TALLAHASSEE, Fla., – The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) today announced that the University of Florida “MitiGators” won the RenaissanceRe $20,000 Challenge with their proposal to develop a “Resilient Residence” smartphone app. Undergraduate and graduate teams from the University of Florida (UF) and Florida International University (FIU) engineering departments competed for the cash award to fund development of the winning proposal. RenaissanceRe sponsored the ‘Shark Tank’-style academic challenge and $20,000 prize in honor of the company’s 20th anniversary during the 2013 FLASH Annual Conference Mitigation 360 on November 21 and 22 in Orlando. The competition challenged young innovators to create real-world solutions focused on Florida, one of the world’s highest risk areas for catastrophic windstorms.
The “Resilient Residence” app will help families understand how their homes will perform in high-wind events by walking users through a series of questions. Once the survey is complete, the app will deliver information about options for mitigation techniques.
According to Craig Dixon, UF graduate engineering student and member of winning “MitiGators” team, “This challenge changed the way we think about approaching a solution for helping Florida become more disaster-resilient. In the middle of our research we had the ‘Aha!’ moment and that energized us to take the concept to the next level. The competition was tough; the FIU team brought a great idea to life. We are proud of the work we have done and are eager to bring this product to market.”
“It was a great experience to research and present a product to the panel, judges and audience,” said the FIU team collectively. “Our end goal was to test and do further research to validate the results of our innovative product. From this point we will pursue funding to build a full-scale version. We are excited about the future opportunities and proud of what we have accomplished.”
“I enjoyed judging the RenaissanceRe $20,000 Challenge,” said Bill Read, former Director of the National Hurricane Center. “As a judge, my challenge was choosing between the two very strong concepts. Competitions like this that align weather information with weather safety are essential for increasing public safety and property protection.”
“By combining Florida’s unique experience with catastrophic storms with the creativity of its scientists, students and entrepreneurs, Florida could become America’s leading hub of innovation and development in the field – the Silicon Valley of natural disaster mitigation,” said Stephen Weinstein, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for RenaissanceRe. “As we celebrate RenaissanceRe’s 20th anniversary in 2013, we are also marking 20 years of helping Florida manage the physical and financial risks of natural hazards. For our next 20 years we remain committed to helping Florida’s businesses, insurers and communities prepare for and recover from the inevitable next storm. RenaissanceRe is proud to sponsor this exciting academic challenge and foster next-generation solutions which might help make storm-exposed communities across the U.S. safer.”
“The RenaissanceRe $20,000 Challenge inspired young innovators to come up with solutions that will make our communities more disaster-resilient,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “Their sophistication and creativity validated what we believed all along – this new generation of professionals are, indeed, game changers. Bringing them into the disaster safety movement is the best way to support our vision of a world where people will only live, work and play in buildings that are safe, strong and sustainable.”
“The Florida Chamber of Commerce has long advocated that homeowners should be provided with creative, market-based solutions to our state’s natural disaster risks,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “I believe these university teams reinforced the need to advance mitigation research and solutions that better protect Florida’s families, businesses and our state’s economy from natural disasters.”
Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is the country’s leading consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. FLASH collaborates with more than 100 innovative and diverse partners that share its vision of making America a more disasterresistant nation including: BASF, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida Division of Emergency Management, The Home Depot, International Code Council, Kohler Generators, National Weather Service, Portland Cement Association, RenaissanceRe, Simpson Strong-Tie, State Farm, USAA and WeatherPredict Consulting Inc. In 2008, FLASH opened the interactive weather experience StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Learn more about FLASH and gain access to its free consumer resources by visiting www.flash.org or calling (877) 221- SAFE (7233). Also, get timely safety tips to ensure that you and your family are protected from natural and manmade disasters by subscribing to the FLASH blog Protect Your Home in a FLASH.