Apps for Societal Impact


Mobile App



The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at UC Berkeley creates information technology solutions for many of our most pressing social, environmental, and health care problems. To promote innovation, community service, and career development among University of California students, CITRIS is hosting a semester-long competition for the best mobile apps that address identified needs in Connected Communities & Civic Tech, Health & Wellness, People & Robots, and Sustainability & the Environment.


This challenge encourages teams of students from UC Berkeley, UC Davis & UC Merced to develop innovative mobile applications for today’s most pressing societal needs. Through a rigorous 3-month process, students will design, prototype and pitch their ideas. The challenge will culminate in a selection process with prizes, along with a Demo Day to showcase the student’s projects. Learn more about the challenge at each campus by clicking the links below:

UC Berkeley


UC Davis


UC Merced


The CITRIS Mobile App Challenge has evolved into the CITRIS Tech for Social Program, encompassing student tech develop and student led events at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

Please visit the new UC Berkeley Tech for Social Good website.
The UC Davis Tech for Social Good Website will be launching in January, 2017.

More information about the UC Merced Mobile App Challenge can be found on their website.

Challenge at Berkeley

Students will self-organize into teams to identify a social problem that can be addressed by creating a new mobile technology. Students can meet teammates, develop ideas and apply to participate in the Mobile App Challenge at one of several ideation sessions during the fall 2016 semester. Over the course of the Spring 2017 semester, students will develop the apps while receiving mentorship & guidance from CITRIS faculty & staff, entrepreneurs, developers, non-profit leaders and prospective clients.

The challenge will culminate with a public pitch competition at the end of the semester where teams will give short presentations and prizes will be awarded in various categories. Teams may win up to $2,500 in scholarship funds and preferred consideration for application to Berkeley startup incubator programs.

Participation Criteria

  • Teams must comprise at least three members
  • All team members must be currently enrolled at UC Berkeley (either graduate or undergrad)
  • Mobile app must address a need in at least one category:
    • Connected Communities: This category focuses on the affordances of information technology to enhance communities – of learning, of practice, and of governance. Themes include development of experimental online platforms and novel hardware and software systems that connect peers to each other and to institutions in meaningful and productive ways.
    • Health: Improving health outcomes and access to cost-effective care through the development and integration of innovative technology in telehealth, sensors, mobile devices, and analytics with a special emphasis on hospital to home and precision medicine solutions.
    • People and Robots: Human-centric automation, bio-inspired robotics, deep learning, cloud robotics, and Internet of Things are among the primary research themes in this category.  
    •  Sustainable Infrastructures: The Sustainable Infrastructures Initiative pursues information technology research in energy, water, and transportation as parts of the cyber-infrastructure of a sustainable society.
  • Projects must NOT be a sponsored research or faculty project.


Team will be assigned mentor with specific domain expertise in the project’s field. Mentors will work with the teams to ensure that the projects progress and develop within the timeline.


Weekly workshops will serve as check-ins for the teams. Industry or academic experts will come present  seminars for the students. During these workshops, mentors will work with teams and track the development of their progress.


Teams will have the opportunity to network with UCB faculty & staff, entrepreneurs, developers, non-profit leaders and most importantly, themselves. We hope to build a community of future leaders who share the same passion for societal impact.

  Collaborative Space

A collaborative work environment will be provided in Sutardja Dai Hall. Development co-location will allow teams to share and develop their ideas while assisting each other through technical hurdles.


The CITRIS Mobile App Challenge aims to be an experiential learning process for students. Students will learn and develop skills in app design & development, project management, teamwork, marketing and communication.

2016 Winners

On Tuesday, May 3rd, seven finalist teams presented during a public Demo Day event to a panel of judges that included technology and education leaders. The event culminated in a showcase of the students’ apps and presentation of awards to the following teams:

  • 1st place award of $2500: SideKick
  • 2nd place award of $1000: Community Chest
  • 3rd place award of $500: Samaritan 
  • People’s Choice for $250: Samaritan
  • IBM Bluemix Challenge Award ($1000) in prizes): Eventure

Meet the Winners

UCB MAC_2016_SideKick 1st Place Award: SideKick (Health category)

SideKick won the $2500 First Prize for their photo food diary app that promotes an intuitive eating approach.

SideKick team: Susan Lee, Hansen Lui, Inez Raharjo, Sandra Sun, Jason Yee

UCB MAC_2016_Community Chest 2nd Place Award: Community Chest (Connected Communities category)

Team Community Chest won the $1000 second place prize with a platform that provides people in urban areas with reliable information about local recreational spaces.

Community Chest team:  AnnaMarie Garlin, Lynn Dezhen Kong, Sydney McMuldroch, Roshni Patel

UCB MAC_2016_Samaritan 3rd Place Award & People’s Choice Award: Samaritan (Connected Communities category)

Team Samaritan won the $500 third place prize with a location-based app that allows users to ask for complete small favors using karma currency.

Samaritan team: Angela Kuo, AJ Yu, Antonios Yu, Aaron Zhang




UCB MAC_2016_Team Eventure IBM Bluemix Challenge Award: Eventure (Connected Communities category)

Team Eventure won the $1000 in prizes with their real-time community engagement app that enables users to easily find out what’s going on in their community through crowd-sourced information.

Eventure team: Gary Ge, George Lee, Taiki Maeda, Michael Qu




Congratulations to the all of the winners and participants! We’d also like to thank each of our judges for their time and feedback for the students: Vedad Cajic (Volvo), Hayley Kirk (Vodafone Americas), Todd Siegel (, Camille Crittenden (CITRIS), and James Barry (IBM).

Photo credit: Adriel Olmos


In April 2011, Brian O’Bruba (Director of Career Services UC Merced), Marnee Chua (Former Director of Development – UC Merced) and Rani Yadav-Ranjan (CEO Gray Cloud Technology) met over coffee to discuss internship and job opportunities for UC Merced students with startups in the high-tech industry. By the time their cups were empty, the intensity of the conversation grew and the scope drilled down to three questions.

  • How do we prepare tomorrow’s workforce to be more entrepreneurial and creative?
  • What are the technical skill gaps that need to be filled?
  • How do we inspire students to become entrepreneurs who are able to tackle real-world problems?

The group realized they had the chance to create an innovative entrepreneurial competition and the UC Merced Mobile App Challenge was born. Now in it’s third year, UC Merced students will again have the opportunity to work together in teams to develop apps that could launch a new business idea or an emerging technology and help people now and in the future.

In the Fall of 2013, Rani began working with Camille Crittenden (Deputy Director of CITRIS) to expand the Mobile App Challenge to other UC Campuses, beginning with UC Berkeley. The success of the UCM Mobile App Challenge was overwhelmingly positive and a collaboration with CITRIS seemed like an ideal platform to expand the challenge to the other UC campuses. Thus, the CITRIS Mobile App Challenge was formed.

Learn More


UC Merced Mobile App Challenge Founders: (L to R) Brian O’Bruba, Director – Career Services UC Merced, Marnee Chua,  Former Director of Development – UC Merced and Rani Yadav-Ranjan, CEO Gray Cloud Technology.


 The 2016 CITRIS Mobile App Challenge was made possible through the generous support of the following organizations:

Interested in sponsoring the Spring 2017 Mobile App Challenge? Check out our Sponsor Doc!





Find Us

  • Address: 330 Sutardja Dai Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720
  • Phone: 510.663.4864
  • E-mail:

Contact Us

We welcome inquiries from prospective coaches, mentors and sponsors. Please contact Camille Crittenden for more information.

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