Six UCLA undergraduate students are vying for top honors in the inaugural FuturizeX Student Challenge, a competition sponsored by FuturizeX, a campus-wide initiative launched in partnership with XPRIZE to showcase breakthrough technologies and inspire the next generation of innovators.

The student competition challenges Bruins to identify a major world problem and develop a solution to address it. The six finalists, who will now vie for the three top spots, were selected from a pool of more than 250 contestants.

The finalists are:

  • Guillem Rivas, a first-year physics student who believes his idea for an innovative graphene watercraft rudder could help reduce ocean acidification and its effect on marine life.
  • Sohom Paul, a first-year economics student who has conceptualized an automated optimized crop management system to solve the future world food crisis. Paul proposes the use of big data technology to generate insights and provide recommendations to improve the efficiency of crop production.
  • Second-year bio-engineering student Jonathan Massachi, who will present his idea to transform recently developed flexible polymer solar cells into three-dimensional “solar turf” that will have the ability to absorb more light than traditional flat solar panels and be more cost effective.
  • Stephanie Wottrich, a third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics major who has an idea to “vascularize the ocean,” essentially providing lungs that would filter the ever-increasing amounts of methane from the water using a metal organic framework.
  • First-year business economics major Mitchell Zia, who is proposing a method to allow off-shore water desalination plants to be powered by natural ocean currents rather than electricity.
  • Maryellie Ramler, a second-year bioengineering student who has a patent-pending solution that will allow diabetic patients to safely remove callouses in the privacy of their own homes, thus reducing doctor visits and potentially preventing amputations.

See the videos and vote for your favorite

“This is a remarkable achievement for our six finalists,” said Andres Cuervo, director of FuturizeX. “The caliber and potential of their ideas remind us that this century, just like the last one, will be transformed by the optimism and innovative thinking of Bruins.” 

Each finalist will present his or her idea to a panel of judges at an on-campus awards night on Feb. 4 at DeCafe, located in Perloff Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending must register.

The judging panel includes James Gianopulos, CEO of 20th Century Fox; Marty Sklar, a UCLA alumnus and former vice chairman at Walt Disney Imagineering; Paul Bunje, principal and senior scientist at XPRIZE; Eric Esrailian, co-chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine; and Deanna Evans, executive director of StartUp UCLA.

Twenty percent of each student’s total score will be based on public votes received between now and Jan. 28. Prizes include $4,000, a VIP tour of SpaceX, a 3D printer, and an hour-long consultation with StartUp UCLA.