In India, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industry continues to be dominated by a male workforce. Despite a large number of women who graduate from the STEM field, only 14 percent of woman manage to land a job. The gender gap in India’s scientific research and development sector is increasing at a slow rate when compared to other nations such as the United States.
However, the next generation of science and technology undergraduate students may change that, with the winners of La Trobe University’s 2020-2021 Technology and Infusion Grand Challenge announced at the recent annual awards presentation which took place online on 15 December 2021 with over 100 guests in attendance.
An all-female team from SRM Institute of Science and Technology in India won the grand prize. The three Biotechnology students pictured above (L-R - Team Catalysts: Rashmi Lenin, Priyanka Saravanan, and Srinidhi Sonai Anand) displayed their originality and creativity by developing a Smart Solution for membranes used in water filtration.
Team Catalysts created a recyclable nano-engineered membrane that is capable of preventing the growth of biofilms and other organic pollutants on the material. This allows the membrane to be used for an extended period of time in the water without needing to be replaced during the filtration process.
“We are extremely honoured and thankful for the recognition from La Trobe University. We see this as the first stepping stone towards attaining our dream of establishing a venture with industrial relevance,” said Srinidhi Sonai Anand.
The prize for the all-female team is a two-week all-expense paid mentorship stay with the Centre for Technology Infusion (CTI) at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Academic and business experts from the CTI and La Trobe Accelerator Program, together with La Trobe’s partners at T-Hub in India, will help bring the team’s concept to life.
Along with the winning team, SRM Institute of Science and Technology also had a second team who won the People’s Choice award in the Grand Challenge. Professor Kartar Singh, Director of International Relations at the institution was delighted to hear the achievement of the students.
“It is a thrilling moment for the students. This is a fitting start to our collaborative program and we look forward to building the partnership further,” said Professor Singh.
The two teams competed against a total of 88 teams from 22 different universities in the Asia region including India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam. From those teams, 19 finalists were chosen and received an investment of up to AUD$1000 to build their prototypes, while another two teams used their own funding to participate in the final stages of the Grand Challenge.
This competition encourages undergraduate students in the STEM and Business fields to harness their skills and knowledge in order to solve a concrete city problem within their local communities using the idea of Smart Solutions. Several of the teams developed new innovations such as a Dangerous Driving Detection System for road safety and traffic management, and Accessible Transport Solutions for People with Disabilities.
Professor John Dewar AO, Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University, is looking forward to future years of the competition and how it will help students develop innovations to solve issues present in our communities today.
“La Trobe is proud to be part of a unique initiative like the Technology Infusion Grand Challenge which encourages entrepreneurship and innovation at an undergraduate level and helps to develop skills that are essential for a successful career,” said Professor Dewar.
“The Challenge provides a global platform for students to showcase their skills and talent acquired during their study.”
La Trobe University also extends their gratitude to the Victorian Government’s ‘Study Melbourne’ for being a co-sponsor of the Grand Challenge program.
The fourth round of the 2021-2022 Technology and Infusion Grand Challenge round is now open.
By Rei Fortes
The event can be viewed here.