UNISON, an automated machine that aims to help alleviate hunger and poverty, topped the startup ideas presented in the DICT-Youthhack Startup Challenge for high school students held last Jan. 27-28.

UNISON, a startup idea by iAcademy team, is a prototype of a solar-powered vending machine wherein residents in poverty-stricken areas can exchange trash for food. The trash will serve as the currency and the machine will dispense the food equivalent to the said trash.

“Their startup is innovative and environment-friendly and I am glad to know that the idea came from these brilliant high school students,” shared DICT eInnovation Program Manager Emmy Lou V. Delfin.

The Startup Challenge was a two-day hackathon that aimed to help students get a glimpse of the startup world. Workshops were held to help participants on ideation, prototyping, and pitching while a demo day was conducted for teams to present their startup ideas to a panel of judges.

This year’s hackathon was able to gather 200 high school students from 30 different schools. Colegio San Agustin Makati’s Quick Park, an application that helps businessmen, drivers and families locate and book parking spaces, and Xavier School and Immaculate Conception Academy’s Query, a highly accessible and capable online global support team, were hailed second and third place respectively.

“I am proud to say that this is the first local high school startup event made possible through a youth-government partnership. We were able to achieve our objectives to educate high school students about startups, to be more inclusive, and to create rock stars who will pursue their ideas even after the event,” said Bianca Bravo, Youthhack Manila’s Vice President for External Affairs.

Bravo also emphasized the importance of collaboration in bringing in high quality startup ideas into reality. “Compared to our past startup challenges, majority of the ideas presented this year were of high quality and all the teams had their own unique potential.”

The Startup Challenge 2018 is a collaborative program between the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Youthhack Manila. DICT through its digitalPH-seedPH Program aims to strengthen the Philippine Digital Startup Ecosystem and support the continued development of relevant innovations and digital startups throughout the country by encouraging the Filipino youth to develop relevant ideas that could either help solve societal challenges or become successful businesses.

The seedPH encourages Filipinos especially the youth to create startups through the programs summed up in one phrase: I C.A.N., which stands for the Program’s main thrusts for the Startup Community: Inform, Collaborate, Accelerate and Nurture.

About DICT – The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, and administrative entity of the Executive Branch of the government that will plan, develop, and promote the national ICT development agenda.

About Youthhack– Youthhackis an organization which started in Manila back in 2014 with the goal of bringing the Silicon Valley culture to the Philippines. They have since grown into an international community with chapters in Calabarzon, Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Korea, Malaysia, Philadelphia, and events in Italy, Hongkong, and Singapore.