In May, the UCI ANTrepreneur Center hosted the Hacking Student Success: Mental Health Innovation Challenge, a three-part event that invited UCI students to form teams and come up with original business ideas centered on the theme of student success and mental health. This event immediately drew attention and excitement from the UCI community as it announced NBA champion and entrepreneur Metta World Peace as the event’s keynote speaker, as well as over $60K in funding awards for participating student teams. 


Day 1: Kickoff and Team Formation

Hacking Student Success kicked off on Wednesday, May 11, at the UCI ANTrepreneur Center where over 175 students gathered to form competition teams, participate in networking activities, and enjoy a live demonstration on finding balance presented by Josh Gold (Founder, Budo Accelerator).

Event attendees also had the opportunity to hear from exciting speakers including Marcelle Hayashida (Associate Vice Chancellor, UCI Wellness, Health & Counseling Services), Theresa Nguyen (Chief Program Officer and Vice President of Research and Innovation, Mental Health America), Berké Brown (Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, OOTify), and a panel of UCI PhD and graduate students specializing in mental health, wellness, and self-care. 


Day 2: Business Development and Pitch Workshop

The second Hacking Student Success event was held a week after the kickoff event on Wednesday, May 18. The main focus of this event was to finalize competition teams, help students refine their business ideas, and offer training to prepare students for the final pitch competition on May 25.

On Day 2 of Hacking Student Success, Berké Brown (Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, OOTify) returned to host an ice-breaker activity about team building, purpose, and values. Shilpa Vadodaria (Global Lead for Digital Innovation, Amazon Web Services [AWS]) then gave a presentation on how to develop a customer-centric business prototype. This event also featured a panel discussion from industry experts as well as a pitch workshop hosted by the ANTrepreneur Center’s professional staff. During the pitch workshop, student teams got the opportunity to work together, practice their business presentations, and receive feedback from the ANTrepreneur Center team and panelists.


Day 3: Pitch Finals and Keynote Presentation from Metta World Peace

Day 3 of Hacking Student Success event took place on Wednesday, May 25 at The Cove @ UCI, UCI Beall Applied Innovation’s premier location for entrepreneurial connections and innovation. This event partnered with the 2022 Beall Butterworth Product Design Competition Awards Ceremony, which was held immediately before the Hacking Student Success pitch competition. This partnership allowed students to participate in both events and facilitated connections between student entrepreneurs from across campus.

The final Hacking Student Success event opened with a networking opportunity that invited students and other event attendees to explore the demo tables displaying this year’s Beall Butterworth Product Design Competition entries. Event attendees were then invited to participate in a mindfulness activity before the student pitch competition began. 

The pitch competition commenced with representatives from each of the 27 student teams taking the stage to present their business ideas to the panel of judges consisting of the following:

  • Shilpa Vadodaria- Global Lead for Digital Innovation, AWS
  • Ravi Sharma- Founder and Investor, OOTify and iBOS Ventures
  • David Ochi- Executive Director, Innovation Incubator at California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • Tom Andriola- Vice Chancellor, UCI Information, Technology and Data
  • Julia Zakashansky- Program Facilitator, NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) COVID-19 Response Program
  • Mena Soliman- Software Engineer, Siemens Digital Industries Software

The judging panel assessed each team based on their ability to clearly communicate the specific problem they were attempting to address, their solution to this problem, and the market for their idea. Judges used the assessment rubric found on the Event Information and Rules webpage.

Finally, Metta World Peace took to the stage to deliver his keynote speech. As he addressed the crowd of 250, he touched on his own journey with mental health, the importance of being vulnerable, and his passion for entrepreneurship as a conduit for meaningful change. He shared how, as a professional athlete, he was often held to a superhuman standard and that the stress of these expectations took a toll on his mental health. However, this experience helped him realize that everyone had their own personal challenges and being open about these difficulties was the first step to overcoming them. He expressed his belief that it is when people come together and are candid about their mental health that we can eliminate the stigma and begin to make a truly positive impact.

