April 7, 2013

Students Pitch Projects to Better World at Ideas Festival

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Student at the Red Ideas Festival –– an event that intends to better the Cornell and global communities through student-generated proposals –– pitched ideas ranging from creating a light bulb that mimics the sun’s rays to employing acid attack victims in India to repurpose old saris into household items.

Giselle Malina ’13, who won Saturday’s festival, was awarded $1,000 for her plan to bring physical therapy to amputees in Haiti.

Malina plans to send mirrors to Haiti in order to teach Haitian physicians the simple technique of “mirror box therapy”: using a mirror and a box to psychologically relieve phantom limb pain in amputees. This therapy method, created by V. S. Ramachandran, a prominent neuroscientist, is a recognized method of therapy that cures phantom limb pain in 89 percent of those who suffer from it, according to Malina.

Malina said she plans to travel to Haiti this summer to oversee the training of clinicians in the therapy and will use the Red Ideas Festival award money to buy the mirrors that will be used in those clinics.

“My ‘Red Idea’ is to bridge [the] gap — to bring the information that is necessary [to cure phantom limb pain] to those who need it the most,” she said.

Benjamin Gulak, the inventor of the Uno — a dirt-shredding electric-powered vehicle — was the keynote speaker for the event. Gulak spoke about risk-taking and its importance in his success, explaining that his choice to forgo college to continue working on the Uno was one of the best decisions he made in his life.

“Just sitting in the audience listening to these presentations is really inspiring; to see that there are other groups out there like Red Ideas is really amazing, because we’re the new generation that is supposed to go and make these changes in the world,” Gulak said.

Roshni Mehta ’15 presented a plan to employ acid attack victims in India to carry out the repurposing of saris. She proposed helping the women utilize used saris to make household items like duvets and bed sheets.

She said acid attack victims are usually shunned by society and blamed for provoking the acid attacks.

“Unlike most organizations helping acid attack survivors, this enterprise is not charity. It is employment to empower these women through the long run that we call life,” Mehta said.

Another contestant, Jeremy Blum grad, along with a team, designed Sunn, an energy-efficient LED light bulb that emits wavelengths that correspond to natural wavelengths emitted by the sun. Blum said it is increasingly important for both mental and physical health to have more exposure to the wavelengths of natural sunlight.

Carly Dean ’14, Peter Gudonis ’14 and Nicholas Cassab-Gheta ’14 presented a hydroponic installation plan, designed to allow urban restaurants to grow their own produce inside buildings. The students said they have already partnered with Stella’s in Collegetown, adding that their hydroponic installation will be implemented at Stella’s on Monday.

Emma Court ’15, city editor of The Sun, and Anisha Chopra ’13, the creators of “ResCUer” –– a campus security smartphone application that allows students to access safety contact information at the push of a button –– proposed to update and spread their application to other universities. “Late night safety affects other campuses, not just Cornell,” Chopra said.

“We realized that [safety] resources are there, but the issue is making it accessible to people who need it when they need it,” Chopra said.

The attendees at the event said they were impressed by the ideas their peers presented.

“I thought it was almost inspiring in a way to see my peers pursuing certain projects that really could make a difference,” Joanna Mleczko ’15 said. “I was really impressed by the different ideas people had and how determined they were to make a difference, even though they were in college, making use of the opportunities and resources that Cornell could provide.”

Other attendees said the event, although inspiring, could reach out to more students in the future.

“In order to really share these ideas, it would be better if it were a day festival … so people can walk by and see it,” Katie Mayer ’14 said. “We were all there because we knew someone there. I think this should be targeting people who aren’t involved yet, because when you see creative people around you, you are inspired to be creative too.”

Editor’s note: Emma Court ’15, Sun City Editor, is a member of the student team that developed the ResCUer app. She was not involved in the editing of this article.

Original Author: Ashley Chu