The Mapletree Challenge 2023 is an innovative competition that seeks to groom the next generation of sustainability stewards by nurturing entrepreneurship, problem-solving, and presentation skills among SIT (Singapore Institute of Technology) undergraduates. The theme for this year’s challenge was “Sustainability and Innovation,” and six teams of SIT students with entrepreneurial ideas related to sustainability competed for the coveted Mapletree Gold award, which comes with cash prizes, and the opportunity to further develop their prototype ideas.
Combining Sustainability and Innovation
Focused on the theme of “Sustainability and Innovation,” which is particularly relevant, given the pressing need to find sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental problems, about 100 SIT students across various disciplines signed up for the Mapletree Challenge this year.
Six finalist teams competed for the Mapletree Gold award and presented their innovative ideas to a panel of judges, including Mr. Kent Lewis Williams from Mapletree Investments, Mr. Eugene Yeo from Hyperscal, and Prof. Ho Yew Kee from SIT.
Following a full day of pitching, presentations, and fielding questions from a panel of judges at the Mapletree Business City on April 24, Team PowerPod emerged as the grand winner of Mapletree Challenge 2023.
The winning team took home a grand prize of $5,000, while the second- and third-place teams took home cash prizes of $3,000 (Silver Award) and $2,000 (Bronze Award) respectively. Here are the top 3 winning innovations:
Gold Award: Team PowerPod: Centralised Battery Charging System
Team PowerPod’s concept is a centralised battery charging system powered by solar energy to efficiently charge electric vehicles (EVs). The system uses robotics and autonomous driving technology to locate EVs in shopping mall car parks and charge their battery packs while the drivers are away.
If that sounds like an ambitious project, it is. As Singapore aims to have 60,000 EV charging points by 2030, the system eliminates the hassle of finding an EV charging point and relieves the driver of the stress of having to always think about maintaining sufficient battery charge on a daily basis.
While the team didn’t have the opportunity to prototype the full robotics and AI solutions in their proposal, their idea offers up big potential. “By 2030, Singapore will register only electric vehicles, and given Singapore’s limited land space, a solution like this could ideally serve 80% of passenger vehicles that will be in use [at that time],” according to team member Ming Jean.
Team Members: Li Haowei (Computer Engineering), Tan Kee Yee (Electrical Power Engineering), Marcus Teo Rui Jie (Electrical Power Engineering), and Tang Ming Jean (Sustainable Infrastructure Engineering)
Silver Award: Team Sea-No-Meat: Healthier Plant-Based Snacks
With global demand for seafood reaching record highs of 20.5 kg/person (in 2019), Team Sea-No-Meat proposed the idea of a plant-based ‘seafood’ snack to prevent the rapid depletion of marine life stocks. They created ‘Çumil’, a plant-based squid snack that addresses the environmental impact of traditional squid snacks and eliminates the possibility of ingesting the microplastic pollutants that are increasingly prevalent in our seafood.
The motivation shared by every member of the team is best summed up by team member Ifaaf: “We want to encourage people to start sea-ing [sic] food, beyond the seafood we know.”
Çumil is made from yellow peas and konjac, which are high in dietary fibre and trans-fat-free. Impressively, Sea-No-Meat was already at the prototype stage in time for the competition – a noteworthy accomplishment, given they only started ideation last August.
The key to their developing Çumil so quickly was the establishing of clearcut roles: Esther was in charge of planning and product development trials. Ee Lin was involved in idea generation and conducting consumer focus groups. Wan Yu oversaw the product development process, while Bryan managed the financial aspects and Shi Qi liaised with key stakeholders. For Esther, it was “extremely enriching, because you can see the product go from ideation, all the way to the finished product in such a rapid period of time.”
According to Ee Lin, another long-term goal for Team Sea-No-Meat is to help get wider acknowledgment for all aspiring food technologists, “not just as the people behind the scenes, but also those driving the business. We can do more than make the product, we can also market it and develop it.”
Team Members: Nur Ifaaf Ismail, Ng Wan Yu, Ngee Ee Lin, Esther Ong Su Xin, Tor Shi Qi, Bryan Tan Yi, all from the Food Technology degree programme.
