San Marcos,
09:50 AM

CSUSM Team Takes Top Prize at Sustainable Earth Decathlon

By David Ogul

A team of Arts & Technology majors at Cal State San Marcos took the top prize at the 2017 Sustainable Earth Decathlon in Los Angeles for designing a mobile app connecting those who want to act with projects focused on building sustainable communities.

Javier Mejia-Trejo, Jamileh Hamideh, Jeffrey Davis, Allison Ball and Kadri Williams will now spend the next year – and $1,000 in prize money – developing the app they’ve dubbed “Heartwork” with the help of a tech incubator. Heartwork would connect those who want to act in searching for local and global projects.

“It’s about bringing together people or groups to share their resources by connecting people with different skills to find innovative solutions for local challenges,” Jamileh said. “We really need to have a centralized app that focuses on communities and can make a difference.”

This was the second straight year a team from CSUSM earned the grand prize at the Sustainable Earth Decathlon. Last year’s award went to Creative-ive (pronounced creative-ivy) for creating Cleanweb, an e-commerce site focusing on carbon credits. Both teams were coached by Lucy HG Solomon, an Assistant Professor of Media Design in the CSUSM School of Arts.

“It was absolutely thrilling to see School of Arts students on stage once again, defending their concept design and sharing their stories,” Solomon said.

The Sustainable Earth Decathlon – held April 26-28 at the LA Kretz Innovation Center in downtown Los Angeles – provides an opportunity for young innovators to showcase their cleantech ideas, investors to discover tech innovations, and policy-makers to see what community-defined innovation looks like. The Sustainable Earth Decathlon is sponsored by CYPHER International, whose mission is “to develop socially responsible technology entrepreneurs through tech-enabled innovation at the nexus of food, energy, and water systems.” CYPHER is an acronym for Conscious Youth Promoting Health & Environmental Resilience.

The Decathlon included forums on expanding clean tech solutions in low-income communities, along with presentations on green tech funding and career opportunities. The final day of the event featured a CleanTech Showcase with teams from California, Kenya and China promoting their projects.

Kadri said his involvement was spurred by a desire to go beyond posting memes on Facebook complaining about White House policy.

“I want to have more of an impact than just putting something on a social networking site with a hashtag,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with bringing issues to the forefront, but I wanted to look for solutions.”

Heartwork, team members said, can galvanize individuals by providing them the opportunity to work on issues they care about while building communities of action. It could, for example, result in feeding the hungry without spending a dime by connecting organizers of a catered event who have leftovers from a gala to managers at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen that could use an infusion of resources. Likewise, organizers of a community garden could more easily connect with experts in the field or others who share the same interest.

The CSUSM team comprised students with widely divergent backgrounds that served them well in working together. For example, Jamileh, a mother of four children, was born and raised in Peru and moved to the U.S. after a devastating 1991 cholera epidemic. Javier’s family immigrated from Mexico and has struggled with food insecurity in the past.

“I loved working on this team,” Kadri said. “The collaboration we built represents what our app is all about: a collaboration between people from different communities but with the same interest in making an impact.”