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The IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Competition recognizes students who develop unique solutions to real-world problems using engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills to benefit their community, the world at large, or both. The contest offers students the perfect opportunity to have their ingenuity and enthusiasm for engineering and technology recognized by IEEE members around the globe. IEEE is proud to salute the winners of this prestigious competition.


IEEE Grand Prize Winner: US$10,000

Clean Water: Transforming a Natural Disaster into a Natural Resource

Team Members
Stephen Honan, Kevin Baum, Sarah Yazouri

2012 PCW Grand Prize WinnerBangladesh grapples with “the largest mass poisoning” in world history. As defined by the World Health Organization, over 70 million people consume toxic levels of arsenic in their drinking water, with 1.2 million people annually diagnosed with hyper-pigmentation, an early sign of skin cancer. Additionally, the tainted water irrigates crops during the dry season, leading to a contaminated food chain, constrained agricultural exports, and inhibited growth in a country where 80% of the labor force depends on farming. Current technologies to purify the drinking water have limited success because of high costs, unique maintenance requirements, and dependence on reliable electricity.

The aim of the research project is to provide an environmentally friendly, low cost alternative that is both scalable and sustainable.

Hope came from nature: a fern that can rapidly accumulate arsenic directly from the water and soil. The project’s system can purify water from potentially deadly levels down to the World Health Organization’s safe limit at a rate of 1.5 liters per minute. Plus, it requires no electricity to operate. This method of purification suits the agrarian society and scales to village size requirements. In order to sustainably deal with the waste generated from the filters, this project designed a method for harvesting the arsenic from the used filters and converting into a useful form that can be utilized for productive purposes, such as the manufacture of semiconductors. This project provides an innovative solution to a real problem and has the potential of benefiting millions of people, while simultaneously transforming a natural disaster into a natural resource.
University of Oxford


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IEEE 2nd Place Winner: US$5,000

Wound-Pump: Development of a Simplified Negative Pressure Wound Therapy Device

Team Members
Danielle Zurovcik, Gita Mody

2012 PCW 2nd Place WinnerNegative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is the application of a controlled vacuum source to an open wound cavity, which has become the standard-of-care for open wounds in the U.S. NPWT has been clinically demonstrated to speed the healing time with a factor of three or more, and to aid in complete recovery with less scar tissue. Although NPWT has matured in global markets since 1995, it remains a very costly treatment that has many barriers to widespread implementation in the U.S. and to feasibility in low resource settings (LRSs). A simplified NPWT device designed for application in LRSs will help millions in need of therapy where it is currently not available due to the lack of electricity, high cost, and or other economical constraints.

The Wound-Pump, designed by Danielle Zurovcik, is a simplified negative pressure wound therapy device (sNPWT). The concept was invented in order to meet all of the functional requirements of NPWT in low resource settings. By conducting personal interviews, Zurovick was able to identify needs of doctors, nurses, and patients in these settings. With a thorough engineering investigation, the Wound-Pump is designed for the developing world market. Final specifications of the wound-pump are that it is inexpensive with a low manufacturing cost, no electrical power needed, portable (.5 lb), and easy to use.

The device has been used in purely humanitarian endeavors in Haiti and field trials in Rwanda, which revealed that clinicians can treat more patients as the sNPWT dressings need to be changed every three to five days versus one to two times per day for standard dressings; and the rate of infection may be significantly decreased in an environment where the risk is extremely high.  Wound-Pump has allowed its team to expand into the field of medical devices. The aim is to reduce healthcare costs worldwide and expand state-of-the-art devices to low-income and austere environments, including the military, disaster relief, and developing world.

Find out more information about this project.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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IEEE 3rd Place Winner: US$2,500

FoneAstra: Leveraging Commodity Mobile Phones and Sensors to Save the Lives of Children in Resource Poor Developing Regions

Team Members
Rohit Chaudhri, William Thomas Pitts, Darivanh Vlachos, Troy Martin, Jillyn Johnson, Eleanor O'Rourke, Jaylen Scott Vanorden, Michael Falcone, Waylon Brunette, Mayank Goel, Rita Sodt

2012 PCW 3rd Place WinnerCommunities living in resource-poor areas of developing regions often lack access to basic amenities; however cellular coverage and mobile phones have become increasingly accessible to them in recent years. In areas where reliable infrastructure like electricity and Internet connectivity are not available, mobile phones can be used to enable real-time digital information flows. FoneAstra, is a platform that enables sensors to be connected to commodity mobile phones which is being used to address two critical healthcare issues faced by underserved communities.

FoneAstra is an ARM7-based board that plugs into the data port of low-tier mobile phones. While the board is able to programmatically access the regular capabilities of a mobile phone, it has pin outs for digital I/O interfaces and GPIO’s which can be used to connect sensors. With attached sensors, custom applications can be run through FoneAstra. As a prototype, the per-unit cost of the board is $15.

FoneAstra, enhanced with temperature probes, is being used for vaccine cold chain monitoring. By periodically checking the temperature of vaccines, the program can alert people if temperatures are too high or too low for vaccines while being stored via SMS. In developing countries, this cost effective method can make vaccine implementation efficient and cut possible losses from temperatures of vaccines that are not extensively monitored.

In addition, FoneAstra is being used for accurately monitoring milk temperatures by providing three levels of safety. With temperature probes, there is continuous monitoring via Flash-Heat Pasteurization (FHP). Real time audiovisual feedback is provided to users. There is an archive of temperature time data at a remote server for review and audit. The chip that the phone is connected to is enhanced through a 2-line LCD, 3 LED and an audio buzzer for feedback to the user.
University of Washington


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