next round. In the first three rounds of competition, over $43,000 was raised. The "final four" projects in the bracket will each received $1,250, and the winner of the competition will receive an additional $5,000, made possible by Craig Newmark, founder of and craigconnects. 
The commitments in the bracket represent the ambitious and innovative ways that CGI University students are addressing challenges in their communities and on a global scale. Read more about their work below, and support your favorite team with a small $5 or $10 donation before the end of the semifinal round, Friday 3/21 at noon ET.
The four CGI U Commitments to Action that are competing in the semi-final round [UPDATED]:

Stay in Touch
Commitment By: Daniel Feinberg; Caitlin Lee; Madelyn Welsh
School: Washington University in St. Louis

In 2014, Daniel Feinberg, Caitlin Lee, and Madelyn Welsh committed to assist people in finding out if their loved ones are okay after a disaster by creating a texting service to allow individuals to check into the service via a text message. The team will work with phone companies and a texting service design company to launch the system in 2014 in as many languages as possible.

Beyond "Empowerment": The Realization of Community Power
Commitment By: Patrick Pawletko; Eleni Bardaka
School: Purdue University

In 2014, Patrick Pawletko and Eleni Bardaka committed to build a locally-sourced, locally-fabricated, financially-sustainable micro-hydropower plan in Bangang, a remote village in Cameroon. They will work to upgrade a local micro-hydro plant with innovative engineering techniques to reduce operation costs. They will partner with the Purdue University and the African Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology to develop a robust power control system.

Commitment By: Saumya Dave
School: Georgia Regents University

In 2014, Saumya Dave committed to improve maternal health in Molii, a village outside Niamey, Niger by empowering local women to make nutritional bars for expecting mothers. The bars will be made of non-perishable ingredients that contain nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy, such as almonds, dates, fennel, and corn cereal. Saumya will train the women to make and sell the nutrition bars in 2014.

Commitment By: Steven Lyons
School: University of Texas

In 2014, Steven Lyons committed to reduce electric usage in Austin, Texas by developing a brand of shoes that self-generate energy. Steven will develop a prototype that is functional, fashionable, and easy to produce and will partner with local manufacturers to make his product available throughout Austin in 2014. He hopes to distribute shoes to small farmers in Karnataka, India by 2015.

Other commitments that competed in the 2014 Commitments Challenge include:

BioPrinting: A New Technology to Curing Disabilities
Commitment By: Anjan Katta; Nattapoom Asavareongchai
School: Stanford University


In 2014, Anjan Katta and Nattapoom Asavareongchai committed to cure mobility disabilities by creating a Bio 3-D Printer that will produce cartilage and tendons in an effective and affordable way. Anjan and Nattapoom will partner with the Stanford Medical School to build the technology and will test the technology in formal laboratories and clinical trials to ensure it is safe for use, aiming to begin assisting mobility-impaired individuals by January 2015.

Replicate the SailFuture
Commitment By: Michael Long
School: New College of Florida

In 2014, Michael Long committed to provide sailing and mentorship to 20 at-risk youth in Sarasota, Florida through replicating and expanding his organization SailFuture. Through one-one-one mentorship, exposure to educational and professional opportunities, tutoring, and workshops in life skills, Michael aims to empower youth to break through cyclical barriers and achieve their goals.

Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG)
Commitment by: Thaddeus Talbot; Kendrick Coq; Channing McNeal
School: Cornell University

In 2014, Thaddeus Talbot, Kendrick Coq, and Channing McNeal committed to increase the graduation rate of African American males at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York through a peer mentoring program. The team will offer academic enrichment, professional development, and community building to 100 students in the program and hopes to increase the graduation rate of African American males from 80% to 90% by 2015.

Standard Hydro
Commitment By: Lucien Charland; Charlene Kormondy
School: University of Central Florida

In 2014, Lucien Charland and Charlene Kormondy committed to offset climate-based threats to agriculture in Charlestown, a water-scarce town in St. Kitts and Nevis, by constructing a hydroponic shade house training facility. The team will partner with the University of Central Florida and local community groups to build a sustainable hydroponics facility that will offer practical hydroponics training workshops.


Commitment By: Juliet Martinez; Bryan Azeka

School: Arizona State University

In 2014, Juliet Martinez and Bryan Azeka committed to foster education and alleviate poverty in low-income areas of Mesa, Arizona by bringing climate-controlled, recycled shipping containers to Mesa. To do this, Juliet and Bryan will partner with the Arizona State University College of Technology and Innovation and the Chandler Innovation Center.

Saint Cloud Inclusive Playground
Commitment By: Kelsey Stenger; Chelsea Swiggum; Amy Hansen; Jodi Orcutt
School: St. Cloud State University

In 2014, Kelsey Stenger, Chelsea Swiggum, Amy Hansen, and Jodi Orcutt committed to invest in the future of children with disabilities by building an all-inclusive playground in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The playground will be the first of its kind to provide recreational opportunities and a collaborative space for individuals and families with disabilities.

FIT Rooftop Natural Dye Garden
Commitment By: Caitlin Powell; Amber Harkonen; Meghan Navoy
School: Fashion Institute of Technology

In 2014, Caitlin Powell, Amber Harkonen, and Meghan Navoy committed to start a dye-plant garden on the rooftop of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City to educate students on the benefits of natural dyes. The group plans to hold workshops to raise climate change awareness and encourage students to move away from harmful dye practices. 

Improved Energy Access through Biomass Briquettes 
Commitment By: Prarthana Bhattarai
School: Mount Holyoke College


In 2014, Prarthana Bhattarai committed to provide access to a healthier and more efficient energy source to 20 women in the Kottandi village in Nepal by training them to manufacture biomass briquettes using a local shrub that damages grazing lands and natural forests. This initiative will both reduce their dependance on firewood for household needs and also help in controlling the spread of this shrub, contributing to local forest conservation.

WI P2D2 (WI Prescription Pill & Drug Disposal)
Commitment by: Jordyn Schara
School: University of Wisconsin - Madison

In 2014, Jordyn Schara committed to reduce groundwater contamination and prescription drug abuse by helping communities properly dispose of their medication at a 24/7 prescription drug collection center. Jordyn originally launched the first of her 10 drug collection centers at the age of 14 in Madison, Wisconsin, but she aims to expand the program and have 10 additional centers outside of Wisconsin by 2015.

Reducing Heat Island Effect by Increasing Vegetation 
Commitment By: Ariel Rodriguez
School: Mt. Hood Community College

In 2014, Ariel Rodriguez committed to reduce the heat island effect in Agua Caliente, Honduras through reforestation by planting 3,400 mango trees in the community. The mango trees will increase the tree canopy from 20 percent to 90 percent, mitigating high temperatures, by the end of 2020. Rodriguez will work with 40 families and will partner with community leaders to create a local committee to plant the trees on 100 acres of land by the end of 2015.


Commitment By: Yeny Garcia
School: Northcentral Technical College

In 2014, Yeny Garcia committed to create a youth empowerment program to help young orphaned girls in Copan, Hondorus develop independent living skills to prepare them as they age out of the orphanage.  Yeni will host workshops on financial literacy, job training, interpersonal relationships, and empowerment at the Amparo San Antonio orphanage in Copan, Honduras.

Pure Water Cure
Commitment By: David Gonzalez
School: Kirkwood Community College

In 2014, David Gonzalez committed to bring potable water to La Mosquitia, El Salvador by building bio-sand filters for 20 local families.  He hopes the filters will help prevent illnesses caused by poor water quality, and plans to partner with local organizations to bring bio-sand filters to additional local families by October 2015.