2019 Straubel Leadership Award Winners

Our annual Leadership Awards recognize the best in achievement and leadership potential, and are one of the concrete ways we seek to assist young leaders and scholars in STEM, Environmental and Societal Sustainability and leadership itself. We are excited to share our 2019 Straubel Engineers of the Future and Straubel Impact Leaders with you.


Greta Thunberg

At age 15, Greta began spending days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on global warming. She held up a sign saying "School strike for climate.” Other students joined, and soon, a school climate strike movement named Fridays for Future was born. Student strikes began to take place every week somewhere in the world. This year, the numbers rose to coordinated multi-city protests involving millions of students. Her address at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23, 2019, directly called world leaders to account for their inaction. Greta has inspired and mobilized people across the globe to take ownership and action for a more environmentally sustainable future.


Miranda Wang

Miranda is tackling the urgent problem of unrecyclable plastic waste. Her passion for solving this issue was sparked in 2011, while she was still in high school. She co-founded the company in 2015. This year BioCellection plans to launch its “first product, a new virgin grade engineering plastic (nylon) for 3D printing made from previously unrecyclable packaging waste.” Meanwhile, her start-up raised over $4.3M and closed a $240K contract to oversee a Plastic Recycling Pilot Program with the City of San Jose and GreenWaste Recovery. BioCellection’s next goal: “Recycle 30,000kg of previously unrecyclable plastic waste sourced from city waste management plants and reduce 600,000kg of CO2 through our demonstration in San José.”

See Miranda’s awards and achievement below.


Bernard Johnson

Diesel engines move more than 70% of the world’s goods. As co-founder of ClearFlame, BJ is focusing on the energy needs of long-haul transportation, construction, and agriculture. He is demonstrating “that the high torque and fuel efficient value of the Diesel engine design can be decoupled from its emissions challenges, allowing these engines to continue fulfilling their vital functions without threatening the environment. ClearFlame has developed a better heavy-duty engine technology that completely eliminates the need for high carbon Diesel fuel, and instead utilizes clean, alternative fuels to provide a combination of improved performance and reduced emissions.” He notes, “ClearFlame’s technology offers a 10% reduction in fuel costs, 30% more torque, near-zero NOx emissions, and a 40% lower CO2 impact by using low-carbon fuels.”

See BJ’s other awards and achievement below.


Fionn Ferreira

At the age of 18, Fionn is already an engineer with an impressive record of solving difficult problems and motivating others to do the same. Most recently, he won the Google Global Science Fair Competition with a “project that showed the efficiency of a new method to remove microplastics from water using a non-harmful mixture of waste vegetable oil and rust powder (magnetite).” Fionn worked through failures and setbacks for 2 years before he discovered an effective extraction method. Then, to test his results, he persevered until he successfully built “an accurate, portable, and versatile spectrometer” on his budget of €20. But the Google prize was only a stepping stone on his path to develop a version to be used in real-world clean-ups. He’s off to a great start.

See Fionn’s other awards and achievement below.


Kehkashan Basu

Kehkashan is a bright global leader. The goal of her Green Hope Foundation, founded when she was only 12, is “to provide young people a platform to create a clean, green, and sustainable planet.” Now 19, the multinational social innovation enterprise she has built, has a proven track record of inspiring and organizing youth to take meaningful action in 14 countries across the Americas, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. Through workshops and tech-enabled communication, she continually transcends cultural and language barriers to add chapters, with the goal of expanding into Africa and Latin America next.

See Kehkashan’s other awards and achievement below.


Alice Cherry

As a co-founder of The Climate Defense Project (CDP), Alice notes that “intersections between the climate crisis and other justice movements help me understand its dimensions and see overlooked alliances that might be leveraged.” CDP has already received several favorable rulings for their client’s cases, arguing for a Climate Necessity Defense. “Dating back to the 1500s, the Necessity Defense argument has deep roots: History is built on situations in which breaking the law was morally justified, and a critical means of changing unjust laws. The abolition movement, the women's suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s all saw activists jailed and prosecuted for challenging laws that were changed as a result.” Similarly, the Climate Necessity Defense argues that the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law is necessary to avert them.

