“Ideas to Serve” competition seeks real-world problem solvers

At the start of a new year, several students’ thoughts rest with the idea of using their skills to help others and improve the human condition. Though this may sound idealistic, the Ideas to Serve Competition is making this idea very real. On Wednesday, Jan. 23, the Georgia Tech Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship is hosting an information session  for students to learn about the competition.

The competition, which is two years old, emphasizes the generation of ideas. Entries to the competition are meant to be product or service ideas primarily focused towards bettering the world at large. Specific aims of entries may hinge on alleviating poverty and hunger, promoting health awareness, improving environmental quality or working to develop sources of sustainable energy.

According to the Ideas to Serve website, the competition selects ideas that meet the “triple bottom line.” Projects must demonstrate environmental and social awareness while remaining economically viable.

Judges explain that successful projects are often praised for novelty or for significant improvements towards existing ideas. Judges also appreciate real-world practicality of ideas. When judging, they realistically evaluate whether projects could be implemented in non-profit, for-profit,or hybrid organizations, and whether the project would significantly improve the human condition.

In order to compete, students will have to create an executive summary of their idea and how they would implement it, a one-minute speech to be uploaded on YouTube and a poster to be displayed in the atrium of the College of Management. These elements are judged in the preliminary round; after five to seven teams are chosen, the judging will proceed to the final round.

In the final round, teams present their ideas to an audience; the best team’s idea is chosen based on all competition elements. Winners of the Ideas to Serve competition receive cash awards and service packages. In 2012, over $10,000 in cash and service packages were distributed among all of the winners.

Previous competitors are encouraged to submit new ideas, but they can also submit modifications of previous non-winning ideas as long as they can clearly cite improvements to their designs.

Last year, the winning project was Urban RePeel, a program to sustainably address urban food waste. The idea, by Jared McGrath, Nicole Sullivan and Ryan Ravenelle, proposed biologically sustainable methods to dispose of urban food waste.

Projects such as Urban RePeel, addressing all three of the elements in the “triple bottom line,” succeed in the competition and are sure to benefit the world as a whole.