NYU Abu Dhabi Students One Step Closer to Hult's Top Prize

Members of the teams chosen to move to the next level of the Hult Competition talk together on campus.

Three student teams from NYU Abu Dhabi have successfully moved on to the regional finals of the Hult Prize: two teams will be competing in Dubai, and the other in London

In its fifth year, the Hult Prize is the world's largest student competition and start-up platform for social good. In partnership with former US President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, the crowdsourcing platform identifies and launches social ventures that aim to solve current world issues. Student teams compete in six cities around the world for a chance to secure USD 1 million in start-up funding to launch a sustainable social venture.

Chosen from more than 10,000 applications in over 150 countries, two of the NYUAD teams will compete in Dubai next month. One team consists of Lan Duong (NYUAD '14), Juan Felipe Beltran (NYUAD '14), Krisztian Kovacs (NYUAD '14), Benjamin Leb (NYUAD '15) and Daniel Mountcastle (NYUAD '16). The second team includes Bhavna Menon (NYUAD '16), Farah Shammout (NYUAD '16), Issa Nasr (NYUAD '17), Djordje Modrakovic (NYUAD '16) and Eder Munya (NYUAD '16).

"I was always interested in competing in the Hult Prize but the prompts from previous years didn't capture my attention and I didn't think I came from a background that enabled me to contribute to it in any way. But this time I feel that I can," said team captain Duong.

NYUAD has had luck in this competition in the past. In 2012, an NYUAD team took top honors for their proposal to provide solar lighting to millions of homes in Africa.

This year's competition focuses on helping the 250 million slum dwellers around the world suffering from chronic diseases — a challenge personally selected by President Clinton. This strikes a chord for Leb as he grew up in the US seeing his orthopedist father treat broken bones of patients suffering from chronic disease such as obesity. "I also wanted to explore projects outside my coursework," said Leb, a philosophy major.

Civil engineering major Duong states that "the main impetus behind my interest in the competition really comes from my minor in urbanization." The one facet of the field that grips her most is the global outlook for the current crisis in the developing world. "Urbanization students learn about where we have been and where we are going. Megacities and slum ecology are such immediate and complex issues and I want to do something about them," she added.

The motivation in joining the competition varies amongst the other team members too. "I like doing a lot of things and enjoy finding creative solutions to problems. I also try to look for projects, such as the Hult Prize, that have an impact rather than just because it's fun," said Beltran. As for Kovacs, it really started out as an interesting discourse in the dining hall one night. "I love the concept and the group still needed one more member. I had been occupied the past few years, so I decided to give it a go this time," Kovacs said.

Happy to be one step closer now to winning the prize, Duong said, "Regardless of whether or not we win the prize, the experience will undoubtedly extend the reaches of our proficiencies, both as a team and as individuals."

The Hult Prize regional competitions will take place on March 7 and 8. The NYUAD team that will compete in London is made up of team members Geo Kamus (NYUAD '16), Angelina Micha Djaja (NYUAD '16), Dori Palfi (NYUAD '16) and Eszter Sarkozi (NYUAD '16). Best of luck to all three teams!