See Alice’s other awards and achievement below.


Neil Deshmukh

When Neil saw farmers in India causing environmental harm through overuse of pesticides, he developed Plantum AI, an app that is being used in rural villages to reliably diagnose plant diseases. “For the last two years that PlantumAI has been in place, more than 1000 crop disease instances have been detected and processed. Without the app, these would have required students to analyze the crops physically,” Neil explains. Whenever he sees people struggling with a problem, Neil is determined to find a technological solution: His BayMax “allows at-home check-ups, alerting doctors if anomalies are detected. The goal is to increase doctor productivity and save lives, especially in less fortunate areas.” And VocalEyes “is a machine learning app to help identify objects, text, scenes, and faces in the daily lives of the visually impaired.” At 17, Neil is already making the world better.

See Neil’s other awards and achievement below.


Jenna Nicholas

Jenna, co-founder and CEO of Impact Experience, uses her “ability to connect with and understand people from all walks of life” to guide investors in working successfully with marginalized communities. Her goal is to build “bridges among impact investors, foundations, entrepreneurs, and local leaders to co-design lasting solutions, addressing systemic issues.” For example, “Williamson, West Virginia’s economy had lost roughly 25% of its workforce in the wake of the decline of the coal industry. Over 4 years, we brought together 90+ impact investors, entrepreneurs, and university representatives to develop a regional economic transition strategy. This resulted in $8 million in funding sparked, 60+ new jobs, and a new culture of investing in local community leaders.” Her firm’s record to date: “Since 2015, we have implemented “Impact Experiences” in 19 communities throughout the Continental US, which impacted more than 10,000 people and resulted in over $40M+ invested into marginalized communities.”

See Jenna’s other awards and achievement below.


Neil Yeoh

Neil has dedicated his life and career to supporting environmental entrepreneurs in growing their ventures. He has already had significant impact and continues to grow his skill set in ways that will make him even more valuable in his mission. Educated in Australia and Oxford, Neil has been involved in climate change work from several perspectives: he has worked for Echoing Green to support climate entrepreneurs; he founded the Climate Braintrust to connect advisors to entrepreneurs, both in New York and San Francisco; he contributes at Forbes to support and promote the work of climate entrepreneurs. Today, he is one of eight students admitted to the Midcareer Masters of Environmental Management at Yale University. He states his goal clearly: ”We need more innovative investment structures to bring next generation solutions from the lab to the market. I’d like to help make this happen.”

See Neil’s other awards and achievement below.


Katrina Klett  

Katrina’s focus is sustainable agriculture, food safety, and economic development. She has chosen a sweet impact channel: honey. Katrina develops Government and industry support for sustainable agriculture and apiaries. She provides farmers with access to technology and connects them to online supply chain data. It is estimated that honey bees are pollinating ⅓ of the world’s food supply. Although recognition of many threats such as pesticides, diseases and drought has led to some stabilization in the US, the decline of bees in developing countries is alarming. The Borgen Project states that “in southeast China, bee populations have been diminished by habitat destruction and heavy doses of pesticides. Apple farmers in the region are now forced to pollinate manually. ” To date, Katrina’s impact has been focused primarily in these remote Asian mountain communities. Her goal is to geographically scale her work.

See Katrina’s other awards and achievement below.


Harrison Hochman

Harrison has been motivated by impact from a young age. At 13 he raised $84K+ to purchase 560 wheelchairs and personally deliver them (with his family) to those in need in South Africa. He choose wheelchairs because he learned that helping one disabled person gain mobility could potentially help up to 10 people supporting that person. As an engineer, he is also motivated using technology to transform lives. This summer, he was one of the 1.5% selected to incubate a start-up idea in Tel Aviv. Harrison decided to work on building financial and economic inclusion software. Wise beyond his years, Harisson is currently focused on getting exposed to and experimenting in a number of domains. The common thread: all his work is socially beneficial. Studying Management Science and Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford, he is preparing himself for a life of impact. We look forward to supporting him on his mission.

See Harrison’s other awards and achievement below.

