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WPI’s Social Innovation Challenge

Thursday, January 13, 2022 to Monday, January 17, 2022

Applications Close on Thursday January 13th

We are challenging students to seek human centered solutions that utilize technology to make a positive impact on local and global communities. We ask that students from across disciplines put ethics at the center of innovation and ideate for the greater good. This challenge is sponsored by WPI's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, In collaboration with WPI's Humanities & Arts Department.

This five day virtual event will encompass a team matching networking event, mentoring hours and skill building workshops leading into the challenge submission followed by a winner announcement virtual celebration.

NOTE: You do not need a team to apply. Our intro session held on Thursday January 13th will include a speed networking activity to assist in building or adding to your team*. Team size can range from 2-4 students.


There will be two tracks to the Social Innovation Challenge - choose the one that best matches your interest:

1Future of work: How can workers gain knowledge and learn the skills needed to access jobs in the new economy? How do automation and digitization impact income inequality? How can workers from all backgrounds benefit from technological innovations in the world of work? Technological solutions may address, but are not limited to, the following areas: Human robot teams; meaning of work; digital workplaces; education technology; algorithmic accountability; skills training.

2Environmental Sustainability: How can people create and consume goods that are renewable, repairable, reusable and recyclable? How can communities sustainably protect, manage and restore their local ecosystems? How can the transportation sector impact sustainability? Technological solutions may address, but are not limited too, the following areas: Water, Energy, Food & Agriculture, Transportation and Ecosystems.


A general note: As you work together in your teams, you may realize that various ideas can only come to a certain degree of completion during our weekend long competition. If you have a physical prototype by the end, that’s great! If not, but you have a great concept with research and planning to back it, that’s completely fair game! Just flesh your idea out as much as possible within the time constraints, we don’t expect your renovation of a building to physically happen overnight. Graphical mockups, writing, software demos, and CAD designs can all be helpful in communicating the value of an innovation.


Applications Open: Monday, December 13h
Applications Close: Thursday, January 13th





First Place:         $1,000 in Goat Bucks

Second Place:    $750 in Goat Bucks

Third Place:        $500 in Goat Bucks


Innovation Challenge Workshop Schedule:

Day 1: Thursday, January 13th


  • 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm 

Workshop Name:

  • Introduction to challenge & Team Matching Speed Networking Event - Virtual Event 

Workshop Facilitator:

  • Curtis Abel - Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Workshop Description:

  • Brief overview of the challenge, review of the judging criteria and Q&A.

  • Opportunity for students who do not have a team to participate in a speed networking activity to be matched with students that have common interests and compatibilities (Optional).


Day 2: Friday, January 14th 


  • 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm 

Workshop Name:

  • Design for Evil - Virtual Event 

Workshop Facilitator:

  • Jennifer deWinter, Director, Art and Design, Professor of Rhetoric 
  • Gillian Smith, Director, Interactive Media & Game Development, Associate Professor of Computer Science 

Workshop Description:

  • Design thinking has been touted as the panacea of innovation, guiding people through rapid, customer/problem defined needs and bringing rapid iterative prototyping to bear on development. But not all design is good. In fact, sometimes it’s downright evil. We see this in popular media all the time with speculative fiction and science fiction (think Black Mirror). And these types of speculative fiction enable us to see where “evil”, or in less alarming terms, ethically questionable design choices have been made and are enacted. So in this workshop, we will use a piece of technology that exists and design it for evil. Through doing this, we will both engage in a design process, but more importantly, we will engage in a design process that highlights human and ethical concerns. Participants will go through technological identification, problem identification, customer segmentation, ideation, iteration, presentation, and discussion in 1.5 hours. It will be fun to become the supervillain that so many billionaires are.  


Day 3: Saturday, January 15th


  • 11:00 am - 12:00 pm 

Workshop Name:

  • Public Interest Technology, What is it? And Why is it important to place ethics at the center of innovation? - Virtual Event 

Workshop Facilitator:

  • Yunus Dogan Telliel, Assistant Professor- Anthropology & Rhetoric

Workshop Description:

  • With the rise of a general skepticism towards big tech companies, many people have been exploring alternative ways of thinking about technology innovation. Public Interest Technology (PIT) offers a path towards a more just and equitable future of technology. PIT is an emerging field that uses technological expertise in service of the common good, often with a focus on historically-marginalized communities: and The growing PIT universe needs engineers, computer scientists, and other technologists who can grasp core ethical, legal, policy, and societal dimensions of technological change, as well as social scientists, humanists, and artists who can guide the design and delivery of technological systems with their understanding of structural injustices and inequities. In the PIT universe, everyone has something unique to contribute and something new to learn. After a brief training, workshop participants will develop their strategies that can help align their tech projects with a vision of public interest and responsible innovation.
  • Team working day on your solutions
  • Virtual Mentors hours will be available to book online for project feedback.


Day 4: Sunday, January 16th 

Workshop Name:

  • Virtual Mentors Office Hours

Workshop Description:

  • Mentors hours will be available to book online for project feedback. 

  • Team working day on your solution.


Day 5: Monday, January 17th:

Workshop Name:

  • Student Project Working Day 

Workshop Description:

  • Submission of your team's 5 - minute presentation video is due by 11:59 pm
  • Judging will take place between January 24th - February 4th 
  • Top 3 winning teams will be announced no later than February 11th 


This year the Innovation and Entrepreneurship innovation challenge is partnering with Hack@WPI! Social Innovation Challenge participants are welcome to join the various activities and workshops.
Hack@WPI will be held on January 14-16.
Events schedule is listed below. Social Innovation Challenge participants may register for Hack@WPI events here

Day Time   Event
Friday 4:30 PM   Workshop: Design for Evil with Prof. deWinter and Prof. Smith
Friday 6:00 PM   Doors Open / Check-In Begins
Friday 6:30 PM   Opening Ceremony Begins
Friday 7:30 PM   Opening Ceremony Ends - Start Brainstorming and Team-Forming!
Friday 7:30 PM   Team Formation Activity
Friday 8:30 PM   Workshop: Git Good - Beginner's Crash Course on Git/GitHub
Saturday 11:00 AM   Workshop: Public Interest Technology w Yunus Telliel
Saturday 1:00 PM   State Street Information Session 
Saturday 3:00 PM   MLH Event 
Saturday 5:00 PM   Workshop: Setting up a professional project/portfolio website for free
Saturday 8:00 PM   Movie Night
Saturday 10:00 PM   Games (Jackbox, Gartic Phone,, Minecraft)
Sunday 11:00 AM   Project Submission Deadline (Upload to DevPost!)
Sunday 2:30 PM   Closing Ceremony and Awards
Registration Deadline:
Thursday, January 13, 2022 11:00 am
Jasmine Jones