Student teams in the USC Viterbi “Lives, Not Grades” class shared their ideas for products and services to help the country at the recent “Innovate for Ukraine Pitch Night”
As the audience listened with rapt attention, USC student Kamila Fomin described the devastation wrought by Russia’s war against her country.
“Thousands of bombs have been dropped on Ukraine. Eight million have fled the country. Another eight million were displaced within it. Sixty thousand of my people have been injured or murdered,” said Fomin, a Ukrainian national and international relations major.
But instead of buckling under the onslaught, she added, Ukrainians have fought back. Her tone brightening, Fomin enumerated several victories. The Ukrainian Army defended the Azovstal steel plant and took back the city of Kherson. Two civilians smuggled over 10,000 people out of a Russian-occupied city. A Ukrainian man prevented his town’s bridge from blowing up by removing a Russian mine – with his bare hands.
“A resistance was born!” Fomin said.
Ukraine’s bravery, its resistance, serves as the inspiration for Raise A Glass, a burgeoning USC student-led startup that hopes to partner with a small- to mid-sized American winery to create special-edition wines that incorporate augmented reality and storytelling to support Ukrainian wineries devasted by war.
Raise A Glass was one of six USC interdisciplinary teams presenting their product or service ideas at “Innovate for Ukraine Pitch Night.” The event, held Monday, Dec. 12 at Tommy’s Place on the USC campus, represented the halfway point for one of the most unique, immersive courses in academia. The event was attended by prominent members of the Ukrainian community, tech entrepreneurs and founders of social innovation NGOs in Los Angeles.
Innovation in Engineering Design For Global Challenges, now in its fifth year at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, brings together graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines and sends them to conduct research in an area of the world experiencing global crisis to design and engineer solutions. The flagship course has since developed into an academic minor open to all majors.