Other Awards and Achievements:

Miranda Wang

  • 2019 MIT SOLVE Circular Economy Winner

  • 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureate

  • 2019 Schmidt Marine Technology Partners Grantee

  • 2019 Toyota Mothers of Invention Awardee

  • 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30

  • 2018 Elemental Excelerator Portfolio Company

  • 2018 United Nations Young Champion of the Earth

  • 2018 Pritzker Environmental "Genius" Prize Winner

  • 2018 Echoing Green Climate Fellow

  • 2018 Westly Prize Awardee

  • 2017 Schmidt Marine Technology Partners Grantee

  • 2016 Wharton Business Plan Competition

  • 2016 Univ of Pennsylvania: BA Molecular Biology, Engineering Entrepreneurship, Philosophy 

Bernard Johnson

  • 2019 Echoing Green Fellow

  • 2017 Department of Energy ORISE Fellow

  • 2015 Stanford: Doctor of Philosophy, Mechanical Engineering, Energy Systems 

  • 2015 Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Fellow

  • 2012-2015 U.S. National Swim Team Member (top 6 national rank, top 10 world rank)

  • 2011 Stanford: Master of Science, Mechanical Engineering--Energy Systems

  • 2009 Stanford School of Engineering Graduate Fellow 

  • 2009 Stanford: Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering (top 10% of class)

Fionn Ferreira

  • A planet was named after him for his contributions to science

  • 2019 Google Science Fair 2019 Winner

  • 2019 Second place Pfizer chemistry Ireland 

  • 2015, 2017 & 2018 Finalist, BT Young Scientist exhibition 

  • 2017, 2018 Winner, BT Young Scientist exhibition

  • 2018 Winner, Intel BT Young Scientist exhibition

  • 2018 Winner, Intellectual ventures, insightful invention, BT Young Scientist exhibition 

  • 2018 2nd place, Intel International Science and Engineering fair 

  • 2018 Winner, American Chemical Society, Intel Int’l Science and Engineering fair

  • 2018 DCAT special award winner, intel ISEF 2018 

  • 2018 Undergraduate scholarship to the University of Arizona 

  • 2018 Winner intel ISEF 2018 

  • 2017 Schull Green School Award 

  • 2017 Schull Community Garden Award 

  • 2017 Winner, Local enterprise office, National competition

  • 2017 Gaisce, president's bronze award for community action in Ireland

  • Lecturer at Schull planetarium

Kehkashan Basu

  • 2019 John Muir Conservation Award for Habitat Restoration

  • 2019 Community Award for Youth Service, Ontario 

  • 2019 Innovator of the Year, Helsinki: Chosen from top 100 global Education innovations

  • 2018 Green Apple Environment Award, Houses of Parliament, London

  • 2018 Canada's Top 25 Women of Influence

  • 2018 Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award

  • 2018 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work

  • 2018 Rising Star Award - Toronto 

  • 2018 International Diana Award

  • 2017 National Energy Globe Award

  • 2017 Turner Social Change Prize

  • 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize

  • 2012-2016 Deira International School

  • 2015 Non-Resident Indian of the Year

  • 2015 International Diana Award

  • 2014 Solar Pioneer Award, Middle East Solar Industry Association

  • 2014 Global Education Supplies & Solutions: Ambassador for the Environment

  • 2014 Kids are Heroes, USA Award

  • 2014 GOI Japan & UNESCO award: 2nd among 13,635 entries from 151 countries

  • 2013 International Young Eco-Hero Award – Action for Nature USA

  • 2012 Korea Green Foundation Award

Alice Cherry

  • 2019 in Jan Haaken’s documentary Necessity

  • 2018 Echoing Green Fellow

  • 2016 Harvard Law School: Doctor of Law 

  • 2016 Harvard Law School Public Service Venture Fund Seed Grant

  • 2016 Harvard Law School Summer Academic Fellowship

  • 2015 Harvard Law School, Tom Barron Fellowship 

  • 2010 Northwestern University: Bachelor of Art, Anthropology, Environmental Policy 

