• Apps for Societal Impact

    CITRIS Mobile App Challenge

  • Apps for Societal Impact

    CITRIS Mobile App Challenge


The CITRIS at UC Berkeley Mobile App Challenge has evolved into the CITRIS at UC Berkeley Tech for Social Good Program, providing funding support for student technology development and student-led events at UC Berkeley. Please visit the new UC Berkeley CITRIS Tech for Social Good website.
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 encouraged 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 designed, prototyped and pitched their ideas. The challenge culminated in a selection process with prizes, along with a Demo Day to showcase the student’s projects. The UC Merced Mobile App Challenge program continues to provide a opportunity for students to develop innovative mobile applications. As of January 2017, the CITRIS Mobile App Challenge programs at UC Berkeley and UC Davis have evolved into the Tech for Social Good programs. Learn more by clicking on the campus links below.




Challenge at Berkeley

Students self-organized into teams to identify a social problem that could be addressed by creating a new mobile technology. Over the course of a semester, students developed the apps while receiving mentorship & guidance from CITRIS faculty & staff, entrepreneurs, developers, non-profit leaders and prospective clients.

The challenge culminated with a public pitch competition at the end of the semester where teams gave short presentations and were awarded prizes in various categories.

Example of Prior Program 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.

Please visit the new UC Berkeley Tech for Social Good website to learn about CITRIS resources to support app development.

Why Apply for a Tech for Social Good Award?

  1. Receive up to $2,000 of grant funding to build technology hardware or software!
  2. Add a prominent addition of work experience beyond regular internships to your resume.
  3. Gain university and industry visibility as an innovator and entrepreneur.
  4. Have fun while enacting change that addresses society’s most pressing problems.

2016 Winners

On May 3rd, 2016 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


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.

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.

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