Apps for Societal Impact


Mobile App



The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Social Apps Lab @ UC Berkeley create 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 and the Social Apps Lab are 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 UC Berkeley Spring 2016 Mobile App Challenge Competition will be May 3, 2016!
Check back for RSVP and more event details in April.

Challenge at Berkeley

Students will self-organize into teams to identify a social problem that can be addressed by creating a new mobile technology. They will apply to participate in the Mobile App Challenge in early January 2016. Over the course of the Spring 2016 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 Demo Day 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 $1,000 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.
  • Teams must commit to weekly updates, presenting at the Elimination Round on February 4th and presenting the results of their work at a final event on May 3rd, 2016

Elimination Round Judging Criteria
App Ideas presented at the Elimination Round must address the following questions:

1) What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
2) Does your mobile app idea address the problem?
3) Is it culturally appropriate?
4) Is it original?
5) Do you have all of the skills on your team to get started?
6) Are your goals possible in one semester?

Workshop Presentations
Presentation from January 28th: Week 2_Ideation_Volvo Challenge


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.


The 2016 Mobile App Challenge is underway!  Stay up-to-date and connect with others on our Facebook Page

An Elimination Round will take place on Thursday, February 4th at 6:00pm in Classroom 250, Sutardja Dai Hall. A three-person judging panel comprised of technical and design experts will review submitted applications and listen to 60-second pitches from each team to determine the participants in the 2016 Mobile App Challenge. Invitations for teams to continue through to the competition will be released by Noon, Tuesday, February 9th.

Requirements to participate include:

1) Submit responses to the selection criteria questions.

2) Sign up up for a 60-second pitch slot by 6:00pm, Tuesday, Feb. 2nd.




2015 Winners

On Tuesday, May 5th, six finalist teams presented during a public Demo Day event to a panel of judges that included socially-minded technology and education leaders. The event culminated in a showcase of the students’ apps and presentation of awards to the following teams:

  • Grand Prize of $2500: Snapily
  • Runner-up Prize of $1500: WeEat
  • People’s Choice for $1000: Snapily

Meet the Winners


(L-R): Becca Stanger, Todor Tzolov, Irina Lozhkina and Matt Valente Grand Prize & People’s Choice: Snapily

Snapily won both the $2500 Grand Prize and the $1000 People’s Choice award for their mobile grocery shopping app that offers convenient grocery pickups for at-risk Oakland residents.

(L-R): Becca Stanger, Todor Tzolov, Irina Lozhkina and Matt Valente

L-R) Zachary Zeleznick & Fadi Kfoury. (Not pictured: Ziheng Lin and Sid Feygin)

 Runner-up Prize: WeEat

Team WeEat won the $1500 runner-up prize for their on-demand social scheduling platform for users to have shared meals and conversations.

L-R) Zachary Zeleznick & Fadi Kfoury. (Not pictured: Ziheng Lin and Sid Feygin)

  Watch all the project videos |   Read more about the 2014 Demo Day


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 is made possible through generous sponsorships by the following organizations:

Interested in sponsoring the Spring 2016 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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