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Humanitarian Innovation Awards

Engineering solutions for the most vulnerable

Our Professor Ron Johnston Humanitarian Innovation Awards encourage and rewards students by challenging them to engineer cutting-edge solutions that positively impact people around the world.

With growing humanitarian needs and limited funding, innovative solutions are vital to assist the most vulnerable groups in new and efficient ways.

Our annual Professor Ron Johnston Humanitarian Innovation Awards is a means of doing just that, by encouraging and rewarding university students to create cutting-edge solutions that could save lives and make a positive impact on people around the world!

The Humanitarian Innovation Awards consist of two parts:

Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon

When: Friday, 22 July–Sunday, 24 July 2022

Our Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon is a weekend-long event designed for university students to work in cross-discipline teams to create technology-driven solutions for the most pressing humanitarian challenges, and is presented by our Hackathon partner, RedR.

Participants are asked to identify practical solutions for real and current problems from a current international humanitarian response context.

The Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon is open to all undergraduate students across Australia, and allows students to build their team working skills and network with likeminded students and mentors from across the country.

Participating in the Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon also counts towards Professional Engagement Program (PEP) hours for engineering students from the University of Sydney. It may also count towards similar programs at other universities; students are encouraged to check with their instituations.

Last year's 2021 Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon took place virtually and saw participants create solutions to help address challenges ranging from natural distaster recovery to managing plastic waste.

Registration for the 2022 Hackathon is now open and closes on Monday, 11 July.

  • Cardno
  • GHD
  • Laing O'Rourke
  • RedR
  • Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
  • University of Queensland

Watch the highlights of the 2021 Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon

Past winners

First Prize: RedR Ron Johnston Rapid Response Prize (Prize: Medal and $5,000)

"Team Aegis"

  • Edith Lume (University of Wollongong)
  • Mansour Adie (University of Sydney)
  • Thomas Sau (MacquarieUniversity)
  • Ivy He (University of Sydney)

Vonwiller Humanitarian Innovation Runner Up Prize

"Solomon Says"

  • Emily Sacks (University of Sydney)
  • Gayathri Aranhiyullathil Pradeep (University of New South Wales)
  • Rebecca Kung (University of Sydney)
  • Akrita Singh (Macquarie University)
  • Aishwarya Kathikeuan (Macquarie University)

Engineers Australia People's Choice Award

"Solomon Says"

  • Emily Sacks (University of Sydney)
  • Gayathri Aranhiyullathil Pradeep (University of New South Wales)
  • Rebecca Kung (University of Sydney)
  • Akrita Singh (Macquarie University)
  • Aishwarya Kathikeuan (Macquarie University)

First Prize: RedR Ron Johnston Rapid Response Prize (Prize: Medal and $5,000)

"H2ArchipelagO"

  • Alex Hofmann (Monash University)
  • Allan Soo (University of Technology Sydney)
  • Ben Hofmann (Australian National University)
  • Emily Unewisse (University of Adelaide)
  • James Hurst (Australian National University)

Pacific Telecommunications Council / Beyond Essential Humanitarian Internship Appointent

"Winter is not Coming"

  • Katia Moors (University of Sydney)
  • Thomas Sau (Macquarie University

Pacific Telecommunications Council First Prize for Best Humanitarian Digital Innovation

"Greys Humanity"

  • Alida Fois from (University of Melbourne)
  • Celina Dhobbie (Monash University)
  • Charvi Mamidi (University of Sydney)
  • Portia Sihvola (Queensland University of Technology)

Pacific Telecommunications Council Second Prize for Best Humanitarian Digital Innovation

"Fortitude"

  • Avanish Shrestha (University of Sydney)
  • Isabella Notarpietro (University of New South Wales)
  • Rafe Skidmore (University of Sydney)
  • Meg Phillips (University of Tasmania)
  • Syed Emaad Rizwan (Macquarie University)

First Prize: RedR Ron Johnston Rapid Response Prize (Prize: Medal and $5,000)

