On May 25, 2022, the UCI ANTrepreneur Center concluded its three-part Hacking Student Success: Mental Health Innovation Challenge with an exciting pitch competition between 27 student teams. At the end of the competition, five teams were named winners, with each receiving $5,000 in funding and entry into the Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (SURP) to continue developing their business ideas over Summer 2022. At the end of Fall 2022, each team will have the opportunity to present their product to the UCI student body for the grand prize of $20,000 and the chance to launch their product across campus.
To commemorate the start of Fall Quarter 2022, we’re excited to check in on our five winning student teams and see where they’re at in the development process.
The ZOTPODS team consists of Stephanie Kirk, Nico Allemann, Sydney Schapansky, Luke Wells, Jennifer Wang, and Troy Outwater. The team is looking to address the negative cycle of sleep deprivation and stress. They point out that 65.5% of college and university students experience poor sleep quality due to stress. Unfortunately, this lack of sleep contributes to higher rates of stress and depression, creating a detrimental cycle that leaves students at higher risk for a serious decline in their mental, emotional, and physical health.
Their solution to this problem is ZOTPODS, secure sleeping pods that students can reserve through a mobile app. The app will also allow students to play music or ambient sounds to help them relax. The team adds that ZOTPODS will also offer students with disabilities a great place to take a sensory break when they are feeling overstimulated. The pods themselves will be solar-powered and placed outdoors, making them environmentally friendly and allowing students to enjoy the added benefit of fresh air while they rest.
To generate revenue, the team explained that customers would receive the first 30 minutes of their pod rental for free before being charged for additional time. They also plan to bring in money by allowing companies to purchase ad space on their app and by deploying vending machines that sell blankets and refreshments to pod users.
The Mentalists team is made up of Novia Wong, Sundas Shaikh, Samia Aktar, Lanie Le, and Maryam Hassani. Together, the team is looking to address the problem of academic stress, an issue that 87% of students face. Their solution is CarePass, an app that provides students with passes that will give them an extension on assignments other than quizzes and exams. Through the app, each student will receive one pass for every four units they are enrolled in for the quarter. When submitted, there will be a no-questions-asked policy regarding why the student needs the extension. The team adds that additional passes can be allotted depending on individual student needs, making this a scalable and personalized solution.
In addition to helping students, CarePass also benefits instructors and faculty. Faculty can keep track of the number of CarePasses used throughout their courses and use this information to monitor the well-being of their students as well as evaluate the workload they are assigning. With CarePass specifically designed to target the academic market, the team’s main revenue source would be the fee that they charge to implement CarePass at various campuses.
Socrates consists of Vatsal Ananthula, Michael Pfeiffer, Danny H. Nguyen, Aditya Phatak, and Samuel Finkel. To help students care for their mental health, their solution is an app that combines the positive effects of journaling and mental health intervention. Socrates is an AI-based journaling assistant that helps to prevent the onset of mental health issues. Inspired by the Greek philosopher Socrates and his reflective questioning method, the app collects information on user personality and habits and uses it to make insightful comments or ask questions about the user’s journal entries. This in turn makes the act of journaling more engaging, accessible, and sustainable for students and professionals.
To ensure that all consumers have access to the positive benefits of Socrates, the team will offer both a free and subscription-based version of the app. The free version will offer users access to AI live analysis and the habit tracker. The subscription version will charge an annual fee to access additional app features such as calendar syncing, challenge- and goal-setting capabilities, mood prediction graphs, and more. To assist with the growth and deployment of Socrates, the team plans to use AWS Amazon Pinpoint for targeted marketing and Sigma Computing’s cloud analytics to measure strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) such as user retention rates.
Bonsai is made up of Ayaan Dhir, Madhu Sharma, Joshua Lipton, and Nima Movahedi. Their solution relies on exercise to combat many of the common mental health issues that students face. With 87% of Americans feeling judged when they go to the gym and 46% concerned about their safety when working out alone, Bonsai offers a solution to empower individuals to exercise safely and confidently on their own.
Bonsai is a community platform that uses motion-tracking technology to optimize workout performance and prevent injury. Bonsai uses API powered by Sigma Cloud Computing to offer users visualizations and insights to help users improve their exercise routines. The team will offer both free and premium versions of Bonsai. The free version will provide users with real-time injury analysis, access to a community of users to interact and connect with, and the ability to create and save their own workout routines. The paid premium version will offer additional benefits such as curated workout routines, the ability to work with fitness trainers, and access to live events.
