We all know the recipe for plastic soup. Just add over 9 billion kilos of plastic to the ocean every year. Stir a little. Done! More plastic than fish by 2050. There’s something that needs to be done. So, we did. With the Dopper Changemaker Challenge we started our own thesis award to accelerate the development of solutions that have a big impact on the plastic and water issues we’re currently facing. Because life in plastic? Definitely not fantastic. On June 15th and 16th, our waterful finale took place on a ferry between Amsterdam Central Station and the NDSM.
Haven’t heard of the legendary competition that is the Dopper Changemaker Challenge? Here’s a short introduction: in this epic battle, students from around the world are competing to win prizes, fame and glory with their graduation project or thesis. The goal? To accelerate the development of solutions to global issues regarding clean (drinking) water and plastic pollution. This year’s challenge didn’t just focus on one country, or even two. This year the Dopper Changemaker Challenge took place in FOUR countries around the world: the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Nepal. BAM! Worldwide impact.
Our winners weekend starts on June 15th. While tossing around a Dopper – what else – the 20 Dutch and Belgian finalists got to know each other, each other’s ideas and the jury. All fun and games, but not for long. Time for the real deal: pitching. The students went out for a moment to practice their pitch or took a minute for themselves to focus. Competition? Hardly. Because while these 20 students are all very different, they have one common goal: saving the world.
During a speed dating session, the judges got the chance to speak to our students one on one. Didn’t nail the initial pitch? No need to worry, now is the time for revenge.
What’s a waterful weekend without a little fun? We’re Dopper, we’re all about combining the serious with the not so serious. After a nerve-wracking morning, we split up the group and pushed them into little boats (don’t worry, not literally) for a scavenger hunt through the canals of Amsterdam. In order to extend the very pleasant atmosphere, we decided to announce the 10 finalists the next day. A wise decision, which definitely helped our evening itinerary. After a few beers, or maybe a lot, it was time for bed. We sure hope our students weren’t too nervous to catch some z’s.
Which 10 finalists got the chance to pitch their ideas on June 16th on the ferry between Amsterdam Central Station and the NDSM wharf? Tense faces, sweaty hands and shaky knees, all around. And which 3 students would take home the grand prizes (€ 5,000 for the number 1, € 2,500 for the number 2 and 3)? Our jury members (consisting of: Virginia Yanquilevich – Dopper CEO; Ev Liu – Sustainable Entrepreneur and founder of Straw by Straw; Camille van Gestel – Founder of Waka Waka; Reinier Lambers – WWF Senior Advisor; Marco de Graaff – Marine Biologist and Water Engineer; Bert van Son – Founder of MUD Jeans; and Justin Pariag – Head of sustainable Business at De Bijenkorf) were especially keen on finding out next steps. Pretty cool, this idea. But how are you going to use your prizes to actually realize it?
The long-awaited winners were announced after crossing the pond 5 times. And although the judges were faced with a difficult decision, they unanimously agreed on one thing. All 10 – no, all 20 – students are true changemakers. This is definitely not the last time we’re hearing from these guys.
Obviously, announcing the winners was an emotional process. It’s quite something, a weekend like this. Friendships that are formed, working together towards a common goal, the copious amounts of attention received…
Eventually, the following students won the title (and our prizes):
1st place: Roos Kolkman, who develops education packages for teachers to educate and inspire their students on one of our biggest challenges yet: plastic pollution.
2nd place: Hannah van de Kerkhof, who researches chemical additives and microplastics that leach into the (marine) environment when plastic litter is disposed in nature.
3rd place: Annerieke Bouwman, who researches the potential role of the seabed as a sink for microplastics.
Want to stay up to date on what the students are doing? Keep an eye out on our website for the latest news.