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CQUni Brisbane students win national social enterprise competition

Published:25 November 2020

CQUni Brisbane Master of Management for Engineers students Deeksha Rahanoo and Muhammad Ahsan Ahmed.

They want to change lives through high-tech motorbike safety, and two CQUniversity Brisbane students are a step closer after winning The Big Idea social enterprise competition.

The team of Deeksha Rahanoo and Muhammad Ahsan Ahmed was joint winner of the national university challenge postgraduate category, announced late Tuesday 24 November.

Their successful project features new safety interventions via an Internet of Things smart chip for helmets and motorbikes, as well as a social business to maximise its impact. The other winner was a team from Melbourne University, with an urban farming project.

The determined CQUni changemakers impressed judges in the final round with their plan to build this social enterprise and to tackle India’s high motorbike and scooter road toll – where six people die every hour in two-wheeler road accidents.

“Its not only the big social idea but the way of tackling challenging questions that helped us win," Deeksha said.

“The social enterprise will decrease accidents, improve emergency services response times, empower women to work on tech development, and use 100 per cent of profits to provide STEM education to underprivileged women in India.”

While the details of the smart chip design remain commercial in confidence, Deeksha and Ahsan said they enjoyed the challenge of designing a social enterprise.

“I first proposed this idea in a class back in June, and our lecturer was so encouraging, it has really become a passion,” Deeksha said.

Deeksha said her experience back home in India, seeing women study in STEM fields but often not progressing to technical jobs, also inspired the project.

“My father is an engineer, and he always encouraged me into this field, so I want to be able to encourage other women and show them there is a pathway for them,” she said.

Ahsan, who is from Pakistan, said the good news followed a challenging year for many international students.

“When so many people are in tough situations, it’s rewarding to be working on a project that could improve lives,” he said.

Deeksha and Ahsan thanked CQUniversity’s Office of Social Innovation for supporting the entry, as CQUni marked its seventh year fielding student teams in the prestigious competition.

“We are really proud to be representing CQUni, as well as our own countries of India and Pakistan, with this win.”

CQUni Social Innovation Program Manager Ashley Clarke said six teams of CQUni students had entered the competition, with two making it through to semi-finals.

“Deeksha and Ahsan came to the competition with a great idea, but they also had really creative approaches to how they could achieve social good, and really maximise the impact of their innovation,” she said.

“They are great ambassadors for changemaking at CQUni, and hopefully this exciting win means they can transform their idea to reality.”

The Big Idea is coordinated by Australian social enterprise The Big Issue, and CQUni teams have previously won the national competition in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Director of Social Innovation Lara Carton said winners had come from diverse disciplines across CQUniversity.

“Whether they’re studying Nursing, or Engineering, or Business, or even pursuing research, our students have felt passionate about using their skills to make a difference,” Ms Carton said.

“Entering The Big Idea is extracurricular for students, which shows the genuine commitment of these students – and the passion of our staff who support them to develop their ideas, and grow their changemaker skills.”

Winners in The Big Idea receive an iPad and certificate, as well as an option to fast-track into the PwC graduate program.

CQUniversity is Australia’s only Changemaker Campus, accredited by exclusive global network for social innovation, enterprise and impact Ashoka U.