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Lehigh Soterra team in finals for $1 million Jain Women's Safety Prize

From left: Emily Randolph, Lena McDonnell, Brooke Glassman, Anu Jain (the sponsor of the Women's Safety XPRIZE competition), Cameron Cipriano, Michael Wu and Matthew Ciolino

Members of a team of Lehigh undergraduate students in April found themselves on a train in India, barrelling through the countryside as they tested a device they’d begun developing just a year ago. As one of five finalists in the $1 million Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety Prize competition, they were demonstrating that their device can help keep women safe—even on a moving train. The team will learn the results of the final round at an event at the United Nations on June 6.

The students in April 2017 set out to design and develop a method of quick and reliable access to emergency response services to women living in regions of the world with high rates of violence against women. Their solution: Soterra, a small, cost-effective device that uses Bluetooth mesh networking technology and GPS to allow women to discreetly contact friends, family or the police when they feel threatened, without the need of a cell phone or Internet.

The team entered Soterra in the Jain Women’s Safety Prize competition, which is offered by the XPRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit that sponsors competitions to encourage innovators to come up with technological solutions to pressing problems. In September the team submitted its technical design document and eventually found itself among the 21 teams selected—from a total of 85 teams from 17 countries—to compete in the semi-final round in April in Mumbai, India. After the Lehigh team worked on refining their core technology and raised funds through Ignite LU and the Lehigh's Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, six team members traveled to Mumbai for the semi-finals, which would prove a rewarding experience.

“At the team summit and at a dinner event, XPRIZE had all of the teams come together and talk, network, and hear about each other's designs,” says Brooke Glassman ’19, a mechanical engineeringmajor. “It was emphasized that this wasn't just a competition, and collaboration and partnership was actually encouraged in the future. We are, and always have been, part of this competition to get the technology into the hands of the people that need it the most.”

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

May 30, 2018

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