13 October 2020

Imaginative Student Ideas to Solve Global Problems

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a guide for bringing peace and prosperity to humanity and our planet. The core of the agenda focused on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each putting a spotlight on an area in need of immediate attention or improvement. Building on this, Northeastern University, a UNAI member institution in the United States, has teamed up with GlobalShala, an online collaborative platform for learners and educators across the world to design a global competition to inspire student’s inventiveness and intensify their planet-protecting passions.

Sundar Kumarasamy, Vice President of Enrolment Management at Northeastern University, said the purpose of the contest is to help students “connect closely with current generational needs and embrace global collaboration.” Dubbed Superhero U, the competition encourages students of all nations to examine the problems facing society, today and in the future, in order to create their own unique ‘superhero’ identity.

Students are urged to get creative and dream big as they design their ‘superhero’, an embodiment of the innovative and imaginative ideas needed for defeating the complex real-world challenges facing our planet. While the broader goal of the competition is to get students thinking about these societal issues, this initiative also allows them to gain a deeper knowledge of their chosen topic, discover what they are truly passionate about, engage their entrepreneurial spirit and stretch their creative problem-solving abilities.

“We think this is a special opportunity for us and the students. We want to see where they can take their ideas and what they can create. Will they build upon popular comic-book superhero backgrounds and approaches to create something powerful? Or will they deliver something that is a truly unique and different solution to having superpowers? We cannot wait to find out,” Mr. Kumarasamy said. The competition is open to undergraduate students and high schoolers.

Superhero U challengers can enter as individuals or as part of a larger team. Once entries are received, they will be divided into high school and college categories, with the competition being conducted in three rounds: preliminaries, semi-finals and finals. Currently, there are more than 1,400 entries from 71 countries. All entries must be received by the 31 October 2020 to be eligible. Organizers consider that with the overall informational power of the internet, students have a much broader range of knowledge to draw from.

At Northeastern University, students are already thinking and learning how to solve complex problems using a wide range of tools and methodologies. “For us at the university the challenge is intriguing, and the opportunities derived from it are quite certainly more than exciting. And, to make things even more interesting, we are going beyond the norm to ensure a wider range of participants get to enter and to foster experiential learning among students, regardless of their level,” said Mr. Kumarasamy.

Click here for more information on how education can be used to boost the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda as a whole. Here you can find further information about SDG 4 on Quality Education, which includes education for sustainable development among its targets.