Photo Credit: Energant
Mar 06
March 6, 2015

How CGI U Students Are Changing the World Through Innovative Technology


This weekend at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting, more than 1,000 young people will come together at the University of Miami to share and collaborate on their Commitments of Action. These commitments address challenges on students' campuses, in their communities, and around the world. 

From affordable eyeglasses to a mobile application that reduces hunger and food waste, students at this year's meeting are applying innovative design and new technology to address some of the world’s greatest challenges.  

The Lucky Iron Fish Combats Iron Deficiency in Cambodia

Nearly half of Cambodia's population is iron deficient. This preventable condition affects the physical and cognitive health of both children and adults. 

Manufactured by CGI U commitment-maker Gavin Armstrong and partners, The Lucky Iron Fish helps combat iron deficiency by releasing iron when it's added to a boiling pot of food.

Following an unsuccessful campaign to persuade families in rural Cambodia to place chunks of iron in their cooking pots, the group sought a more familiar shape. In Cambodia, fish are a sign of luck. By casting iron into the shape of a fish, Gavin and his team developed a new cooking tool that Cambodians were eager to use.

While there is no term for “iron deficiency” in Kher—the official language of Cambodia—locals know the iron cooking fish brings improved health. One Lucky Iron Fish can provide an entire family with up to 75 percent of their daily iron intake for up to five years.


The Lucky Iron Fish has made a big splash in health technology. The product has already helped more than 15,000 families in Cambodia. “It is my goal to see a fish in every pot,” says Gavin. 

Adjustable Glasses Provide an Option for Low Cost Eyecare in India

As a college student, Nathan Brajer was surprised to learn that 700 million people in developing countries never see the world clearly. After years of research and testing, Nathan and his team created ViFlex, adjustable glasses designed for those living in the developing world.  “A number of people on our team wear glasses, and it is hard for us to imagine how anyone could live, let alone go to school or work, without them,” says Yitaek Hwang, the ViFlex biomedical technician. 

ViFlex glasses are designed with interchangeable lenses and adjustable frames. The user-friendly parts can be assembled at home, without the help of an optometrist. They're an affordable option for the 850 million rural Indians who lack access to eyecare. Nathan and his team plan to distribute 10,000 glasses to individuals with impaired vision in Jaipur, India. 

“Glasses are a relatively simple solution that improve earnings potential, education, and quality-of-life,” says Yitaek. ViFlex ultimately hopes to provide a fine-tuned model of adjustable glasses that will give millions of people from all socioeconomic levels access to affordable eyecare. 

Clean Cookstoves Produce Electricity for Households in the PhilipPines

Mark Webb had been backpacking for several days and all he wanted was a hot shower. An engineer, Mark knew he could apply thermoelectric technology to heat water for a shower, using his campstove. When he introduced Jacqueline Nguyen to the idea, she convinced him that there were more meaningful ways to apply the technology and together they founded Energant, a company that converts the energy from cookstoves into electricity.

The KleanCook2 (K2), Energant’s newest cookstove model, uses a fuel-efficient mixture of biomass and trash to cook food while simultaneously producing electricity to charge cellphones or lights.  According to Jacqueline, over 90 percent of the energy produced from traditional cooking fires is wasted into the air. The K2 harnesses this energy and recycles it. 


“We realized how crucial it is to not only design a user-friendly stove in terms of usability when the stove is functional, but also to design one in terms of ease of repair,” Jacqueline notes, as they continue their efforts to develop a highly sustainable cookstove. The Energant cookstoves attempt to provide a simple solution to the bigger obstacles of deforestation, natural disasters, and carbon output.

Technology Bridges the Gap between Hunger and Food Waste in America

What happens to the food that people don’t buy in grocery stores? This is one of the questions that Gabrielle Beaudry, Mona Amin, and Jennifer Wu asked themselves when they set out to develop FreshSpire, an app which alerts consumers to discounted prices in grocery stores before food is discarded. “NC landfills are estimated to reach their capacities in our lifetime [and] too many Americans are going to bed hungry,” says Gabrielle. FreshSpire offers an innovative solution to bridging the disparity between people who go hungry and food waste in grocery stores.

FreshSpire works because of its simplicity and no-risk solution for grocers. Grocery stores load imperfect and near-expired food information into the FreshSpire database and consumers are notified of prices and store locations. According to the video seen below, American grocery stores throw out an average of $2,300 worth of groceries every day. By using FreshSpire, grocers will capitalize on food that would otherwise be sent to landfills and give consumers an affordable option for nutritious food.


“FreshSpire looks to be a leader in easy-to-use, accessible mobile technologies and in companies that implement innovative ideas to benefit society,” says Gabrielle. If the app launches successfully, FreshSpire could set an example of how technology will impact the welfare of the planet and the people who live on it.


President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton will convene more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world for the 2015 meeting of CGI University, held on March 6-8 at the University of Miami. Participants take action on some of the Millennial generation’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental concerns. For additional details, visit Plenary Sessions will be streamed live during the event at