To make a big impact, Design Challenge winners say think small

Would you eat chips made with grasshoppers?

That was the question posed by Laura D’Asaro (’13) and Rose Wang (’13), founders of Six Foods, the inaugural winner of the Deans’ Design Challenge, during Demo Day yesterday at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab).

Dean Mohsen Mostafavi of the Graduate School of Design and Dean Cherry Murray of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences announced the winner following presentations by six finalist teams, including three led by GSD doctoral students.

The dynamic duo (whose presentation included a rap with human beat box accompaniment) championed the benefits of urban insect farming as a nutritional and sustainable alternative source of protein with a particularly small footprint. “You can’t raise cows in the city,” D’Asaro said, “but you can raise bugs!”

The team will add the challenge’s $25,000 prize to over $67,000 already raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Their first product designed for mass consumption—a chocolate chip cookie made with roasted cricket flour—will debut in select natural food stores this fall.

Two teams were named runners-up: Dimitris Papanikolaou’s (DDes) Cloudcommuting, a platform for point-to-point vehicle sharing systems that pay users to rebalance vehicles, received $10,000, and, Wendy Fok’s (DDes) Resilient Modular Systems (RMS), which seeks to be the leader of innovative building components and sustainable materials in the developing world, received $15,000.

The Deans’ Design Challenge called upon Harvard students to propose “order of magnitude improvements to the livability of our cities by 2030. Starting in November 2013, the teams began developing projects that addressed one of four topic areas: Responsive Cities, Urban Metabolisms, The Future of Consumption, and Aging in Place. The finalist teams received spring residency in the i-lab’s Venture Incubation Program, $5,000 in seed money, and expert mentorship to help them refine and develop their ideas.

The Deans’ Design Challenge was one of four challenges hosted by the i-lab this year, all designed to strengthen Harvard’s entrepreneurial community and foster cross-School collaboration.  

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