Rolls of tubing, uncoiling from helicopters, creating new pipelines in mere minutes; human waste, treated by the sun instead of an expensive sewer system. Is this the infrastructure of the future? If some recent Georgia Tech grads have anything to do with it, the answer will be yes.
Each spring, dozens of students on Georgia Tech’s campus compete in the Ideas to SERVE (I2S) Competition, an event for students who have innovative ideas for improving the world. While many of the participants graduate and go on to professional careers elsewhere, others continue pursuing their projects after graduation, hoping to bring them to reality.
Organized by Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, I2S is open to all Georgia Tech students (graduate and undergraduate) and recent alumni. I2S is a competition of ideas where creativity, imagination, and technology are applied to solving social issues and sustaining our environment.
Those who would like to compete in the 2013 I2S Competition must submit "intent to compete" forms, executive summaries of their business concepts, and short video pitches by March 26.
The preliminary round of the I2S competition will be a poster showcase on April 5, followed by competition finals and an awards ceremony at a special IMPACT event on April 10. Up to $20,000 in various prize categories will be awarded.
Past Winner Making Headway Via Helicopter
One past I2S team, TOHL (who placed third in 2012), has made headway with its concept to increase efficiency and decrease costs associated with remote fluid transport (see YouTube video). The innovation was first conceived in the wake of the Haiti earthquakes when TOHL’s Apoorva Sinha envisioned a fluid transport system that would cost effectively and efficiently deliver fluids to earthquake victims.
The innovative TOHL system involves un-spooling large rolls of coiled tubing from helicopters. The flying system quickly “builds” a temporary infrastructure system, which is often needed to efficiently deliver water to disaster-stricken areas.
While the idea of dropping infrastructure from a helicopter may seem far-fetched to some, TOHL has already successfully tested the model. After receiving funding from Start-Up Chile in 2012, the team conducted a successful simulation of their system. Working in a mountainous region in rural Chile, the helicopter system installed a one-kilometer pipeline in less than nine minutes, demonstrating the concept’s ability to quickly provide fluids to remote areas in an “on-demand” manner.
After their successful initial test run, the company was featured by several prominent news outlets including Reuters, Forbes, and The Economist. TOHL has also been successful with its fundraising efforts, attracting multiple donors. In October 2012, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that TOHL had won StartUp Atlanta's $10,000 Entrepreneur Video Competition. The team also won $35,000 a pitch competition in Chile and a mention from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Solar Toilets to Save Lives
Sanivation, another 2012 I2S contestant, developed a concept to help people in developing countries who lack access to basic facilities that treat human waste (a problem that contributes to disease and death).
Since winning the most market-ready prize at I2S, Sanivation has continued to refine its idea for a solar latrine system. The team is working to provide an affordable, environmentally friendly and sustainable way to sanitize human feces without expensive, first-world infrastructure.
To further its efforts, Sanivation has sought support from various international aid organizations. Recently, the team progressed to the final rounds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” and the USAID Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) Program. The team also presented at the Dry Toilet Conference in Finland and was also selected to present at three other prominent conferences, including the UNC Water and Health Conference.
In addition to fundraising, Sanivation continues to conduct basic operations, installing innovative toilets around the globe – as well as a solar dehydrating toilet at the popular Burning Man Festival.