Improving the World One Semester at a Time: UC Berkeley’s Challenge Lab

Ever wonder what’s happening on that great campus at the hub of our city? Well, more than you can imagine. Beyond the typical college courses that are universal to most campuses, UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering is astir in globally relevant endeavors. In a 4-unit course called “Challenge Lab”, for example, students attend four hours a week of lectures from industry experts in addition to putting in eight hours per week developing team projects related to a single, life-changing result.

In essence, subject areas for the popular course are focused on improving the world. Past study areas have included issues around fertility and world population, reducing food waste and creating “Smart Cities” across the globe with a broad focus including energy and pollution, food and water, housing and transportation, safety, education and entertainment.

Currently, students enrolled in Challenge Lab were given the assignment of creating a meat substitute to promote a more sustainable world. The task at hand includes such criteria as understanding the differences in the structure of meat proteins vs. plant proteins and how to manipulate them, creating a viable business model and producing a product that tastes good enough for the masses to embrace.

The Sutardja Center is where it all happens, located at 2227 Piedmont at the center of campus. The website tells us “The Pantas and Ting Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology is the premiere institution on the UC Berkeley campus for the study and practice of “technology-centric” entrepreneurship and innovation.

Since 2005, SCET has created the foundation of Berkeley’s entrepreneurship ecosystem including SkyDeck, the Fung Institute, the Engineering Leadership Professional Program, Global Venture Lab, and an extensive ecosystem of Silicon Valley and Global partners. SCET is also known for developing the Berkeley Method, an internationally recognized approach to teaching technology entrepreneurship for undergraduates, innovation for Ph.D. students, and technology firm leadership for professionals and executives.”

At the end of each term of Challenge Lab, the team who has come up with the most innovative and effective solution is chosen to further promote the idea in competitions and real world scenarios. It’s nice to know that forward-thinking students in this town are engaging in such a positive think-tank environment and generating meaningful social change. Bravo to them, keep up the good work. The future may shine bright after all, with such programs as UC Berkeley’s Challenge Lab.


* All Photos: The Sutardja Center *

Mary Corbin

Mary Corbin

Mary Corbin is a writer and artist who has lived in Berkeley for 32 years. She is always amazed with finding something new around the next corner while out on a walk, biking in the hills, or chatting with locals about food or fun events around town. Visit her cycling blog at and drop her a line. And view her work as an artist at
Mary Corbin