Student team develops tech for all the right reasons

A team of Lehigh undergraduate students, one of five in the final round of the $1 million Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety xPrize competition, has been awarded $50,000 for further development of their women’s safety device, Soterra. The device, fits in the palm of the hand or clips on clothing, allowing women in a threatening situation to send an alert to friends and family or to the police—even if they don’t have a cell phone or access to the internet.

“Being at the United Nations to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year was incredible for us,” says Emily Randolph ’19, an Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) student studying industrial and systems engineering and finance. “This was incredibly validating and exciting for us, and we look forward to further developing our solution.”

Entrepreneurs and philanthropists Anu and Naveen Jain launched the competition as a way to challenge teams to leverage technology to keep women and communities safe around the world.

After being selected as semi-finalists from an initial pool of 85 teams from 18 countries, the Lehigh team traveled to Mumbai, India, for further competition. They were then selected as finalists and participated in a final round of testing that included demonstration of Soterra on a train, a bus and in other public settings.

“We entered this competition because we are a group of students passionate about the cause and dedicated to using engineering and technology to solve real-world problems—and that is exactly what we have started to do. This journey was the experience it was because of the team. We’ve traveled the world together, we’ve spent sleepless nights together and we’ve accomplished this all together. I’m so thankful for everything I’ve learned and to have had the chance to represent my team, Soterra, and Lehigh University on a world stage.”

Although the team did not come away with the top prize, Soterra is still poised to make an impact, said Lena McDonnell ’18, a computer science major and the team’s captain.  

“We’re quite excited about the outcome and about the impact this technology will have on our future,” she says.