Solving the World's Problems Could Win You Millions

How are your problem-solving abilities? Do you regularly come up with ingenious ways to make life better? Are you and your close friends the kind of people who, when they put their minds together, can accomplish anything?

If you're nodding yes to all these questions, you could well bag a huge prize (some are $1 million or more) for solving one of these super hard problems.

1. The Water Abundance Challenge ($1.5 Million Grand Prize)

Can you create water from thin air? That's the problem put before you on this challenge, which has a massive jackpot prize of $1.5 million. The reasons behind the competition are scary. Half of the global population lives in areas where water tables are rapidly falling, and by 2025, it is estimated that 1.8 billion people will live in areas affected by water scarcity.

However, there is a solution. Well, a possible one. There are over three quadrillion gallons of untapped water in the Earth's atmosphere. That's enough water to meet the needs of every person on the planet for a whole year, if someone can figure out a way to extract the water from the air in an energy efficient way. And that's the real challenge. The solution must extract a minimum of 2,000 liters of water from the atmosphere per day, using 100% renewable energy, at a cost of no more that two cents per liter.

Clean water, from the atmosphere, using renewable energy, with minimal costs. That's quite the challenge, and the reason the prize pot is so big. Registration closes on March 15, 2017, so if you have the chops to take this problem on, get your entry in as soon as possible.

2. NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge ($1.1 Million and $1.4 Million Prizes)

This problem centers around making a 3D printed habitat for a NASA astronaut. If you've seen the movie The Martian, you'll know how important a dependable, lightweight living environment is to a NASA crew member. The advent of 3D printing has led to a whole new direction for innovation in this area. And now you could be a part of it.

The big hurdle you will have to get over is raw materials. Rather than bringing them on the mission (which adds weight and cost to the project), the idea here is to "print" a habitat using the local indigenous materials, or recycled materials. As you can imagine, if the habitat is to be based on the moon, or Mars, that does not leave you with a lot of options.

Phase 1 of this contest is already over, but you can still register for Phases 2 and 3 of the challenge. Each brings a substantial prize to the winning design.

Phase 2, known as the Structural Member Competition, focuses on material technologies needed to create and build the habitat. Phase 3 is the actual printing and building of the scaled habitat design. Both offer over $1 million to the winner, so if this kind of engineering problem is your thing, you should get started ASAP.

3. Wearable Alcohol Biosensor ($200,000 First Prize)

Alcoholism, and alcohol-related problems, are a major cause for concern in the United States. A report published in 2014 showed that the top 10% of alcohol drinkers consume an average of 74 drinks every week (that's more than 10 drinks per day). That's over two bottles of wine every day, or three 24-can cases of beer per week.

Knowing the severity of the problem, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wants to help Americans get off their booze addiction. So, they have issued a challenge, with a top prize of $200,000.

You are being tasked to create the prototype of a sleek, unobtrusive, noninvasive, wearable, real-time blood alcohol monitor. Imagine a smartwatch that gives you an instant read of your blood alcohol content, or perhaps some kind of digital patch or piece of jewelry. This would become a self-monitoring device that people can use to chart their alcohol use, and something the local doctor can use as a reliable indicator of alcohol use (and abuse).

If you have something in mind, get over to this site before May 15, 2017 and submit your prototype. You could win a lot of money, and save a lot of lives.

4. Women's Safety Challenge ($1 Million Grand Prize)

The statistics behind this challenge are terrifying. Globally, one in three women have faced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Geographically, it can be much worse in some areas. In New Delhi, a 2012 study revealed that 92% of women experience some form of sexual violence in public spaces. And despite the growth of technology, including smartphones and wearables, the statistics are not changing. Although most of us carry a communication device, it's not helping the problem.

The challenge here is to use modern technology that will help keep women and communities safe. How can devices like smartphones, coupled with a community of people ready to help, create a network that protects women from the dangers of society? The winning solution will autonomously and inconspicuously trigger an emergency alert, transmitting information to a network of responders, all within 90 seconds and at an annual cost of U.S. $40 or less.

This is something that can have a real impact on your own community, and the world. You can read more about the challenge, and the prize.

5. The Medical Treatment Free Time Challenge ($20,000 Top Prize)

Hopefully, you never have to be the beneficiary of the solution to this challenge. It is based around the amount of time that some people have to spend basically sitting idle while they receive medical treatments. A typical example of this would be kidney dialysis, which requires patients to sit still for around four hours, three times per week. But as the challenge states, this is for anyone receiving medical treatment that has free time to spare while undergoing the procedure.

Instead of reading a book, listening to music, or watching TV, what could the patient do that is more beneficial to his or her recovery? Could this time be better spent doing something that actively helps in the treatment itself, or something that works to better the attitude and outlook of the patient?

If these questions are already getting your mind to work overtime, take a look at the details. You will have to register for free, but it could be well worth it for you, and the people your solution helps.

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