KAUST's Women to Impact unveil Resilience Challenge winners

Inji Jaber, Women to Impact (WTI) founder, announcing the Resilience Challenge winners at the Winter Enrichment Program 2022 closing gala.

Under a global competition named the Resilience Challenge, the Women to Impact (WTI) initiative at KAUST, aimed at offering a supporting framework to encourage women to pursue STEM education and careers, sent out a call last year for technology-based solutions to help build resilience in local ecosystems. Open to teams of both male and female innovators, the competition ran under the sponsorship of SEDCO Holding and was part of King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)'s annual Winter Enrichment Program—which had "Resilience" as its theme this year.

Following the submissions' deadline on December 31, 2021, the WTI steering committee and scientific taskforces, led by WTI founder Inji Jaber, evaluated over 300 submissions from teams around the world. The judging criteria were based on practical and technology-based innovations to tackle important problems and build resilience in such vital areas as climate change, disasters, epidemics, food insecurity and environmental degradation. The main themes were: environment, health, as well as digital, connectivity & cybersecurity, and finally food, water & energy.

The top 5 teams were selected on January 9, 2022, and were invited to present their pitches during the Winter Enrichment (WEP) Program virtually, which ran from January 9 to 20, 2022. The top three winners were announced during WEP's closing award ceremony on January 20, 2022.

The Resilence Challenge winners will receive financial rewards of $10,000 USD, $7,000 USD and $5,000 USD. The winners were:

1st place: AI-based Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (AI-AMRS)
Team: Fatma Uysal Ciloglu and Omer Aydin

Solution (Health track): The next pandemic Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is already here. It is estimated that AMR will threaten 10 million lives by 2050. To tackle this global problem, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS)-based biosensor combined with machine learning is proposed.

2nd place: SandX and BiocharX for Boosting Aridland Agriculture and Afforestation
Team: Adair Gallo Junior, Himanshu Mishra, Prashanth Hariharan and Batool Albar

Solution (Environment track): Growing plants in the Middle East entails massive evaporative loss of freshwater; sandy soils are also poor at holding nutrients and water. In response, SandX mulch curtails evaporative water loss, and BiocharX improves soil fertility while also facilitating carbon sequestration.

3rd place: takeAbreath: Breathing games and Lab-on-Facemask for stress management
Team: Anna Maria Pappa, Sofia Dias, Sahika Inal and Leontios Hadjileontiadis

Solution (Health track): From a simple face mask to a Lab-on-Mask that continuously monitors stress and anxiety and, through deep data analysis, informs the wearer of their stress level and proposes personalized intervention via serious breathing games on a smartphone.

These winning teams will receive valuable guidance and mentorship from KAUST faculty and entrepreneurship experts from KAUST Innovation to help them on execution, scale up their concept and successfully pitch to potential investors.

Honorable mention to the other two teams rounding up the top 5, NEODRYAD – Autonomous Seed-dispensing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Team lead: Lama AlOthman) and Monitoring environmental pollution with intelligent optical imaging (Team lead: Ni Chen).

The WTI Resilience Challenge was officially sponsored by SEDCO Holding, in collaboration with Women to Impact, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the University's Office of Enrichment Programs.

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