If you ever doubted that universities are the perfect incubator for innovative ideas and forward-thinking solutions to global issues, you need only look to Arizona State University to see what a group of energetic, entrepreneurial students have created.

I’ll admit that when the group of ASU students invited me to talk to them about a little venture they were trying to get up and running, my initial reaction was mostly skepticism. Still, I decided to keep an open mind. So when time opened up on my schedule, I sat down to hear what the four young engineering students had to say.

As I listened to the ideas put forth by Susanna Young, Clay Tyler, Billy Walters, and Gabrielle Palermo, I grew more and more impressed with their concept and what they want to accomplish.

The students’ idea was born in the fall of 2009, when ASU launched a new program called Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). Susanna and Clay, mechanical engineering students, were on one team that sought to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries. Billy and Gabrielle, mechanical and biomedical engineering students, were on another team trying to figure out how they could improve global disaster response time.

Together, they came up with the idea to potentially convert shipping containers—lying idle in ports around the world—into clinics, and created G3 (Generating Global Good) Box, a new for-profit company. Their mission with the used containers is to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries, improve disaster response time, decrease healthcare disparities between urban and rural areas, and provide on-site clinics to mining, oil and gas companies.

The G3Box model can be replicated worldwide through its outsourcing manufacturing method that reduces overhead and uses universal materials and equipment.

In April 2011, these students won funding from the ASU Innovation Challenge to compete for the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative for which they had to develop a sustainable business plan. In a week’s time, the team had developed a plan that would function as a financially stable business capable of supporting what they wanted to do socially.

I am not certain how these students have time for their studying, but the past six months have been pretty busy for G3Box. They have been named Entrepreneur magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2011, won additional seed funding from the ASU Innovation Challenge, traveled to Malawi and Kenya to conduct surveys on the acceptance of container clinics, created an online presence through social media, and have been featured in multiple media outlets (PBS Horizon, NBC AZ EVB Live, Entrepreneur, Arizona Republic and AZ Business Journal).

They came to DPR and SmithGroupJJR to help them complete the first maternity clinic and added Carl Nablo, a manufacturing professional, to assist in long-term planning. We are on track to complete the initial product by end of July.

Currently, G3Box is a finalist in Inc. magazine’s Coolest College Startup, and you can help by ‘Liking’ them on Facebook at this link: http://www.inc.com/coolest-college-start-ups-2012/nicole-carter/g3box-gabrielle-palermo.html. In addition, they are competing in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge (DSIC) . Register and vote!

They will be continuing their market research by visiting rural clinics, connecting with mining, oil and gas companies, working on partnerships with FEMA and the Red Cross, and leveraging the awards they have won to broaden their network.

Check them out at www.g3box.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/g3box.containersor follow them on Twitter, @G3Box. 

Hamilton Espinosa, LEED AP, leads the National Healthcare Group for DPR Construction, a forward-thinking national general contractor and construction manager that specializes in technically complex and sustainable projects for the healthcare, advanced technology, life sciences, higher education and corporate office markets. Instrumental in building more than $3 billion worth of healthcare projects, including Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, Espinosa offers more than 23 years of construction industry experience. For more information about DPR Construction, visit www.dpr.com.

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