Metta World Peace concluded his speech by expressing his excitement for all of the student pitches and remained on stage to announce and congratulate the winning teams. After the event, he met with students and audience members to sign autographs and take pictures. 

Event Winners

Hacking Student Success Winners

  • ZOTPODS!: Stephanie Kirk, Nico Allemann, Sydney Schapansky, Luke Wells, Jennifer Wang, Troy Outwater
  • The Mentalists: Novia Wong, Sundas Shaikh, Samia Aktar, Lanie Le, Maryam Hassani
  • Socrates: Vatsal Ananthula, Michael Pfeiffer, Danny H. Nguyen, Aditya Phatak, Samuel Finkel
  • Bonsai: Ayaan Dhir, Madhu Sharma, Joshua Lipton, Nima Movahedi
  • Click: Brandon Bui, Gregory Saldanha, Ajmal Mundu, Shuyan Liao, Isabella Cao, Young Ku

These five winning teams will receive an additional $5,000 in funding and will continue developing their business ideas over Summer 2022 as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (overseen by the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program). In Fall Quarter 2022, each team will present their fleshed-out ideas to the UCI student body. The team with the best idea for positively impacting student mental health will receive $20,000 to transform their idea into a minimum viable product. Then, in partnership with the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology, the final product will launch across campus for user testing and feedback.

Special Prize Winners

  • Team Boo: Alexander Liu, Chris Tran, Andrew Santoyo, Ruby Fan
    • $2,500 prize for a team focused on Digital Health Equity – from the UC Davis Health + AWS Cloud Innovation Center
  • Vocatus: Christopher Kwan, Saher Noor, Shivam Shah, Jareice Graham
    • $2,500 prize (in web credits) for a team incorporating Amazon Web Services (AWS) – from AWS 
  • MyMoodCompanion: Nitish Nagesh, Mahyar Abbasian, Vishwa Shah, Harsh Thomare, Mengjie Xie, Yansi Ke
    • $2,500 prize for a team using Sigma Computing’s cloud analytics platform plus the opportunity to interview for a paid Summer Internship – from Sigma Computing

After the final pitch competition, Ryan Foland (Interim Director, UCI ANTrepreneur Center) offered his congratulations to the winning teams and all the students who participated in Hacking Student Success:

“I am incredibly proud of all the students who recognized the importance of supporting mental health and explored the process of entrepreneurship by participating in this event. Seeing how far the student teams came in just a few weeks is a testament to the dedication, creativity, and innovation of UCI’s student body. I’m excited to congratulate our winning teams and watch as they continue to grow their ideas. I’d also like to offer my congratulations to the other teams and express my hope that they will continue to work with the ANTrepreneur Center as well.”


Reflecting on the Event

“This was a super exciting and inspirational event. It was amazing to see not just the number of students that got involved but also the diversity of schools and majors that were involved in the teams,” said pitch competition judge Tom Andriola (Vice Chancellor, UCI Information, Technology and Data). “Mental health is clearly a topic ALL students can identify with, and it’s wonderful to see UCI tap into the diversity of the student body to brainstorm solutions that can help members of our community.”

When reflecting on the event, Matt Hanson (Director, New Ventures at UCI Beall Applied Innovation) also emphasized its ability to bring students together for a meaningful cause: 

“Building a sense of community is key to mental health and wellness. This is why it was so encouraging to see students come together as a community to practice curiosity, experimentation, and collaboration among themselves, with the concurrent Beall and Butterworth Student Design Competitions, and with Beall Applied Innovation to make a positive impact on society. “


Thank You to Event Partners and Sponsors

Hacking Student Success was made possible by sponsorship from the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology, UCI Wellness, Health, & Counseling Services, UCI Graduate Division, UCI Division of Undergraduate Education, Blackstone LaunchPad, Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, UCI Beall Applied Innovation, Sigma Computing, OOTify, XvsX Sports, UC Davis + AWS Cloud Innovation Center, AWS, and SmartWell.

To learn more about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and get notified of upcoming events and funding opportunities, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn