Red Bull’s underground pitch competition for young innovators

Students from around the world are dreaming up creative ways to improve their campuses.
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Students from around the world are dreaming up creative ways to improve their college campuses, and Red Bull brings them all together for a global pitch competition. Participants of the program prove that you don’t have to be older or even established in your career to create new technology that makes a difference.

Who better to lead change on a college campus than the students themselves? Administrators have their plates full as it is, leaving little time to connect with the true experience of every student. And naturally, the best ideas for improvement come from the young innovators who are facing the challenges every day. 

How Red Bull’s Pitch Competition Works

Through their Basement University initiative which began in 2018, Red Bull invites student entrepreneurs from all over the world to come together, develop their ideas, and present their inventions at a global pitch competition. The collaborative program focuses on using technology for good, while empowering today’s young, innovative minds.

During the first weeks of the competition, student-teams from over 300 participating universities in 27 countries are encouraged to submit 60-second application videos in which they pitch their best ideas.

Once the submission period closes, students then have a week to promote their videos and gather votes from the public online. The top-scoring projects are moved into a final selection pool, where they’re evaluated based on impact, feasibility, and creativity by a panel of expert judges.

From this pool, judges select one project from a team in each country to move on to the next portion of the competition – the development phase. During the development phase, students have six weeks to work on their projects where they receive support in the form of networking opportunities, funding, tools, equipment, and a fully functional workspace.

Participants also have access to designated mentors and experts in technology, design, strategy, and business. Throughout this phase, teams evolve their ideas, develop prototypes, and perfect their final presentations.

The Basement University culminates with a four-day workshop attended by the finalists – all expenses paid – from each country. During the event, finalists have the opportunity to meet with some of the world’s most respected and brilliant minds in the realm of technology for good.

Students also get to attend lectures, one-on-one mentorship sessions, and workshops. All these events lead up to the pitch competition in which finalists present their ideas on-stage. Finally, the experts select a global winner based on the final presentations. 

And the Winner Is…

In 2019, 27 teams of young inventors attended the Basement University Global Workshop, showcasing a variety of ideas that focused on accessibility, inclusion, empowerment, sustainability, sanitation, and security.

One noteworthy invention was C4Me, an accessibility device developed by South Africa’s finalist team. It can be worn by blind or visually impaired students and uses map data to provide directions to new classes. It’s also designed to assist students with navigation by detecting obstacles.

Energybrid was another idea, presented by students from India. It poses a new way to generate and store energy on campus and other high-traffic areas. By placing a piezoelectric grid beneath high-traffic walkways, the students seek to convert the force exerted by pedestrians into enough electricity to power their entire campus.

One app, Noroshi, presented by finalists from Japan enables students to wrangle the deluge of notifications they receive on their phones, ensuring they receive the most important notifications when they need them most.

Based on user settings, Noroshi’s platform uses location beacons to highlight notifications such as information about rescheduled classes to students when they enter a relevant place on campus.

More focused on sustainability, the finalists from Turkey presented Smarttle, an idea to reduce plastic waste per bottle of water by outfitting regular water bottles with RFID tags linked to user accounts on campus.

At Smarttle water stations located around campus, a student’s RFID tag would be recognized, their account would be charged, and the student would be able to instantly refill their bottles with drinkable water.

Students from the Netherlands presented a platform designed to simplify the process of finding and securing temporary housing in Amsterdam. Sublet is geared toward students who plan to study abroad, those who need housing for a semester or two, and students who need to sublet their own apartments while they’re away for an extended amount of time.

In cooperation with universities located in Amsterdam, the platform helps homeless students locate empty apartments that meet their needs. But 2019’s winning team came from Austria and presented an app called Audvice.

This app uses technology from audio streaming and voice recording to create a space where students can easily record, download, share, and listen to material related to the topics they’re studying. The app is designed to facilitate collaborative learning while improving retention. 

Making a Difference, One Good Idea at a Time

Sometimes college administrators are so far removed from student life that they can’t see the real problems students face every day. If they can’t see the problems, how can they provide the solutions? Thanks to Red Bull’s Basement University, students can now create the change they want to see on their campuses.

Any student at a participating university is qualified to submit an application video for the next global pitch competition. There are many barriers in the world, but good ideas, technology, and worthy aspirations aren’t subjective.

Global initiatives like the Basement University are allowing colleges everywhere to tap into the limitless potential of young, creative minds to develop new technology that benefits the greater good.

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Disclosure: RedBull provided travel and lodging for the reporter covering this event.

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