Waterloo students win first place in Challenge4ClimateAction competition

Monday, May 3, 2021

A team including four Waterloo students came in first place in the Challenge stream of this year’s Challenge4ClimateAction competition.

The winning team, Team Golden Marauders, consisted of Waterloo Double Degree students Miraal Kabir, Alex Shehdula, Daria Margarit, and Martin Turuta. The team also included Hanna Rao from McMaster University and Kiana Dhindsa from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Zoom screenshot of team members

The competition, hosted by Convergence.tech, involved 200 teams developing and pitching solutions to climate-related issues. Teams in the Challenge stream created a video that described their solution to a problem caused by climate change, with detailed problem statements and implementation strategies. After being judged by a group that included people from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the House of Lords, Team Golden Marauders were awarded $6,000 for their first place finish.

Remote video URL

Their idea, SAFI, was a pasteurization kit that could be used by camel herders to decontaminate camel milk of the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

“Because of climate change and increased droughts, humans are having to take camels as livestock because they can survive droughts better,” explained Miraal. “The problem is that camels carry this MERS coronavirus, so more herders are getting that coronavirus.”

“One of the biggest sources of transmission is the herders drinking milk from the camels,” added Alex. “We tried to come up with a more efficient way to pasteurize it.” Team Golden Marauders came up with an idea for an easy-to-use pasteurization package, combined with an education manual, that could be distributed among herders to lower the risk of contracting MERS from milk.

“The broad spanning nature of an innovation like SAFI presents a very rare opportunity to truly change lives for the better, in an area where people need it most,” noted Martin.

Still excited over the competition win, the team’s focus now is to create physical prototypes and to acquire funding to turn SAFI into a reality. “We got a solid foundation built through the competition,” said Daria, “Now we are looking for resources that will help us bring our idea to life.”