Following a year of brainstorming, roadblocks, creative ideas and breakthroughs, the 2017-2018 edition of the University of Delaware’s First Step Grand Challenges has drawn to a close – well, kind of. After the yearlong competition ended with a final pitch competition, the top undergraduate teams were awarded seed money to take their ideas, prototypes and models to the next level.  

The university-wide competition brings together students across disciplines; they are tasked with developing to tackle societal- or health-related challenges. In the end, four teams were awarded prize money. 

First place: Helping Hands

Kristen Reilly, Brianna Hulbert, Andrew Taylor, Madison Ciccaglione and Thomas Mascitelli developed a wearable device to assist stroke victims with their recovery. The purpose is to assist in regaining hand mobility lost following a stroke. The device augments stroke victims physical therapy by stretching and building muscle strength.

Second place: Q’ero Nation, Peru and Infant Hypothermia Education

Due to the cold temperatures of living 14,000 feet above sea level, Natalie DiPopolo, Sophia Chonis, Nora Spillane and Sarah Jacobs sought to decrease the infant mortality rate by creating and teaching the people of Q’eros, Peru, how to make a wrap for newborns that will help them maintain their body temperature against the cold and high elevation.

Third place: Research Your World

In a world where growing lack of awareness of global issues continues to be societal problem, Nicole Seiden and Caroline Babis developed a social media platform that allows individuals to discuss issues and encourage positive change by young audiences.

Innovation award: Assistive Medical Technology 

As competitors in the previous year’s edition of First Step Grand Challenges, J. Reynolds, Allie Wiener, Isabel Navarro and Erica Davis pushed to make vast improvements to a “self-feeder” device, created for a boy with muscular dystrophy — all in hopes that those like him can gain greater mobility and lessen the reliance on others.

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