The Woltemade Big Problem Challenge


Problem background: The Ohio River is one of the most polluted in the United States, and Lake Erie is also plagued by water quality issues, including agricultural runoff, harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and mercury. Nearly one third of Ohio residents get their drinking water from these sources, and these bodies of water also support a vast array of wildlife, including many endangered species as well as multi-million dollar recreational and commercial fisheries. Despite significant efforts by government and non-profits, the Ohio River and Lake Erie continue to face grave challenges. 

Your challenge: Use entrepreneurial thinking to create a plan that could improve water quality in the Ohio River and/or Lake Erie. Your plan should rely on a business-focused solution, leveraging principles from economics, marketing, and social enterprise to measurably improve water quality in these bodies of water. Your proposal may interact with existing governmental regulation, but viability shouldn't depend on new intervention or assistance. 

The prize: The Woltemade Center will offer a $3,000 prize to the team who presents the all-around best solution at the Woltemade Big Problem Challenge on February 29, 2024. 

Criteria: Your plan will be judged in terms of:

  • Feasibility: Is it realistic that you could get this idea off the ground

  • Sustainability: Does you plan have a means to sustain itself into the future (its success should not be entirely dependent on donations, grants, or other public funds)

  • Adoption: Do you have a clear plan to encourage and grow public adoption of your solution

  • Impact: What impact do you expect your solution to achieve, and how will you measure it

  • Research: What research has the team done in development of the plan – students are strongly encouraged to tie this challenge into the OWU Connection

Examples: Examples of different market-driven approaches to environmental problems:

Interested but not sure where to start? Register for a special workshop happening at noon on Wednesday, November 1st. 

The workshop will help you better understand the challenge, give you some ideas about where to search for your winning solution, and provide guidance about preparing for the competition. Lunch will be provided for those who register in advance.