Bronze Award: Team The Beans: Repurposing Spent Coffee Grounds
The Beans’ project was about repurposing spent coffee grounds into food additives, called coffee nibs, that are a good source of fibre, protein, and healthy fats. Coffee nibs are small pieces of crushed roasted coffee beans that have a bitter, chocolatey flavour and can be added to a range of food products, including energy drinks and low GI baked goods, which make up a growing part of the estimated, USD280 billion annual global food and beverage market.
According to team member Zhi Xin, some companies “upcycle coffee grounds into consumer products, but few if any, are currently recapturing and harnessing the coffee grounds’ actual nutrition.”
So what was the hardest part? “In food science, we are normally in the lab, thinking about development. This project challenged us to also consider the client-facing aspects of launching a product, like marketing and pricing. Our mentors really helped teach us about the business side of things,” said Jaedyn.
While they haven’t prototyped it yet, Zhi Xin explained one of the most interesting aspects of their business model: “Cafes are very willing to give away their used coffee grounds for free. If you think about big coffee chains, they are profitable, so the fact they’re throwing away a valuable resource like used coffee grounds, shows there’s an opportunity there if we can commercialise it at scale.”
The process understandably takes time, but given their success in this year’s Mapletree Challenge, they definitely want to pursue it further.
“For now, our plan is to continue doing research during our free time, using the SIT labs to conduct R&D to explore new possibilities,” said Jonathan.
Team Members: Jonathan Yee Rou Sun, Jaedyn Wong, Teo Wei Shan, and Lim Zhi Xin, all from the Food Technology degree programme.
The other 3 finalist teams in this year’s Mapletree Challenge 2023 are:
Team Mobii: Home Security Mobile Application
Team Mobii aims to address the problem of discarded mobile phones – about 5.3 billion were discarded globally in 2022 – by repurposing them into affordable, smart home security systems. The Mobii app will include 24/7 surveillance monitoring, doorbell function, face recognition for door unlocking, and voice communication. It’s a simple concept at its core, and as Jia Yew explains, it’s “an affordable way to secure your home, with technology you already own.”
Team Members: Sim Jia Yew, Harron Tan Jun Peng, Bevan Quek, Shannon Yeo Jun Wei, Ang Jin Yang, and Kelvin Cheng Jia Jun, all from the Computer Engineering degree programme
Team SIT Social Entrepreneurs: IoT-Based Device to Measure Power Usage
Team SIT Social Entrepreneurs’ PwrClip is an IoT device that clips onto an appliance’s AC cable to measure power usage non-intrusively, providing usage analysis via a smartphone app to encourage sustainable energy-saving practices. Although they didn’t win, Caleb said, “We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. It was great practice for our future endeavours.”
Team Members: Caleb Gan Jia Le (Mechatronics Systems), Johannes Gan Dombrowski (Electronics and Data Engineering), Clarissa Ow (Computing Science), and Lee Weichen (Information and Communications Technology majoring in Information Security).
Team ABDY: UAV SMART Battery Storage Facility
Team ABDY proposed a UAV SMART battery storage facility that uses monitoring, data transmission, and periodic charging/discharging to extend the useful life of Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries in a safe and sustainable manner. Darren explains that “there’s nothing like it on the market” and they plan to continue R&D, pending funding for further prototype development.
Team Members: Belinda Soh Hui Hui, Aloysius Chee Boon Loong, Darren Au Xian Yong, and Ng Yang Kai, all from Systems Engineering (Electromechanical Systems) degree programme.
Mapletree Challenge’s Quest for a Sustainable Future
The Mapletree Challenge 2023 also comprised two other components that were open to SIT students: masterclass sessions that covered leadership, personal development and value pitching, and a panel discussion on entrepreneurship and innovation, where several young entrepreneurs shared their stories.
Overall, the Mapletree Challenge is an exciting opportunity for SIT undergraduates to showcase their entrepreneurial skills and develop sustainable solutions to address global challenges. With the world facing unprecedented challenges arising from climate change, students from SIT have the unique opportunity to make a meaningful contribution towards building a more sustainable future.