Queen’s students to travel to Dubai to compete for Hult Prize

Four-person team will present pitch in hopes of winning a $1 million prize 

From left to right: Mitch Sadler, Karina Bland, Leigh-Anne Mcknight and James Hantho.

This March, a group of Queen’s undergraduate students will travel to Dubai for the regional finals of the Hult Prize — a competition that asks teams to present a solution to a global problem for a chance to win $1 million.

The successful team includes team captain Karina Bland, Sci ‘18 and members Mitch Sadler, Leigh-Anne Mcknight, both Sci ’18, and James Hantho, Comm ’18. The team earned their spot in the Dubai regional competition by winning the campus-level competition on Nov. 25. 

Winning teams from each of the nearly 1000 Hult Prize Campus events bypass the general application round to compete in one of 15 regional final competitions. From these regional comepetitions, 50 teams are selected to an eight-week Hult Prize accelerator program in London.

The accelerator programs prepares teams for the final global competition at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, where the $1 million grand prize will be awarded.

The Prize is named for a Swedish-born entrepreneur and billionaire, Bertil Hult, one of Europe’s leading entrepreneurs who founded Education First, the largest private education company in the world. Hult and his family provide the $1-million prize money for the competition.

According to the Hult Prize organization website, this year’s competition challenges students to build a scalable, sustainable social enterprise that can harness the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025. Teams must present their solutions in a six-minute-long pitch.

After hearing about the competition in their respective classes, the team’s startup idea is a new method of transporting vaccines by controlling transport temperatures via energy power. 

This idea would address a prevalent problem — particularly amongst developing nations — of moving vaccine shipments in a timely manner while keeping the medication viable. 

Referred to by the World Health Organization as the vaccine “cold chain,” vaccines require highly specific temperature maintenance in order to remain effective. If not, they can often spoil after mere hours if temperatures aren’t maintained during transport. According to UNICEF, vaccines that are improperly stored often freeze or are exposed to sunlight, both of which reduce the potency of the substances. 

The current methods allow for a maximum 48 hour window of movability under optimal conditions, Sadler told The Journal. The team aims to tackle this problem through a new method of refrigeration. As a result, they could potentially extend the timeline of potential vaccine transport.

“Our idea is to add a little bit more control and certainty into the timeline of [transport], and potentially extend that to a week or even a month on our perfect, ideal system, so as to provide more transportability and further reaches within a certain time limit,” he said. 

They’re currently focusing on creating partnerships and garnering sponsorships for their company. Looking ahead, they are excited for the next step in the competition.

According to Hantho, the team attributes their success thus far largely to the cohesiveness of their group. 

“It’s been a journey. We’re loving every step of it,” Hantho said. “We all have our niches and what we’re good at, and it’s really incredible that we have a perfect mesh of smarts in different areas.”

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