University of San Diego's Social Innovation Challenge Awards Students $73,500

SAN DIEGO, CA -- Proposals to clean the environment in China, boost agriculture in developing nations and encourage at-risk students to develop "green technology" projects were the big winners in the University of San Diego's fourth annual Social Innovation Challenge. For the first time, students from other San Diego universities took part in the competition to propose solutions to social, economic and environmental problems.

Rice Pollution Solution, a plan by a group of USD engineering students to remove toxic metals from the rice fields in China, was awarded a competition record of $20,000 in seed money. According to China's Ministry of Environmental Protection, 10 percent of China's domestically grown rice is polluted with lead and other heavy metals from its factories. The team of Miluska Garcia, Clay Mosolino, Chase McQuarrie and Abdalla Almulla, proposes phytoremediation, a filtering technique using plants to remove pollutants from the environment by accumulating them in their roots and leaves.

Another USD winner, was Green Room, a project led by USD graduate student and middle school teacher Eric Cross, to provide underprivileged students the opportunity to develop "green technology" projects in their neighborhoods and encourage them to explore careers in science and technology.

Green Room was awarded $15,000.

Altogether, five USD teams were awarded a total of $50,000. Donors for the prizes included the Verizon Foundation,, John and Nancy Jo Cappetta, the Price Foundation, the Purcell McNamara Foundation, the USD Alcala Alumni Fund, Pacific Western Bank, and U.S. Bank.

In the external track of students from other schools, VENA, a low-cost, zero energy water harvester for developing regions lacking access to potable water, was awarded a total of $11,000. Led by John Walsh of San Diego State University, the team also included Thomas Kosbau, Tim Perry, and Zac Fowler, and was awarded $5,000 from the Moxie Foundation, $5,000 from Outerwall/EcoATM and the $1,000 Social Global Mobile Live Audience Choice Award.

W.E. Do Good, a proposal for a low-cost, portable and durable mechanical thresher to improve the difficult and time-consuming harvesting of teff, a staple in Ethiopia, was awarded $10,000 from the Moxie Foundation. The team included SDSU students Robert Schneider and Darla Rossi.

Another proposal Art Without a Roof, providing socially conscious people with apparel infused with created designs from artists impacted by homelessness, was awarded $2,500 from Moxie.

USD's Center for Peace and Commerce hosts the competition. To see all the finalists' proposals, go to

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