“Fran’s boys” 

  • Cameron Choi (University of Sydney)
  • Fransiska Bekti (University of Sydney)
  • Kevin Miao (University of Sydney)
  • Mark Cavanna (University of Sydney)
  • Terrence Darma (University of Sydney)

Second: “whereto”

  • Aisha Warsame (Deakin University)
  • Brittany Gardner (University of Sydney)
  • Harshita Jyoti (Australian National University) 
  • Madeline Liddle (Australian National University) 
  • Seo Woo Bae (University of Sydney)

Third: “Illuninate”

  • Adele van der Winden (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Liam McAllister (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Riley de Jong (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Tasfia Quader (Macquarie University)
  • Thomas Larkin (Australian National University)

Laing O’Rourke best presentation: “Rafts & Rails”

  • Boran Wang (University of Sydney)
  • Jasper Rasmussen (University of Sydney)
  • Joseph Malicdem (Macquarie University)
  • Qiting Huang (University of Sydney)
  • Victor Zhuang (University of Sydney)

Humanitarian Innovation Pitch

Our Humanitarian Innovation Pitch is an annual national submissions contest where university students present innovative technological or engineering solutions that support human welfare through benevolent treatment or assistance to people for substantially altruistic reasons.

In groups of 2-4, students are encouraged to select a real-world humanitarian problem and develop technology-driven solutions. 

Submissions are comprised of a short video encapsulating the essence of a student's idea, accompanied by a poster showing evidence of how each solution could be achieved.

Participating in the Humanitarian Innovation Pitch helps students gain presentation skills, problem solving skills, and network.

Entries for the 2022 Pitch are now closed.

Past winners

Professor Ron Johnston Prize in Humanitarian Innovation Winner (Prize: Medal, $2,500, Cardno internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"Team Flux"

  • Mansour Adie (University of Sydney)
  • Jimmy Deng (University of Sydney)
  • Ivy He (University of Sydney)
  • Sharon Davids (University of Sydney)

Runner Up (Prize: GHD internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"Team Collectous"

  • Katherine Feng (Australian National University)
  • Shaoheng Xu (Australian National University)
  • Hang Sheng (Australian National University)
  • Zirui Chen (Australian National University)

Professor Ron Johnston Prize in Humanitarian Innovation Winner (Prize: Medal, $2,500, Cardno internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"Team Orinum"

  • Vanathy Arudselvan (University of Sydney)
  • Yeeun Cho (University of Sydney)

Runner Up (Prize: GHD internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"The Double A Team"

  • Ally Moodie (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Adele van der Winden (Queensland University of Technology)

Professor Ron Johnston Prize in Humanitarian Innovation Winner (Prize: Medal, $2,500, Cardno internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"Team GB"

  • Georgia Odlin (University of Sydney)
  • Ella Lambert (University of Sydney)

Runner Up (Prize: GHD internship and automatic entry into hackathon)

"Monica’s Peers"

  • Mark Cavanna (University of Sydney)
  • Kevin Miao (University of Sydney)
  • Cameron Choi (University of Sydney)
  • Terrence Darma (University of Sydney)

"Bio-Engineering for River Banks"

  • Riley de Jong (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Liam McAllister (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Adele van der Winden (Queensland University of Technology)

"Team Sloth"

  • Ethan Hastings (Charles Sturt University)
  • Zac Stanford (Charles Sturt University)
  • Marcus Dege (Charles Sturt University)
  • James Griffiths (Charles Sturt University)

FAQ

  • International and national university students, domiciled in Australia and studying at any Australian University;
  • Students studying in any discipline but preferably “STEM-capable participants” studying for degrees in engineering and/or computer science; the reason for this preference is because of the emphasis on “engineering” innovations;
  • Students must be studying an undergraduate degree to participate – full-time and part-time students are welcome;
  • Entry may be made by groups of 2 to 4 individuals working as a team;
  • Entrants will be required to provide evidence of their eligibility under these rules as a part of their submission.

Participants of the Humanitarian Innovation Pitch must follow the below rules and guidelines: 

  • participants must be national and international university students studying at any Australian university for the entirety of 2022
  • entries are limited to undergraduate students
  • entries must be made by a group of 2-4 individuals working as a team
  • teams must include strong STEM capabilities and it is recommended to include members studying for degrees in technology or engineering programs
  • teams can also include appropriate non–STEM skills as needed to create, deliver and implement the innovative solution
  • entrants will be required to provide evidence of their eligibility under these rules as a part of their submission (example of evidence is a university ID card), and a
  • an individual may only participate in a single team. She/he cannot work across multiple teams.

See the full list of terms and conditions in the awards portal.

To enter in the Humanitarian Innovation Pitch, register through the awards portal and submit your pitch by midnight AEST on Sunday 1 May 2022.

Participants must submit:

  • their team details
  • a summaru of the problem they are trying to solve and the solution (up to 100 words)
  • a five minute video (the Pitch)
  • a digital A3 poster which defines the problem statement and proposed solution
  • a group photo of the team
  • a reference file, and
  • acceptance of terms and conditions.

Judging will take place once submissions close. Full submission details and requirements are available through the awards portal

Participants should look to select a focus area which:

  • presents a real problem in a humanitarian or a developing country context
  • has a connection to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • addresses needs which do not fit conventional commercial finance driven markets and are therefore “orphans” to traditional market solutions, and
  • the solution aims to alleviate or address the needs of disadvantaged communities or groups that may be overlooked by traditional engineering and technology projects.

Entries for the 2022 Pitch are open from 9.00am AEDT Friday 4 March and close midnight AEST on Sunday 1 May 2022.

First place (the Professor Ron Johnston Prize in Humanitarian Innovation winner) will receive:

  •  $2500 cash (split evenly among the winners)
  • a “Professor Ron Johnston Prize in Humanitarian Innovation” medallion
  • a UN SDG pin for each team member, and
  • and 80-hr internship with GHD for each team member.

GHD has the desire to provide a meaningful opportunity, and propose each intern can select from the following placements:

  • an intern within the International Development Assistance team
  • an intern within GHD Advisory business (likely re economic business case development)
  • an intern with GHD internal charity organisation - GHD Foundation (supporting GHD funded community legacy projects)
  • interns with internal step up initiatives including Future Energy, Future Communities or Future Water, or
  • an intern with GHD indigenous services team

Each team member of the runner up team will receive:

  • a UN SDG pin
  • a 4-week Cardno internship

All participations of the Pitch will receive automatic entry into the 2022 Humanitarian Innovation Hackathon.

Submissions will be evaluated on the degree to which the humanitarian innovation addresses the below criteria.

The pitch:

  • addresses a real and pressing problem
  • analyses the context of the problem and develops a practical solution for the target community or persons

The innovation:

  • uses appropriate engineering skills, knowhow and technologies
  • is novel, original and innovative
  • is environmentally sound and sustainable
  • is technologically sound, cost effective and workable in proposed environment
  • includes an evidence-based mechanism to assess the value/efficacy of their innovation, and
  • demonstrates familiarity with humanitarian quality measures, such as the Sphere Standards

The benefits of the innovation:

  • must consider the vulnerable, including disability, diversity & gender protection, and
  • must consider the number of people helped and the alleviation impact (initial severity/improvement of condition) of the solution.

An actual demonstration or other proof of practicality of the solution will be highly considered.

About Ron Johnston

Professor Ron Johnston, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Innovation (ACIIC) has worked for more than 30 years in pioneering better understanding of the ways that science and technology contribute to economic and social development, the characteristics of the global knowledge economy and the processes and culture of innovation.

His special skill is based on the breadth of his knowledge across technologies and his ability to integrate them into a socioeconomic and environmental context.

These annual awards are named in honor of Professor Ron Johnston, to recognise his outstanding contributions as Director of ACIIC for some 20+ years.