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Winners announced for the Duke STEAM Challenge

Winners announced for the Duke STEAM Challenge

Rehydration Project Wins First Duke STEAM Challenge

A student project aimed at treating dehydration from diarrhea in India took first place in a Duke contest aimed at bringing myriad academic disciplines together

by Eric Ferreri, reblogged from Duke Today

photo: "Ambassadors for Change:ORS" accepting their Duke STEAM Challenge Grand Prize; from left to right: Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield, Duke Professor Cathy N. Davidson, Rebecca Lai, Suhani Jalota, Kehaan Manjee and Saffana Humaira


Durham, NC – A Duke student project aimed at increasing the use of a hydrating therapy to treat diarrhea in India has won a university contest and its $10,000 grand prize.

The Ambassadors for Change: ORS project would use artistic tools like cartoons and puppetry to teach adolescent Indian girls about oral rehydration therapy. Hydration therapy uses a sugar and salt-water solution to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea.

The project, created by students Saffana Humaira, Suhani Jalota, Rebecca Lai and Kehaan Manjee, won the inaugural Duke STEAM Challenge, a competition aimed at tapping into a broad swath of academic disciplines, from math, science and engineering to the humanities and social sciences.

The winning team, all sophomores, emerged from an initial field of 22 teams and was crowned last weekend after finalists each pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

“The Duke STEAM Challenge students did an outstanding job of presenting examples of the intersections between science, the arts, humanities and social sciences,” said Keith Whitfield, Duke's vice provost of academic affairs and a co-leader of the challenge along with Professor Cathy N. Davidson, co-director of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge and the virtual learning network HASTAC. “An unexpected and significant dimension to the projects was that many of the pitches included projects of social import.”

The winning project was the result of the team’s desire to work on a public health issue, said team member Saffana Humaira, who grew up in Bangladesh and moved to northern Virginia during high school. It would use cartoons and puppetry to educate adolescent girls about hydration therapy in the hopes those girls would then explain the virtues of the therapy to their friends and family members.

“If we start with adolescent girls and they adopt the behavior, they can go back to their families and teach the positive behavior,” Humaira said. “We hope there’s an organic awareness where the knowledge is spread throughout the community.”

The team targets adolescent girls specifically for this public health campaign because young women in India often bear much of a family’s domestic duties, including caring for younger children and elderly family members, Humaira added. And puppetry was chosen as a delivery tool for the public health message because puppets are a popular cultural and entertainment tool in Bihar, the Indian state that the team is targeting.

“Combining the arts and social sciences, their plan to educate young school girls about oral rehydration therapy demonstrates that global health solutions, even if technologically simple, can be effective only by using culturally relevant ways to engage with communities,” said Duke professor Subhashini Chandrasekharan, one of the competition’s judges.

Humaira’s team plans to continue fine-tuning the project this spring and summer.

The second place project was BrushSTROKE, which combines art therapy and health education to help young stroke victims and to raise community awareness of the increasing prevalence of stroke in young people. Team members included Diego Farias, Zachary Fowler, Madelaine Katz, Rifat Rahman and Thomas Vosburgh.

The third place project was S.U.N.scaping, which aims to accelerate the electrification of isolated communities in Uganda. It focuses on the creation of a multi-lingual manual that would educate people about solar technology. Team members include Julian Borrey, Oluwatobi Runsewe and Lydia Thurman.

The honorable mention project was Doppler Operated-Remotely Effected-Musical Interface, or DO-RE-MI. It explores new ways to translate movement into sound by mapping Doppler radar frequency shifts into musical phrases. Team members include Gregory Canal, Julian (Ian) Couture and Aaron Krolik.


The winners of the Duke STEAM Challenge were announced at the Live Pitch Session final event on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.  The Duke STEAM Challenge invited Duke University students to form interdisciplinary teams and find a STEAM solution to a real-world issue.

“In the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission’s, The Heart of the Matter, Duke’s President Richard Brodhead inspires us to collaboration and an awareness of how, together, working across all the disciplines, we can work towards greater understanding, innovation, and global citizenship,” said Professor Cathy N. Davidson, one of the co-leaders of the Duke STEAM Challenge.  “All of those who competed in our inaugural Duke STEAM Challenge embraced these goals.  Our winners exemplify it brilliantly.”

photo: Duke STEAM Challenge winning teams with Duke STEAM Challenge Co-Leaders, Duke Professor Cathy N. Davidson and Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield, and the Duke STEAM Challenge judges, Duke Professor John Brown, Duke Professor Subhashini Chandrasekharan, Duke Professor Victoria Szabo and Stanford Professor and Duke alum Ge Wang.


The Duke STEAM Challenge winners are:

Grand Prize ($10,000): Ambassadors for Change:ORS

Team members: Saffana Humaira, Suhani Jalota, Rebecca Lai and Kehaan Manjee

Our goal is to increase usage of Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) to treat diarrhea. We want to use artistic tools (like cartoons) to educate adolescent girls of Terai, Bihar in India about ORT. We also want to facilitate effective communication between health care workers and the local communities by developing an SMS application. We will bridge STEM and the creative arts to bring social change.

Second Place ($3,000): BrushSTROKE

Team members: Diego Farias, Zack Fowler, Madelaine Katz, Rifat Rahman and Thomas Vosburgh

BrushSTROKE is an initiative that uniquely combines art therapy and health education in order to both help young stroke victims express the complex emotions associated with surviving stroke at such a young age and raise community awareness about the increasing prevalence of young stroke. By taking an artistic approach to a problem generally associated with epidemiology and public policy, this project bridges two distinct disciplines, creating a unique solution to an important problem.

Third Place ($2,000): S.U.N.scaping

Team members: Julian Borrey, Oluwatobi Runsewe and Lydia Thurman

S.U.N.scaping aims to accelerate the electrification and global inclusion of isolated communities in rural Uganda.  This project is centered on a multi-lingual manual designed to teach concrete skills alongside the underlying concepts of solar technology to enable technology exchange and ensure program sustainability.  Ultimately, this economically-sustainable system of solar electrification will be applied to provide Internet access where previously unavailable.

Honorable Mention ($500): Doppler Operated-Remotely Effected-Musical Interface (DO-RE-MI)

Team members: Gregory Canal, Julian (Ian) Couture and Aaron Krolik

DO-RE-MI explores new ways for translating movement into sound by mapping Doppler radar frequency shifts into musical phrases.  In doing so, we will create new opportunities for artistic expression, STEAM education and target classification. Consisting of a Duke-developed indoor Wi-Fi radar, a PC, and speakers, the DO-RE-MI system could be an interactive museum exhibit or the centerpiece of a dance performance choreographed to create, rather than follow, music. Furthermore, signal processing insights gained through the development of DO-RE-MI could one day improve methods in non-cooperative radar target classification.

We would also like to acknowledge the incredible work of the following Duke STEAM Challenge Finalists.

Mantis Headturner

Team members: William Floyd-Jones, Kasper Kubica and Sanford Morton

Mantis Headturner is a 4-beam moving head light system designed for local DJs and small venues.  Uniquely catering to the community event market, the Headturner is the only light that brings together high-end effects and full control (via phone application) in a low price and portable product.  It’s a powerful and technically advanced system for the musical artist who’s ready to become an artist with light.

Music in a Different Light

Team members: Stephanie Engle, Connor Hahn, Emily Kuhn and Madison Spahn

In an age defined by communication, music is a language that crosses cultures; those who cannot hear or understand it risk missing out on a core human experience. Music in a Different Light allows these people to access this experience by providing an alternate means to appreciate music: visually. The project entails transforming the sounds of Duke a Capella group Lady Blue into lightwaves, which will be superimposed onto a stylized video of the group to be distributed to the community at large.

Tomorrow’s HERitage

Team members: Cheryl Spinner and Jennifer Stratton

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that women represent a mere 24% of the STEM workforce; concurrently, the Celluloid Ceiling reported in 2012 that women comprised only 9% of all directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films and East London Fawcett’s (ELF) art audit also found that not a single woman appeared on the top 100 art auction performance lists in 2012.  The Tomorrow’s HERitage project seeks to tackle the underrepresentation of women in the art and science fields head-on by creating an interactive exhibition of their work as a platform for lively discussions, community exchange, and experimental modes of presentation.

Touching Math

Team members: Gautam Hathi, Morgan Irons and Joy Patel

Touching Math aims to bring out hidden math and science potential in students by using 3D printing to make 3D visualization accessible. Topics in calculus, geometry, physics, chemistry, or biology which involved three dimensional concepts are normally hard for students to deal with, but a curriculum built around engaging and aesthetically interesting models would be able to spark students’ interest. The project combines math, science, education, design, and the visual arts.

photo: Duke STEAM Challenge Finalists with Duke STEAM Co-Leaders and Judges.

The Duke STEAM Challenge was co-led by Duke Professor Cathy N. Davidson and Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield, and a leadership team of faculty and students from across the university. This effort was supported by the Office of the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs with additional support from the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.  The Challenge was administered by the international virtual learning network, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, pronounced “haystack”), Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University.


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