Two Yale Undergraduate Teams Advance to Hult Prize Regional Finals

Sam Fereidooni ('21), Ekaterina Danchenko (’21), Claire Lamarre ('21) and Ashwin Chetty (’21).

Sam Fereidooni ('21), Ekaterina Danchenko (’21), Claire Lamarre ('21) and Ashwin Chetty (’21).

Two Yale undergraduate teams have advanced to the regional finals for the Hult Prize, a global competition that seeks to address pressing social issues like access to food, water, education and clean energy with a winning prize of $1 million. Each year the organization issues a bold challenge – this year the theme is “harnessing the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people.” Student teams must compete in increasingly competitive pitchoffs across the world before a winner is selected. Last year the prize received some 50,000 applications – just 1,500 student entrepreneurs will advance to one of 15 regional finals in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai, Toronto, Mexico City, Quito, Bogota, Melbourne, Lagos, Nairobi, Cairo, Tunisia, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Regional winners are invited to a Summer Accelerator at a castle in the UK.

One team of Yale undergraduates has focused their efforts on connectivity—making it easier for people in impoverished countries to access WiFi and data services. Essentially, people would use the mobile platform or app to either: share their own access data via a hotspot for a fee; or access available WiFi hotspots for a charge.

“In the U.S., this would require a huge network to be viable,” says Tyler Shen (’21). “But in other countries you only need one community member to have a viable data plan. Instead of these places building expensive infrastructure, it’s better to redistribute resources.”

Shen points out that internet access has become essential for upward mobility – whether to enhance education and skills or to apply for a job. The team, which includes Austin Tuan (’21) and Anthony Xu (’21), will be pitching as part of a regional competition in Singapore March 16-18.

A second Yale undergraduate team advancing to the Hult Prize regional finals in San Francisco has proposed solar-powered fridges for the Indian market. These standard two-door fridges would plug into an outdoor panel and they would be owned and operated by a community member as a small business. Each fridge would have spots available for up to 10 families to rent for perishable items and medicines.

“Food waste and malnutrition are both huge issues,” says Claire Lamarre (’21). “We would ultimately like to encourage women to buy the fridge – and to empower them through greater economic security.”

Additional team-members include Ashwin Chetty (’21), Ekaterina Danchenko (’21) and Sam Fereidooni (’21). The students have been speaking with professors, international students and a representative from Samsung to solidify their idea before the March pitch. “The idea is to impact one million lives by 2025,” says Lamarre. “We want to install 4,000 solar-powered fridges in the first year.”

Chetty says she’s experienced India’s unreliable power firsthand. “When I visited India, they would turn off the power during different parts of the day.” This, she adds, leads to food waste, which in turn contributes to malnutrition. According to the United Nations, four out of 10 children in India – nearly 47 million in total – suffer from chronic undernutrition.  A 2016 survey found that a little less than 30% of Indian families have a refrigerator. Lack of consistent power, as opposed to necessary income, is the biggest factor.

Travel for both teams to the regional finals is being supported by Student Innovation Fund at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, (203)804-1911,

Brita Belli