“They respectfully listened to all of my ideas, and then they went about passionately developing their own,“ said Jonathan Lasch, the executive director of the Alfred E. Mann Institute and a research professor at the Viterbi School of Engineering.
X PRIZE Development Specialst Gianelle Veis with USC X PRIZE class co-teacher Jonathan Lasch
The goal, as for all X Prize classes, was to frame a competition in which entrepreneurs and scientists could win a multimillion-dollar capital grant by demonstrating a new technology. The trick is to make the demonstration requirements rigid but potentially reachable, and to make the social rewards for creating the new technology clear.
USC is home to one of only three university X Prize laboratory programs in the country. Watching and taking notes on the presentations was USC alumna Gianelle Veis (BA Comm '07 MS CommMgt '09), representing the X PRIZE Foundation, the Playa Vista-headquartered organization whose mission is “Making the Impossible Possible.”
“It was truly rewarding to come back to my alma mater and witness the influence of X PRIZE's unique model and outside-the-box thinking on the young, bright minds in the class,” wrote Veis after the event. “The presentations were excellent, and the students were well prepared and thoughtfully answered difficult questions with great poise.”
Whereas last year's challenge was solar power, water was the central issue in 2011.
The course, BAEP/ENGR 599, began with lectures to the class by experts from academia, industry, government, and non-profit sectors in all areas of water covering a wide gamut of issues – delivery, purification, pollution, flooding, oceanography.
Four teams formed, with each including both Marshall and Viterbi students and each coming up with a different proposal for a contest:
Veis came to the X PRIZE class presentation following an earlier April X PRIZE event, a "visioneering" collaborative brainstorming workshop that brought together thought leaders for discussion with X Prize CEO Peter Diamandis — and said she thought that the efforts of the USC student teams were impressively comparable. Diamandis is also on the Viterbi School's Board of Councilors.
In addition to Veis, Lasch and Miller, Pat Fuscoe, president of Fuscoe Engineering, Albert Napoli of the Greif Center, and Viterbi School Senior Associate Dean Raghu Raghavendra acted as judges and evaluators of the proposals.