Lassonde’s BEST program students hack United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre

Lassonde’s Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) program hosted UNHack 2020 from Nov. 20 to 22, 2020. The event was a three-day experiential learning Design Sprint. More than 230 participants took part in the interactive online experience, tackling the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and developing their problem-solving skills.

Andrew Maxwell
Andrew Maxwell

“UNHack offered students the chance to develop their changemaking skills by addressing, and in some cases implementing, solutions to local and global sustainability challenges. We are excited to unleash our student’s potential, especially when it can enhance sustainability at York University,” said Lassonde Professor Andrew Maxwell, Bergeron Chair in Technology Entrepreneurship.

“We designed UNHack to guide our students through a collaborative learning journey to empower them with the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques they need to tackle important grand challenges and to make positive changes and help transform lives” added Maedeh Sedaghat, program officer at BEST.

Winners of the UNHack shared $2,400 in prize money.

The winning teams are:

Team 49: Solar Stove (Sean Lett, Harpreet Janday, Charles Hamilton, Jack Koebel)
Project description: Low-cost portable and renewable electricity addressing UN SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Team 49 worked to address the critical concern of smoky indoor stoves in third-world countries, using an innovative Fresnel lens technology.

Team 61: Virtual Poster Board (Kyle Rapinchuk, Rupayan Haldar, Muhammad Kermali, Muath Kaadan, Walid AlDari, Shane Bellenie)

Project description: A York University-sponsored challenge to address UN SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Team 61 was inspired by York University’s challenge of wasted paper and unsightly poster boards on campus. Their solution included a novel use of technology with a sustainability element, recycling second hand computer monitors (that often go to landfill) to create a virtual poster.

Team 43: Solar Panel (Charanpreet Gharyal, Alex, Erdreyan Galera, Dwumah Anokye, Christin Mugisha)

Project description: Transformative solution for vehicles to address UN SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Team 43 came up with an idea to place thin film solar panels on the roofs of cars or transport vehicles which could be connected to solar batteries that could help power the vehicle for a longer distance or store energy for later use.

Team 21: Mental health for students during COVID-19 (Joshua Zuker, Karman Purba, Kamal Aulakh, Davyd ZInkiv, Mohammed Shaikh)

Project description: Machine learning to address UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Team 21 chose to focus on creating a safe environment that promotes the discussion of mental health among post-secondary students and provides resources through machine learning using data.

Team 11: Reducing restaurant food waste (Megan Gran, Milgo Nour, Yassin, Lin Han)

Project description: Innovative packaging system to tackle UN SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Team 11 developed an innovative packaging system that may allow restaurants to reduce food waste, coupled with an innovative business model, to ensure financial sustainability. This team was selected to represent York at the Toronto Hult prize competition.

“Working through the process of problem identification was really valuable. We learned about the process in class, but actually doing it made me realize how difficult but effective it can be,” said Charles Hamilton, a first-year engineering student.

The event was sponsored by Scotiabank, York University and SummerFresh, and involved many community partners from across the University who served as mentors, judges and participants. The expert judges for the event were Elliot Atkins, Susan Niczowski, Nicole Arsenault, Jon Kerr and Subashini Kangesan.