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Big Ideas

Introducing The 2012 Alva Emerging Fellows

Meet OneBeep, IPT, and Unbound Concepts - the awesome innovations of young inventors who are pushing forward world-changing ideas.

Earlier this spring we launched our new Alva Emerging Fellowship program, providing cash grants to empower the next generation of inventors to take action on their ideas. With ideas spanning from iPhone apps to turbines, we received a truly inspiring range of proposals from young innovators striving to change the world for the better. Presented with our friends at GE, the Alva Emerging Fellowships support three innovators under 30 years of age who have demonstrated remarkable potential to create useful and innovative new products or services that will make an impact on the world. Without further ado, here are our three 2012 Alva Emerging Fellows!–

Company: IPT

Adam Booher w/ Ehsan Noursalehi and Jonathan Naber

Open Socket, an affordable prosthetic arm for people in developing countries.

The Concept
: Traditional efforts to improve the lives of people in developing countries often result in products that are designed for the “Other 90%”. These products are often made to be inexpensive, and usually end up being inferior to the ones enjoyed by the 10% of the world that can afford more expensive things.

We believe this approach is inherently flawed, and must be changed. By designing for both the challenges of the developing world, and the expectations of a developed world consumer, we can create products that are truly desirable, feasible, and viable for the 100%.

Currently, prosthetic arms are made using methods created by people in the developed world, for people in the developed world. With these methods, every prosthetic arm is custom-made for each individual that needs one. This model is only as scalable as the number of professionals in the field (prosthetists) and as affordable as the cost of their time. These two factors combine to result in an estimated 98% of amputees in developing countries being without access to prosthetic care.

IPT has sought to change this fact, by changing the model for prosthetic care. We have developed a device called the Open Socket that can be rapidly and easily fit to an amputee in a matter of minutes. This is compared with the process of obtaining a custom device that can sometime take weeks.  Our device can be fit by anyone who has received some limited training. Finally, the Open Socket can be produced inexpensively at both low and high volumes. Our goals is to distribute the device for less than $300 per arm, a massive improvement on the $5,000-$10,000 price tag usually seen in the United States for such a device.

This approach will make prosthetic care much more accessible to anyone, anywhere. Since the majority of amputees live in developing countries, the Open Socket will have the biggest impact there, allowing the nearly 2 million below-elbow amputees, who have not received prosthetic care, access to a quality device.


OneBeepCreator: Vinny Lohan

InnovationOneBeep, software that provides a low-cost way to beam out educational lessons (or other information) via radio waves to computers used by children in remote areas that lack Internet access.

The Concept: OneBeep is about providing connectivity to children. Imagine a village way beyond broadband infrastructure or even phone lines. Such areas are the target of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and the Intel Classmate PC programs, designed to get low-cost computers into poor communities.

These initiatives have deployed a combined 2.6 million laptops to remote communities around the globe. There are plans to deploy 30 million more in the next 5 years just to East Africa. This number accounts for only the laptops from these two main organizations which are by no means the only players in the market.

All of these initiatives have the best intentions to distribute digital technologies to those less fortunate communities. However there is one major challenge that remains. A large percentage of the devices are in remote regions where there is no existing internet or any other method of information transfer. These devices are digitally disconnected and have no way of receiving new updated information, or native language content meaning. They are unable to utilize the potential of the digital world.

OneBeep has developed an inexpensive and robust method to send digital content to these devices. Using OneBeep’s software any digital file can be converted to audio, which is then sent via radio waves. This can be received on any AM/FM radio, which passes it on to the laptop via an inexpensive audio cable. The file is then converted back to its original form once it has been received on the devices. As every village has AM radios, you now have a low-cost way to beam out daily lessons, health material, etc over long distances to thousands of devices.


Company: Unbound ConceptsCreators: Katie Palencsar and Development Team

InnovationLECTIO, a software algorithm that can read textbooks, regular books, and documents, and identify and create different reading levels.

The Concept: Unbound Concepts realizes that the education community is faced with a big data problem. The Common Core Education Standards have prompted educators, publishers, and states to figure out how to identify challenging –  yet manageable –  texts, books, and documents for classroom instruction. But an efficient solution for doing this hasn’t been presented yet.

We provide a software platform to ensure students have the right texts and information according to their reading levels. By having access to accurate, individualized texts, students will be able to increase their knowledge and their reading skills at the same time.

Unbound’s first product, BookLeveler, launches in June, just in time for back to school! BookLeveler  is a crowd-sourced reading level app, designed to assist teachers in organizing classroom libraries and help teachers contribute to other teachers.

All of our winning Alva Emerging Fellows will receive:

  • A $8,500 seed grant to go towards executing their proposed project
  • A complimentary ticket to the 2012 99% Conference, held May 3rd and 4th in New York City
  • A $1,500 travel stipend to be used to attend the Conference or visit GE’s campus
  • Access to GE’s manufacturing expertise and educational resources

Congrats to IPT, OneBeep, and Unbound Concepts, and thank you to everyone who applied. We look forward to seeing the incredible crop of Alva Emerging Fellow applications next year!

More Posts by Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (2)
  • James

    Definitely some great ideas that will really impact the world. I hope down the road you all do some follow-up videos. The prosthetic arm project reminded me of this one  

    But great work 99, I’m excited to see the results!

  • kourosh shafi

    nice ideas

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