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Meet the Winners of the EdTech Challenge

Published October 11, 2019

Meet the Winners of the EdTech Challenge

By 2050, over 66 percent of the global population will reside in cities. But are urban education systems, and urban educators, prepared to address this challenge?

In Indonesia, the government has set a goal of developing a “world class” education system by 2025. And some progress has already been made — Indonesian students are starting school earlier in life, and staying in school longer. But the country has made relatively little progress towards improving the quality of education inside the classroom. A recent asessment by the Lowy Institute found that many Indonesian teachers lack the subject knowledge and pedagogical skills to be effective educators, learning outcomes are poor, and there is a disparity between the skills of graduates and the needs of employers. Meanwhile, education technology is revolutionizing the way we learn both inside and outside of the classroom. Digital learning — including technology platforms that allow teachers to integrate online games and content into their curriculum — can engage students in new ways and enhance the overall education experience.

That’s why the New York Academy of Sciences — with support from Project Everyone, the Islamic Development Bank, 2030 Vision, and UNICEF Innovation, launched the EdTech: Revolutionize Learning for Urban Children challenge in July 2019. Participants were asked to design an edtech solution to support primary or secondary education in Jakarta, Indonesia, and they came up with some inspirational ideas!

Saira Mallick

Saira Mallick

Saad Nadeem

Saad Nadeem, PhD

Grand Prize: Team "Inggris Buddy"

Saira Mallick, a learning experience designer and Saad Nadeem, PhD a Research Scholar at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, designed the winning solution for the EdTech challenge. The husband and wife team proposed the app “Inggris Buddy” to help secondary students learn English.

“The app makes learning English fun and engaging, and provides a safe space to practice English without inhibition,” explains Nadeem. Using content and characters from a prescribed textbook “Bahasa Inggris” the app helps facilitate the learning of spoken English through culturally relevant animated videos, individual practice, and simulated roleplay.

Their inspiration for their winning solution came from their own experiences. “We saw the EdTech Challenge as an opportunity to use our skills, knowledge, and experience to make a significant impact on the state of education in Indonesia, a country that faces many of the same challenges as our home country Pakistan,” says Mallick.


“Whether rich or poor, people have the right to get an education.”

— Bazaf Hassan


Second Place: "Team E-Sekolah"

“Team E-Sekolah’s proposal incorporated Indonesian culture and characters from popular folktales to teach English and math,” explains Meghna Badami, a medical student in India and one of five members of the team. “The software aims to give parents and siblings a more active role in students’ education, while taking a different approach to displaying grades, so as not to discourage average and below-average students.”

While team members represented five different countries, they were united in their belief about the importance of access to education. “Whether rich or poor, people have the right to get an education,” states Bazaf Hassan, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. “Programs like the EdTech Challenge are important because they level the field of opportunity for students, by providing authentic learning experiences,” says Kelvin Ogba Dafiaghor, founder of the Ogba Educational Clinic.”

Third Place: "Team LaunchEd"

The third place finishers were undergraduates Megan Cho, a business major focused on entrepreneurship, and Danyal Naeem a computational science and business major attending the Minerva Schools at KGI. Their proposal LaunchED is a digital classroom assistant and experiential learning curriculum.

After conducting a needs assessment of Jakarta’s education system, they found a gap in teacher and resource quality between schools. “We brainstormed about how to best support teachers and help students reach their full potential,” says Cho. “Ultimately, we concluded that a combination of standardized learning resources, a digital resource center, and an ‘experience-what-you-learn’ model would best fill that gap,” explains Naeem.

“These challenges not only provide opportunities to work on important problems, but they help bring attention to pressing international issues,” says Naaem. “These programs give young researchers a systemic way to approach huge problems in a tractable way, giving them a framework and a set of guidelines to not only think about such issues, but also present their solutions in an impactful manner,” concludes Cho.

Learn more about New York Academy of Sciences Innovation Challenges.