T‑Mobile Announces Winners of 2021 Changemaker Challenge

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T-Mobile and the T-Mobile Foundation announced the 16 winners of the 2021 Changemaker Challenge, a nationwide contest that mobilizes youth who have big and bold ideas on how to change the world for good with seed money and mentorship.

Winning ventures from this third Challenge, sponsored by T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Foundation and Ashoka, the world’s largest network of systems-changing social entrepreneurs, came from individuals and teams between the ages of 13-18 and tackle issues ranging from water conservation to underrepresentation in medicine to reducing waste.

Winners have earned seed money from the T-Mobile Foundation and an all-expenses-paid trip to T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. (subject to and following the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance) for the Changemaker Lab to get inspiration and develop action plans.

“This year’s T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge applicants aren’t just dreaming about change — they are taking steps to BE the change they want to see,” said Janice V. Kapner, T-Mobile’s chief communications and brand officer. “We were blown away with their inspiring ideas to create more connected, sustainable and informed communities These bright young minds embody the Un-carrier’s fearless spirit and are tackling urgent challenges and imagining a brighter future — and during a global pandemic no less! We can’t wait to help turn their ideas into reality!”

Entrants focused their projects on three categories: TechnologyEnvironment, and Education. For each category, five winners were chosen and one of the projects was selected as the category winner. This year, the Challenge also included a separate category for T-Mobile employees and their families.

Here is what teams can expect next:

  • Each team receive $5,000 to help supercharge their ventures.
  • Each team will join the Changemaker Lab from October 4-6, 2021. The three-day immersive experience includes mentorship from T-Mobile executives, skills training from Ashoka and networking opportunities with other teams.
  • The three category winners receive an additional $5,000 in seed funding and the opportunity to pitch their projects to T-Mobile senior leaders at the Changemaker Lab.
  • Among the three category winners, one will be selected as the Grand Prize Winner and will receive another $5,000 — for a total of $15,000 in seed money — plus a one-on-one meeting with a T-Mobile senior leader for additional guidance on how they can grow their venture.

Judges from Ashoka and T-Mobile reviewed submissions based on four criteria:

  • Changemaker Quality assesses preliminary work already put into each idea.
  • Creativity measures each idea’s degree of innovation.
  • Commitment determines level of devotion to seeing a project through and ensuring a lasting impact.
  • Connection determines each team’s ability and openness to working with others in their community.

T-Mobile and the T-Mobile Foundation are partnering with Ashoka because for the last 40 years, Ashoka has supported social entrepreneurs as they bring new ideas to systemically address the world’s biggest challenges. Ashoka works around the globe with partners like the T-Mobile Foundation to support youth by developing core competencies of empathy, teamwork, collaborative leadership and changemaking skills.

Winners of the 2021 Changemaker Challenge

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Hear the four top category winners describe their projects.

Technology

Top Category Winner
Operation Serenity (Rochester, MN)
An app that gives pediatric patients preparing for surgery peace of mind through kid-friendly simulations

Environment

Top Category Winner
Aquapods (San Jose, CA)
A plant-based, biodegradable sponge that combats water waste and leads to more fertile soil

Education

Top Category Winner
Medicine Encompassed (North Brunswick, NJ)
A student-run non-profit organization working to solve the problem of underrepresentation in medicine

Family Challenge

Top Category Winner
Terracan (Bellevue, WA)
A smart trash can and app that calculates your waste footprint to help reduce garbage

Additional Winners

Technology
The Tuberculosticks (Redmond, WA)
A low-cost tuberculosis test that leverages the same technology as pregnancy tests to deliver instant results

Guardial (Coppell, TX)
An app that empowers users to proactively take control of their safety

The Neptune Project (Woodside, CA)
Bringing machine learning and a litmus paper test to identify communities at high risk for lead poisoning

Solar Education Center (Lafayette, CO)
A solar-powered bus bringing technology-based education to rural school districts

Environment
Linens N Love (Yorba Linda, CA)
An organization that donates linens that would otherwise be discarded by hotels to animal shelters, homeless shelters, etc.

MYCOGEAR (Melrose Park, IL)
Biodegradable products made from fungus that can perform the same functions as single-use plastic

Effective Climate Action Project (Portland, OR)
An organization that uses data visualizations and climate simulations to advocate for systemic solutions to climate change

The Urban Garden Initiative (Newark, DE)
A nonprofit that aims to inspire and empower youth to achieve urban sustainability through a gardening-based program

Education
Project Exchange (Vancouver, WA)
An online cultural exchange program for young people to explore today’s global issues together

Let’s End Poverty. Period! (Montgomery, AL)
An organization addressing the issue of period poverty and lobbying for change

RelatABLE (Staten Island, NY)
A group dedicated to educating people about disabilities to build a more inclusive future

Project Kares (Yorba Linda, CA)
An app that helps young people connect with supportive mentors