  • 2010 Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant

  • 2010 Northwestern University Anthropology Departmental Honors 

  • Phi Beta Kappa society

Neil Deshmukh

  • 2019   Winner, International BioGENEius Challenge

  • 2019    Gap Summit Leader of Tomorrow at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

  • 2019    Emergent Ventures Grant Winner

  • 2019    GM STEM for Changemaking Challenge Award

  • 2019    Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

  • 2019    Top 10, DECA International Career Development Conference

  • 2019    4th Award (System Software) at Intel Int’l Science & Engineering Fair, Special awards from US Agency for Int’l Development (USAID) & Association for the Advancement of AI

  • 2018    World Science Scholar

  • 2018    Published Papers at Two Conferences about AI

  • 2018    Semi-finalist Conrad Challenge

  • 2017    Second Grand Award (System Software) at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

  • 2017 & 2019 Gold Medal, Delaware Valley Science Fair

  • 2017 & 2018 Editor’s choice Awards, World Maker Fair

  • 2016-2019  CS & Intel Excellence Award, Delaware Valley Science Fair

Jenna Nicholas

  • 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 for Social Entrepreneurship 2018

  • 2018 Echoing Green Fellow 2018

  • 2017 Stanford University: Master of Business Administration 

  • 2017 Stanford Social Innovation Fellowship

  • 2017 Impact Design Immersion Fellow, Stanford Business School’s Center for Social Innovation & the Draper Richards Foundation 

  • 2016 PD Soros Fellow for New Americans 2016

  • 2014 World Economic Forum Global Shaper

  • 2013 Fortress Investment Group Tactical Stock-Trading Award 

  • 2013 Yale: 25 under 25 in US–China Relations 

Neil Yeoh

  • 2019 UNLEASH+ Facilitator, Copenhagen and Shenzhen

  • 2019 Climate Reality Leadership Corp Mentor 

  • 2018 Annual Meeting Of New Champions 

  • 2018 Yenching Social Innovation Delegate 

  • 2017 Forbes Columnist, Climate change & Social entrepreneurs

  • 2017 Global Shapers Community Vice Curator 

  • 2017 Princeton Social Innovation Competition 

  • 2017 Harvard Business School New Ventures Competition

  • 2016 Oxford University, Master of Business Administration

  • 2016 Oxford University Dean's List 

  • 2016 Skoll World Forum Student Fellow

  • 2010 University of Adelaide: MS Engineering; BS (Honors) Int’l Business Mgmt 

Katrina Klett

  • 2019 SXSW Speaker 

  • 2018 GSBI Accelerator, Santa Clara University 

  • 2018 SXSW Food+City Supply Chain Pitch Competition Finalist 

  • 2017 Echoing Green Fellow

  • 2017 The Coaching Fellowship, Cohort 1

  • 2016 Mentor Capital Network Fall Cohort

  • 2016 Chinese Government Scholarship

  • 2015 Startingbloc Fellowship Full Scholarship 

  • 2014 Fulbright Scholarship 

  • 2013 Truman Scholar

  • 2013 Udall Scholan

  • 2012 & 2013 Selmar Birkelo scholarship Recipient

  • 2010 & 2012 Guest speaker, Century Foundation Conference, Thimpu, Bhutan

  • 2009 American Beekeeping Journal, Jan. 2009, Vol 149, Issue 1, pages 73-76.

  • 2008 & 2014 Subject of 2 documentaries made by Tianjin TV, China Right Now, 

  • 2008 Guest Expert on two Chinese television programs produced by CCTV 

  • 2008 National Geographic Student Correspondent 

  • 2008 American Beekeeping Journal, Sept. 2008, Vol 148, Issue 9, pages 823-826.

  • 2008 UROP undergraduate research award, University of Minnesota

  • 2008 Freeman Asia Scholarship recipient 

  • 2008 Red Pocket Scholarship recipient 

Harrison Hochman

  • Stanford: expected BS, Management Science & Engineering, minor CS

  • Birthright Excel Ventures Fellow 

  • Dean’s List & Member of the Cum Laude Society 

  • AP Scholar with Honors and Distinction

  • Recipient of Departmental Honors

  • Recipient of Gold Presidential Service Award