June 18, 2021

UCalgary team takes third place at World's Challenge Challenge global final

Innovative students seek solutions to global issues at international pitch competition
Water Movement travels to Lytton First Nation with Videographer Matt Miller to film expert Indigenous water treatment operator Warren Brown.

University of Calgary students were awarded third place and a prize of $7,500 at Western University’s World's Challenge Challenge (WCC) global final last week. Water Movement, created by Bita Malekian, Amrita Nag, Kondwani Asefa and Anita Malekian, is a collaborative online platform where Indigenous water treatment operators can connect and access resources to improve, optimize and sustain equipment and processes, in an effort to address Canada’s water crisis.

  • Photo above: Water Movement travels to Lytton First Nation with videographer Matt Miller to film expert Indigenous water treatment operator Warren Brown.

"This long-standing water crisis must be addressed on the path to reconciliation,” says Anita Malekian.

“Having Water Movement directed by exemplary one-of-a-kind operators, we may finally start closing the gap on this critical inequality within Canada,” Kondwani Asefa adds.

Amrita Nag, their third member, thanks the WCC for supporting Water Movement’s mission in championing Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Water Movement project overview

Water Movement fills a void in an often-fragmented industry and bridges the connection between Indigenous water treatment operators, whose work is vital to the health and well-being of countless communities. Through the joint efforts of industry professionals and university students, it provides a collaborative online space where operators can connect, share lessons learned and access learning videos that act as educational tools.

Water Movement provides the resources to improve, optimize and sustain equipment and processes. The Water Movement platform is feasible, successful, and 2,100 and counting strong in user engagement and community partnership. The platform is key to solving Canada’s water crisis. Communities across Canada have shown widespread support and fully endorsed the platform.

Water Movement was among 10 teams who presented their ideas to address global issues to a panel of judges on June 10, after advancing forward following a semi-final competition June 9.

UCalgary team RetinaLogik also make it through to the global final

Also advancing from the semi-final competition, UCalgary’s RetinaLogik. Team members Julia St. Amand and Abdullah Sarhan aim to create a social enterprise dedicated to making vision-testing technology accessible for all. RetinaLogik offers software that is portable, 90 per cent cheaper than traditional field tests and has built-in algorithms to assess risk of those early stage conditions.

RetinaLogik team members Julia St. Amand

RetinaLogik team member Julia St. Amand.

“The barriers people face globally for access to vision care services are behind our passion to keep working on developing this technology. Through our partners, we plan to have this technology utilized in both high- and low-income areas all around the world,” says Sarhan.

St. Amand adds, “It was amazing to meet and share ideas with students from around the world who have a similar drive to make positive, sustainable change. Events like these motivated us to start our project, and we’re really grateful to be supported by the Alberta innovation ecosystem and all the supports UCalgary has to offer. I would strongly encourage students to get outside their comfort zone, learn about the intersectionality of sustainability, and apply for similar challenges. I promise you’ll be glad you did.”

RetinaLogik team members Abdullah Sarhan.

RetinaLogik team member Abdullah Sarhan.

UCalgary’s semi-finals were held in February and March of this year. Twenty-two teams from Canada and around the world took part in the Global Final, an annual competition created by Western University in 2017. Typically, student participants travel to Western and spend a week engaging in programming that includes workshops, lectures by guest speakers, networking and social events, prior to the competition. Due to travel restrictions, the competition was held entirely online this year, with organizers focusing on including those same elements as much as possible.

“The World’s Challenge Challenge is an innovation competition offering an exciting way for UCalgary students to engage with other students from around the world to address global challenges from a wide variety of viewpoints,” says Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost and associate vice-president research (international) “By participating in this program, students develop critical thinking, intercultural capacity, leadership, research and presentation skills.”

More details on the projects can be found on Western University’s website. Stay tuned for updates on the 2022 UCalgary World’s Challenge Challenge competition here.