Sparking Innovation via Social Justice

February 19, 2019

Heller winners at the 2019 SPARKTank competition
Heller winners at the 2019 SPARKTank competition

By Daniella Fernandes, MBA/MA SID'19

From powering solar-powered pumps in Somalia to providing experiential learning to students in South Chicago, Heller students brought their best ideas to compete at SPARKTank, the annual start-up pitch competition hosted by the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center at Brandeis University.

Through SPARKTank, students from across campus have the opportunity to win up to $50,000 in seed funding for their ideas, as well as mentoring and advising.

This year, Heller students won some of the day’s biggest prizes and were praised by the judges for their high-quality presentations and strength in financials. The four winning teams from Heller demonstrated passion, attention to detail and innovative solutions steeped in social justice structures, stacking up favorably against traditional entrepreneurial ventures.

For team Talk, Max Brodsky, MBA’20, Abigail Montine, MBA’19, and undergraduate Liza Korotkova pitched an app-based platform providing on-demand connections to interpreters, which won $5,000. They were also winners of the Brandeis Hult Prize, and combining the prizes gives them the resources they need to do market research for their business plan, a few months before the Hult Prize regional competition in Boston next month.

Team SCil, or Student-Centered Incubator Labs, also won $5,000. This project from Nicole Dunn, MBA’19, Lisa Knichols, MBA/MPP’19, and Ricki Herrera, MBA/MA SID’20, will provide career pathways to low-income youth in South Chicago.  

Expanding to global, sustainable solutions, two teams focused on those areas won $2,500. Team KaabTech from Abdishakur Ahmed, MA SID’20, Artdeansyah Dilaga, MA COEX’20, Javaid Iqbal, MA SID’20, and Qaisar Ahmed, MA SID’20, aims to finance and distribute solar-powered water pumps in rural Somalia. Team NeerChakra, from Resham Sethi, MA SID’20, and Ekow Tawiah Damoah Ampiah, MA SID’20, aims to build an innovative prototype for a portable device that will reduce the time and stress of transporting water over long distances for women in India.