EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A group of Signature School students won the 5th Annual Changemaker Challenge Wednesday, with each team member securing full tuition scholarships to the University of Evansville.
Project Oasis, which includes students Graham Griffin, Ranny Badreddine, Futhallah Hamed and team coach José Mota, pitched the development of a mobile food store for people in low-income areas with no access to groceries.
Griffin said the team would contact local food banks to help provide the food, then use a renovated school bus to transport the items to customers and sell them at affordable prices. It not only would it make it possible for these families to receive food, but it also would allow for food banks to make use of the items they typically waste or throw out.
The team members pitched their idea to a panel of 12 judges — six per round. And after hours of deliberation, the team was awarded first place out of the 18 teams at UE’s Ridgeway University Center.
Though there’s no time table for the group’s idea to develop, Griffin said the community’s recognition will push him and the rest of his team members to make it happen.
“It’s really encouraging for us,” Griffin said. “We came in and had no idea the community would be so supportive of us and really want to make it happen. We were told that Mayor (Lloyd) Winnecke wants us to meet with him and figure out how we can make this happen because it’s been something they’ve wanted for years.”
The second and third place winners were E.D.E. and Working Out for a Change, followed by Food Recovery, Power of Composting and Watt-a-Bike as three runner-up teams, who also benefited from academic funding from the university.
This year the second and third place teams received $26,000 and $22,000 per year in academic funding. And the following three runner-up winners each received $18,000 per year, a significant increase compared to 2018’s winnings. UE has committed more than $1 million in scholarships to winners of this year’s competition.
The annual changemaker challenge, presented by Toyota Indiana, was designed to encourage high school students across the region to take an active role in resolving challenges in the world through their innovation and creativity.
And since the program was established in 2014, many of these projects from past competitions have gone on to become an integral part of the Evansville community.
Projects that sprang from the program include the Upgrade Bike Share stations and the solar-powered CommuniTree at Mickey’s Kingdom Park that can be seen around the city. And those still in the process of development include an emergency response app, anti-bullying board game and musical swing set and more.
With the continued success of the annual competition, more opportunities will open up for other high school students to contribute to their local communities and potentially resolve challenges in the world, UE officials said.