Villanova Students Explore Solutions to Issues of Poverty Using Blockchain Technology

University announces winners of ‘Idea Hackathon,’ with projects ranging from solutions to feed the poor, to others focused on building credit and streamlining government programs

large group photo of all hackathon students

VILLANOVA, Pa.—Villanova University hosted an ‘idea hackathon’ Nov. 15-17, bringing together interdisciplinary teams of students from across the University’s schools and colleges to examine poverty as a global epidemic and develop design solutions for tackling the issue using blockchain technology. Student projects explored a range of ideas, from solutions to feed the poor to building credit and streamlining government programs.

“Our students truly accomplished what we wanted: A set of highly varied and well investigated ideas applying blockchain to alleviate poverty,” says Hasshi Sudler, adjunct professor at Villanova’s College of Engineering who has expertise in blockchain technology and cyber security. “Teams approached the problem from every conceivable angle - from personal healthcare to personal credit ratings, and from local solutions in Philadelphia to global solutions tracking donations to the developing nations.”

At the end of the three-day idea hackathon—which included students from engineering, business, liberal arts and sciences, nursing and law—organizers announced the winners of the event:

First place ($4,000) was awarded to a team that used Trustcoin to build individuals' credit scores in order to gain credit—which can reduce poverty over time, augmenting existing credit score systems such as Fico. Trustcoin could be used as a form of down-payment on a loan, to increase Trustcoin scores by passing financial literacy tests and for paying debts on time via micro lending. It would offer real-time information for lenders to monitor and better manage their credit risk. Team Members: Daniel Kelchner, Roshitha Vallurupalli, Shay Dineen, Subash Nepal

Second place ($2,000) was awarded to a team that used blockchain with a mobile app to track project status and milestones of a government aid program, and to monitor cash flows to eliminate corruption and inefficiency with a goal to create transparent, quantifiable and sustainable policies to lift the economy and reduce poverty. Team Members: Scott Hutt, Mary Kate O’Connell, Mohamed Abaas, Ian MacPherson

Third place ($1,000) was awarded to a team that used blockchain to help a consumer going to one government aid agency to have their request shared with other local and national government agencies that focus on housing, food, education, disability, and unemployment, connecting social services ‘umbrellas.’ This would save both the recipient and agencies time and money and cuts the ‘red tape’ to gain social services both locally and nationally. Team Members: Stephany Annor, Sarah Baranik and Sean Brandon

Honorable mention went to a team that created a coin to place a value on a meal prepared by a college dining service. Unused meals can be donated by students to a nonprofit that can then distribute the unused food to those in poverty using a blockchain transaction record system. Team Members: Stephanie Frank, Rahul Thapa, Steven Guachichullca

The other teams focused on the following topics:

  • Helping ex-convicts get back into the workforce by using blockchain’s public access and verification of education, vocational skills, prison employment history; allows tax credit for employers. William Collins, Sophia (Xin) Tong, Nathaniel Crary
  • Increasing employment agency effectiveness and skills training—where a person’s educational key performance indicator is tracked by smart contracts to earn badges that can be seen by prospective employers. Badges help to get them better jobs and employers get better trained workers. Diego Alarcon, Shenda Huang, Ann Riddle
  • Using the Elevatr grant program for the working poor to use blockchain to ‘buy out’ work time in order to increase education or skills with the extra time, and get paid to increase their education from donations to nonprofit that runs the blockchain. David Pejovic, Veronica Gedal, Alexis Price
  • EnRich program allows younger students to earn tokens as rewards for academic accomplishments, to be spent within one year in a specific geographic area to spur increased human capital and economic activity in impoverished areas. Can also be used to earn academic credit. Shelby Gallen, Sydney Karpowich, Shiyu (Jenny) Su
  • Nutri-coin to incentivize healthy eating and protect hackers from stealing health data. Poor health and poverty are highly correlated. Coin works with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to verify healthy food purchases and provides valuable open access info to SNAP program managers to reduce fraud using SNAP card/money. Buying healthy food gets them discounts and other incentives; administrators can see hot spots of unhealthy eating by geographic area. Gabriel Ahern, Toyin Omodara, Xingjian Wang

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.