Social Change Idea Advances UC Team To Next Round of Acara Competition

Four University of Cincinnati students are headed to Minnesota on Feb. 3 to present an idea on recycling trash in the next round of the Acara Challenge.

Team members Mark Schutte, CEAS ’13, civil engineering with a minor in sustainability; Carmen Ostermann, DAAP ’15, fine arts; Morgen Schroeder, CEAS ’13, civil engineering; and Autumn Utley, BBA ’13, marketing and international business minor and Lindner Honors-PLUS scholar; surfaced as frontrunners of three UC teams to advance in the global challenge.The competition is organized by the Acara Institute and administered by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. The group’s mission is to mold students into a new generation of leaders by providing them with insight into global issues and how to influence change.

As part of a global environmental concern on trash, the winning team proposed the “Renew Trash Compactor,” a new product and service that reduces trash, increases recycling, improves sanitation and generates income for the Padli Gujar village in India.

The compactor, says Utley, was designed to be simple and affordable.

“The waste collection service, which accompanies the compactor, will generate 29 well-paying jobs for the community and additional household income,” she says.

The environmental challenge given to students came through “Take The Challenge for Sustainable Design and Development,” a multidisciplinary course offered as part of a University Honors Program at UC. The course is taught by Rajan Kamath, associate professor of management, and Ratee Apana, associate professor-educator of management/international business.

The course, Apana says, encourages students to think boldly and break with convention and rules.

"The objective is to take a fresh look at creativity, design and innovation in creating a business around sustainable development for social change in emerging markets," she says.

As part of a global competition, students in the United States are paired with virtual teams of MBA and engineering students overseas from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkie, India, to devise a solution for a social, security or environmental issue in that community.

“The course was designed to incorporate UC provost’s (Santa J. Ono) academic action plan involving multidisciplinary and multi-country teams,” Apana says.

The UC team, one of six in the country from colleges such as Duke University, Cornell University, Arizona State University and more, paired with industry mentors to create business plans for their sustainable solutions. Plans were presented to judges in the United States and India via video conferencing.

Schutte says he enjoyed the rewarding experience of working as part of an international team.

“Without the unique minds of the other students in our group, and the opinions of our counterparts in India, our business would not have been as successful,” he says.

Meanwhile, first-round winners from all competing universities are fine-tuning business plans in the second-round of the competition, where four winning teams will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India.

The Renew Trash Compactor is a small solution for a huge waste issue that is occuring in India, team member Ostermann says.

Combining strengths through a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural approach, Ostermann says, we brought together an infinite number of ideas and created a successful project.

At the Summer Institute, teams will meet with India’s top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to get aid in further developing their business plans and secure funding for their project, Apana says.

“In India, they will make a prototype of their product, run a pilot, and test the viability of their product offering,” Apana says.

For more information on Acara Challenge, visit:

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