From the Nominator
"In May 2022, the ANTrepreneur Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) kicked off the multi-part "Hacking Student Success: Mental Health Innovation Challenge" (aka the "Mental Health Hackathon"). This event invited student teams to develop original product ideas on the theme of student success and mental health. Over the course of the hackathon, 27 student teams were formed with over 125 student participants. The hackathon included workshops and a semi-finals pitch competition to select the five teams that would move forward to compete for the grand prize of $20,000.
Each of the 27 teams received $1,000 for their time and commitment, and the five teams chosen to advance were awarded an additional $5,000 to fund the continued development of their ideas. Over the summer of 2022, the finalist teams worked with UCI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program to bring their ideas to life. Paired with faculty advisors, the teams worked to create minimum viable products to showcase at the final pitch event in December 2022. At this final event, the teams delivered five-minute pitches to a judging panel and a crowd of over 100. The winning idea was ZOTPODS, sleeping pods for UCI students. The team is currently using the $20,000 grand prize to create prototypes and begin testing with UCI students.
Thanks to partnerships with well-known sponsors at UCI and beyond, the hackathon was successful in its mission of inspiring a new wave of student entrepreneurs, advancing the campus’s spirit of innovation and bringing conversations about student mental health into the spotlight."
From the Judges
The panel has seen competition-style entries before but felt this was unique for its impact on the institution itself and its student body, in addition to grand societal challenges. The implementation on your own campus was a differentiator from other programs where grand solutions can feel disconnected from the current student experience. The judges also liked the partnership with sponsors to show the importance of and support for this work beyond the university.