Finally, the Click team consists of Brandon Bui, Gregory Saldanha, Ajmal Mundu, Shuyan Liao, Isabella Cao, and Young Ku. Their idea looks to address the feelings of loneliness and isolation that 64% of college students experience. Using AWS Tech Stack to support their database, server hosting, and data storage, Click is an app designed to help students connect.
Click is a centralized platform for student events and connections. To get started, students will select their interests from a list of categories within the app. Using this information, Click will create a curated feed of different activities and events that the student may be interested in attending. Rather than relying on word of mouth or chance encounters with promotional ads on campus or social media, Click offers an all-inclusive hub for students to discover communities of peers that share their interests.
Click also offers student organizations and clubs the opportunity to easily recruit new members and/or promote upcoming events. For a small monthly fee, student organizations will have the ability to upload event information to the app with custom tags that ensure their event ends up on the feeds of interested students.
New Partnerships and Latest Developments
Over the summer, all five teams continued to develop their ideas by participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Through SURP, each team was awarded a stipend and matched with mentors and UCI faculty who provided guidance as they worked towards creating their minimum viable product.
Thanks to a new partnership with Soul Machines, the hackathon finalists also gained access to innovative technology that will enable them to give their products a more human touch. “Soul Machines is a leader in the humanization of AI, creating autonomously animated Digital People that empower organizations to reimagine customer experiences in today’s digital worlds,” explains Cody Sinnott, Strategic Account Executive at Soul Machines. “Using our patented technology, we are able to virtually replicate human capabilities in a responsive, relatable, and unprecedented way.”
Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor for UCI Information, Technology and Data, spearheaded the partnership between UCI and Soul Machines that gave the hackathon finalists access to this cutting-edge AI. He explains that his office, the Office of Data and Information Technology (ODIT), pursued this partnership as a means of elevating the student experience:
“When envisioning what things might look like in 2030, we see the continued evolution of AI combined with responsive, immersive, and personalized experiences that will shape how people interact with the world. We reached out to Soul Machines to explore how their idea of a digital human can have an impact on the student experience.”
In the context of the hackathon finalists and their ideas for supporting student mental health, Tom adds, “We were impressed by Soul Machines’s technology platform and its flexibility as well as their willingness to work directly with our students and provide an experiential learning experience. As the student teams are all developing ideas around mental health, a digital human can be a powerful tool in this space. I’m excited to see how they will harness this technology.”
The student teams interested in integrating Soul Machines into their products attended training sessions to learn more about the technology and how they could incorporate it into their minimum viable products.
As campus transitions from summer into Fall Quarter 2022, the finalist teams are continuing their progress through the Capstone Projects Program offered by the UCI Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. The Capstone Projects Program is a 10-week program that enables students to engage with regional, national, and global organizations around projects motivated by real-world problems.
Through the program, each team will be paired with an industry partner who will support the development of each team’s ideas. Capstone Project sponsors are typically industry partners, including representatives from start-ups, non-profits, and established corporations. Through the Capstone Projects Program, the hackathon finalists will receive practical advice, access to professional resources, and real-world prototyping experience.
Announcing the Hackathon Finals
On Thursday, December 1, 2022, from 6:00-8:00 pm, the UCI ANTrepreneur Center will host the highly anticipated Mental Health Hackathon Finals at UCI Beall Applied Innovation‘s The Cove. At this event, the five finalist teams will unveil their products to the entire UCI community and compete for the $20,000 grand prize and the chance to launch their product across campus.
This free event will be open to UCI students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the general public. UCI affiliates can register for the Hackathon Finals and receive event updates through Campus Groups.
If you missed out on last year’s hackathon, the UCI ANTrepreneur Center will be hosting a new hackathon event in Spring 2023! Focusing on the theme of sustainability, we encourage you to start thinking about your big idea now! Need help getting started? You can book one-on-one appointments through Campus Groups with our venture consultants or come on by and visit us. Click here to find us on the UCI Map.
To keep up with all the UCI ANTrepreneur Center’s latest news visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To learn more about upcoming events, subscribe to the UCI ANTrepreneur Center’s CampusGroups page.