Last week marked the final round of the eighth annual U.S. Imagine Cup. The competition for high school, undergraduate and graduate students combined their passion and creativity in business and technology to tackle global issues.
Among the finalists was graduate student Wilson To, the only student to compete from UC Davis in the final round of the competition.
It was To’s idea to create an application – called Mobilife – through Microsoft software that would potentially help diagnosis and treatment around the world.
“Using Microsoft software, we can detect vascular diseases like diabetes and hypertension, using a cell phone,” To said. “There would be an extra lens on top of the camera to give high resolution images and video of the blood vessels in an individual’s eye.”
To said they used technology to address UN millennium goals and to help reduce child mortality rates.
One of To’s teammates, Kayvon Ghaffari, a junior computer science major from UC San Diego, said that the application did not need to be used by professionals in order to achieve its goal. During their last presentation to a panel of judges and the media in Washington, D.C., Ghaffari showed just how that was possible.
“I actually presented the demo of the application and actually invited New York Times correspondent David Sanger up and walked him through it step by step,” Ghaffari said. “It’s so easy that anyone can be trained within minutes and it could save lives.”
In addition to having the technological aspect planned out, the teams had to have a functional business model that would launch their new project.
“Children in third-world countries don’t have access to hospitals or clinics,” To said. “We worked with the UN and Doctors Without Borders in placing doctors firsthand in third-world countries that would then partner with pharmaceuticals to get medications out.”
Ghaffari said the potential impact could be relatable to the average person.
“A lot of people know at least one person that has diabetes,” Ghaffari said. “In terms of global impact, it’s going to reduce child mortality rates everywhere.”
The experience of making this application has aided Ghaffari in practically applying his knowledge.
“It’s one thing to do projects in school and another to apply it to something useful; we could potentially save millions of children’s lives,” Ghaffari said.
The grand prize given to To’s team included a trophy, free phones, national acknowledgment and $8000, said Helena Xu, senior communications and management science double major from UCSD.
This July, the U.S. team will go to the international Imagine Cup competition in Poland where To, Ghaffari and Xu will compete against teams from 120 countries for $25,000 and “bragging rights,” Ghaffari said.
“We don’t care much about the prizes though,” Xu said. “I’m really excited to compete with people from different countries and see how they differ.”
Xu is excited to represent the U.S. and the UC system.
“It’s just such an honor,” Xu said. “The project will be able to connect to everyone globally and resolve a UN millennium goal.”
With the international competition several months away, the team is expecting nothing but the best from themselves and the other teams.
“We’re just going to do the same thing as last time; go in prepared and have fun,” Ghaffari said.
DINA MORCOS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.