On Friday, May 15th, the Grand Challenges Initiative hosted its annual Spring Showcase virtually. Team projects were available for online viewing and judging all week prior on the GCI Blog, and on Friday, student teams held a live Q&A via Zoom. Following the live Q&A, students, faculty, staff, and supporters of GCI gathered over Zoom for the presentation of poster awards and honors.

Dr. Carter Berry was awarded the first-ever Outstanding Research Publication Award by a Grand Challenges Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow, and the 2020 Golden 3D-Printed Crescent Wrench Award was given to Matterhackers, Inc. for their partnership this past year in helping our GCI community reach its goals.

GCI would like to thank this year’s guest judges, Nathaniel Bischoff ’16 (M.S. ’18), CJ Bishop ’05 (MBA ’08, Ph.D. ’19), and Kristin Gabriel ’16.

Congratulations to our Poster Winners!

Non-Epileptic Seizures: A Case Report
Students: Heather Andrini, Sydni Au Hoy, Kaelyn Bridgette, Kylie Deer, Lauren Hernandez, Ashley Okhovat

Challenge: This team follows the differential diagnoses of a 44-year-old woman who was rushed to the emergency room, experiencing an attack of primarily left-sided paralysis and an inability to speak. The final diagnosis was Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES). This team looks at PNES and how it is not well understood because of its puzzling psychological nature and unusual physical manifestation. Their goal is to provide a more detailed and complete understanding of PNES in relation to this individual’s experience. Read more.

“It has been amazing working with this team under extraordinary circumstances. They came into this semester highly organized and motivated which has resulted in a great final project.” – Dr. Carter Berry


Duck curves & flywheels: Solving the energy crisis with mechanical energy storage
Students: Gary Zeri, Jackson Goldberg, Curren Taber, Thomas Hernandez, Zach Baker

Challenge: The team’s goal is to re-purpose an older technology known as a flywheel that is used in cars for energy stabilization for storing solar energy overnight. To accomplish their goal, they built a simple proof-of-concept model and gathered data on the flywheel’s energy storage dependence on its mass. Read more.

“For me, The Flywheel Team truly embodies the spirit of the GCI program. They lead with ingenuity, are resilient in the face of setbacks, and understand the importance of collaboration and communication. I’ve had a great time working with them this semester, and I’m incredibly proud of what they’ve accomplished!” – Dr. Crystal Ng


Wave Ahead of the Energy Crisis
Students: Cadre Carrigan, Lucas Speciale, Ben Stoddard, Sabrina Nash, Hannah Waldorf, Clay Cranston

Challenge: In an effort to create significant renewable energy sources, this team developed a prototype of a linear generator that absorbs the power of ocean waves. Read more.

“The Wave Energy team thought creatively about how to address a large societal issue, they got into the Makerspace and tested their prototype design, they effectively incorporated the talents of new team members throughout their GCI semesters, and they strategized effectively as a group when we transitioned online. This type of critical thinking, tinkering, collaboration, and flexibility are some of the hallmarks of the GCI program, and I was really pleased to see that reflected in their final poster and in the GCI journey of this team.” – Dr. Brian Hoover


Martian Alfalfa Experiment
Students: Nick Callen, Dela Hatfield, Cole Ternes, Logan Welsh

Challenge: This team explores the possibility of growing plants on Mars, as they can change the atmospheric composition and provide food for a colony.  Using Alfalfa seeds for their experiment, the team investigates if Martian soil allows for conditions to foster bacterial infections and based on Alfalfa’s mass, which soil mix cultivates the greatest growth. Read more.

“I am extremely proud of what Nick, Dela, Cole, and Logan were able to accomplish this semester. From the first day of class, they approached the project with an impressive amount of enthusiasm that is reflected in their final product. They continued to show their dedication to their Grand Challenge throughout the whole semester. I really enjoyed mentoring this team as they thought through the complexities of growing plants on Mars. Fantastic work!” – Dr. Kenji Quides


We are so proud of all the student teams that presented their projects. If you would like to explore more of the posters, you can view them on the GCI Blog.


Cover photo: Grand Challenges Initiative Director Dr. Gregory Goldsmith presenting the poster awards at the 2019 GCI Spring Showcase.