What is “Hardware for Good?”

In the past, the output and scalability of game-changing hardware innovations has been restricted by the high level of capital and resources required to develop physical goods. With the recent rise of developments such as 3D printing, computer aided design (CAD) software, and makerspaces, the cost of prototyping and manufacturing hardware products at low volume has plummeted, allowing at-home innovators to develop solutions faster, cheaper, and more conveniently than ever. As barriers to entry continue to drop, there is significant opportunity to leverage the “Hardware Revolution” for large-scale social benefit.

Hardware for Good encompasses everything from wearable technologies (think Fitbit and Google Glass) and assistive technologies to devices to improve agricultural productivity and smart home systems which improve energy efficiency and safety. As these hardware solutions continue to grow and develop, so too are the opportunities to harness them for social good.

The Challenge

The challenge for this category is to either: a) describe plans to develop an innovative hardware technology, or b) design a technology-led solution that uses an existing hardware/product in a novel way. These solutions should solve a major societal need, have high potential for impact, and/or improve the lives of individuals, ideally at low-cost. Applications may focus on a wide range of areas, including: health, clean energy, assistive mobility, agriculture, education, responses to natural and manmade disasters, household and commercial robotics, and economic opportunities for low-income communities.

Note: Big Ideas DOES NOT require teams to produce a physical object by the Final Round deadline. It does, however, require students to submit a blueprint, sketch, or model of the product in their Full Proposal submission.

Examples of innovative proposals that fit this category include (but are not limited to):

  • A physical medical innovation that promotes effective diagnosis or treatment.
  • Light installations that increase pedestrian interactions and foot traffic into urban spaces for safety purposes.
  • A smart home technology that measures water and/or energy levels to encourage more efficient usage.


Student teams applying to the “Hardware for Good” category must include at least one matriculated graduate or undergraduate student from an eligible campus, listed below. Matriculated students at other universities around the globe are encouraged to apply in collaboration with students from eligible campuses.

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Los Angeles
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • College of William and Mary
  • Duke University
  • Makerere University (Uganda)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Michigan State University
  • Texas A&M University





Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged. For additional information about general contest rules, timing and how to apply, please refer to the Contest Application Requirements.

Past Winners

Hardware for Good is a new category for the 2016-2017 contest year. Past Big Ideas Winners from other categories whose projects would have fit in to this category include the following:

BCAPI (UC Berkeley)

BCAPI (UC Berkeley)

Low Cost Scientific Data Drones for Enhanced Melon Productivity and Security (UC Merced)

Low Cost Scientific Data Drones for Enhanced Melon Productivity and Security (UC Merced)

Responsive City Lights (UC Berkeley)

Responsive City Lights (UC Berkeley)


The Autodesk Foundation invests in the most impactful people and organizations using the power of design to create a better world. It is the first foundation to focus investment exclusively on the people and organizations using design for impact.