Two freshmen LaunchPad engineers selected for prestigious Hult Prize global regionals

decorative graphic

Two teams will represent Syracuse University at the upcoming Hult Prize global regionals, a competition known around the world as the “Noble Prize for Students.” EcoBamboo Living and DNA were selected by the Hult Foundation Prize committee to move onto the prestigious global regionals after participating in the Syracuse campus competition. EcoBamboo Living, founded by Justin Diaz ’23 (left), and DNA, founded by Calvin Atieku ’23 (right), were selected to move on to competitions in Toronto and Boston. More than 100,000 students competed and applied at campus competitions at universities around the world, but only 5% were selected to move on to the global regionals. The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at SU Libraries coordinates the Hult Prize program for the university and prepares student teams for the event.

The Hult Prize Foundation works in partnership with the United Nations to encourage students to create ideas that can help solve global issues through social entrepreneurship. It is the biggest engine for the launch of social impact student startups. Each year Hult Prize picks a major global problem and challenges students to build teams and offer innovative solutions. This year’s Hult challenge is climate change. Student teams selected to pitch their solutions at the upcoming regionals will vie for the opportunity to participate in an eight-week accelerator in Boston and compete for a $1 million grand prize next fall at the United Nations.

DNA, the team going to Boston regionals in March, seeks to fight climate change through a novel approach to real estate development. Founder Calvin Atieku, a freshman engineering student, is working on a concept for communities of floating houses for flood-prone areas that are ravaged by rising waters caused by climate change. 

EcoBamboo Living, attending the Toronto competition this April, was founded by Justin Diaz, also a freshman engineering student. It is working on plans to design and build beautiful and affordable homes made of fast-growing sustainable bamboo products.

Both share a vision of providing families around the world an opportunity to live in homes built of sustainable materials.  Their designs use low net energy consumption and are designed to withstand environmental disasters caused by climate change. The two met as Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) students a few weeks before they started as freshmen. They worked together again their first month of classes at the LaunchPad’s Startup Weekend, and now are working with the LaunchPad team to refine their ideas and develop a roadmap to commercialization.

The LaunchPad sponsors the Hult Syracuse University annual competition. The Rubin Family Innovation Mentors at the LaunchPad work with student teams to prepare, and the LaunchPad helps identify resources for the teams that are selected for the regionals to participate in those events.

Audrey Miller ’20, a double major in political science and international relations, has been the Hult Prize Syracuse campus ambassador and competition director since fall 2018. Miller is also a Global Fellow and Hunter Brooks Watson Scholar at the LaunchPad. In her role as campus ambassador, Miller attended a three-day retreat at the Hult Prize Castle in London where she met other campus directors, entrepreneurs, and previous competitors from around the world. She worked with student colleagues to help create a sustainable business model for expanding the Hult Prize Foundation, and presented, alongside a few team members, to a group of 100 people, including, Hult Prize CEO Ahmad Ashkar.Syracuse University has a strong track record preparing students to be selected for the global regionals.  Past LaunchPad Syracuse competitors at the Hult regionals include:

  • Thrive Projects (Boston, 2017)
  • Farm to Flame (Boston, 2018)
  • Drop Top (Toronto, 2018)
  • CLLCTVE (Boston, 2019)
  • Strive (Toronto, 2019)
  • Forum Foods (San Francisco, 2019)

Hult Prize regionals are hosted in cities representing all the geographic regions of the world. The regionals are being held this spring in:

  • Abuja
  • Amman
  • Ankara
  • Bangkok
  • Beirut
  • Bogotá
  • Boston
  • Cairo
  • Dhaka
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Islamabad
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Lima
  • London
  • Melbourne
  • Monterey
  • Nairobi
  • Ramallah
  • Santo Domingo
  • Tokyo
  • Toronto
  • Tunis