The following is an update from a Brown Scholar, Michael Sporkin, whose team participated in the Accenture Innovation Challenge, a partnership between Accenture and a non-profit, the Waterkeeper Alliance. Congratulations to Michael and his team for winning the competition at local and regional levels and advancing to the national level.
The Accenture Innovation Challenge (AIC) is a national competition hosted by Accenture and a partnering nonprofit each year. This year, Accenture partnered with Waterkeeper Alliance, a global nonprofit focused on protecting all of Earth’s clean water. My team broke down their huge mission to focus specifically on drinking water and its biggest threat, micro plastics. Most people (myself included until this competition) are so focused on the visible plastics like bags and bottles that they don’t realize the prevalence of micro plastics in drinking water or the threat they pose. 93% of plastic in water in less than 6 nm in width, and a significant chunk of these plastics come from our clothes, believe it or not. Materials like polyester and the athleisure styles release hundreds of thousands of micro plastics into the water stream with every load of laundry. My team addressed this problem by pitching the idea to modify existing micro plastic faucet filters to attach to the backs of laundry machines, catch 100% of micro plastics exiting the machine. Our solution was unique and practical enough to win locally and regionally, bringing us to the national level, but we didn’t win. I think this was largely because our solution didn’t match the culture of the client. We failed to consider how this product would build on top of the nonprofit’s existing framework or fit into their current activities. The takeaway that a problem-to-solution perspective (the core idea behind most of my engineering classes thus far) is often less powerful than a client-to-solution perspective made this a phenomenal experience and something that I know I never would have learned in classes alone.
Class of 2021