Min Family Engineering Social Entrepreneurship Challenge to Focus on Recovery Efforts in Natural Disasters

| September 22, 2017

Engineering students to develop prototypes to help communities ravaged by recent hurricanes and earthquakes

Disaster relief workers. Photo/iStock

The USC Viterbi Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship today announced that the 2018 Min Family Engineering Social Entrepreneurship Challenge will be dedicated to developing technologies to aid individuals affected by disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

The Min Family Challenge, an annual social entrepreneurship challenge at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering was established by alumnus Bryan Min and his wife Julie Min to support student engagement in sustainable and effective solutions for global problems. This year, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria and devastation from Mexico’s strongest earthquakes in a century, the theme of the Challenge will be on developing sustainable ventures to enhance relief and recovery efforts for the victims and mitigate impact of future disasters. This initiative will allow teams of students to apply for subsidies to travel to the Houston area, a testbed, for field research, then develop technical solutions for a specific problem resulting from the hurricane’s aftermath, as well as participate in workshops from both USC Viterbi’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship office and the USC Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.

Following the on-site problem discovery, teams will spend the subsequent months on campus developing prototypes for solutions and sustainable business models to support future disaster response efforts. Teams will also be eligible for prototyping awards. Final prototypes and business models will be presented at a showcase in the Spring 2018.

To date, the Min Family Challenge has nurtured concepts ranging from technologies for preventing infant blindness to digital solutions for the “underbanked.” This Challenge has extended the world of innovation to creating sustainable solutions to needy communities across the globe.

“The Min Family Challenge is a most eloquent example of the power of engineering to solve problems with societal importance—what at the Viterbi School we call Engineering +. With focus on the natural catastrophes from hurricanes, this year, the student teams will provide sustainable solutions to problems of immediate importance and relevance. And in the process, they will increase their empathy, their entrepreneurship skills and their societal consciousness—all important competencies of the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

Andrea Belz, Vice Dean, Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship at USC Viterbi and who regularly consults on commercialization of new technologies for university startups as the Director of NSF’s I-Corps, explained the importance of this year’s Min Family Challenge: “Our students are an incredible resource and possess an enormous amount of energy and talent. This year’s challenge will apply their intellect and skill towards helping people who have immediate needs. In addition to helping others, this challenge will provide an unforgettable learning experience in conceiving of real–world solutions to improve lives of others.”

About USC Viterbi Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The mission of the Viterbi School Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship (TIE) is to launch ventures with significant social and economic impact based on USC faculty, students, and technologies. This office provides education and mentoring to all ages, from high school to faculty, and supports the national ecosystem with world-class research and access to top innovation leaders.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm that is now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. One of the school’s guiding principles is engineering +, a term coined by current Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, to use the power of engineering to address the world’s greatest challenges. USC Viterbi is ranked among the top graduate programs in the world and enrolls more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students taught by 185 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships.