Jonathan Massachi On What It Takes to Win the FuturizeX Student Challenge

By Jonathan Massachi, FuturizeX 2015 Student Challenge Winner
Jonathan Massachi poses for a photo with his mother during the FuturizeX 2015 Student Challenge Awards Ceremony

The FuturizeX 2nd Annual Student Challenge is a competition all about ideas that have the power to change the future of Los Angeles. But how are those ideas formed? Where do innovators get the inspiration to come up with the big ideas that challenge the status quo?

We’ve all heard the story of the apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head leading him to discover gravity or the snake biting its tail in August Kekulé’s dream leading to the discovery of benzene’s structure. But is this really what inspiration looks like? From my personal experience, inspiration of this kind is very rare, if it ever happens at all.

In my case, inspiration came from looking at an existing solution from a different field. By examining the situation from a different perspective, I was able to tackle a problem usually experienced by electrical engineers and address it using a biological viewpoint. There are similar opportunities for advancement in almost everything we use in daily life; you just have to be willing to look for them.

When beginning your process for this year’s FuturizeX Student Challenge. It is important to keep a few things in mind. Ideas with the power to change the world usually come from having a good understanding of the world around us. Before you can really solve a problem, you must intimately know the details of the problem. A lasting and meaningful solution will tackle the root cause of the problem it sets out to solve. And this can only be achieved by studying the problem thoroughly.

The other thing to keep in mind is that ideas are rarely fully new. They often draw inspiration from, or build upon, existing solutions that have their own problems. The iPhone was not the first smartphone, nor was the Tesla the first electric car. They both improved upon existing devices to make something even better by using input from a new perspective.

And lastly, the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to developing an idea is that no idea is wrong or impossible– some just need more work than others. I think the hardest part of anything like the FuturizeX Student Challenge is building up the courage to believe that your idea is good enough. Keep in mind that you are a student at UCLA, one of the top universities anywhere in the world and there is a reason you are here. You have the power to shape the future of Los Angeles, but only if you have the courage to do something about it. Looking forward to seeing this year’s finalists!


Jonathan Massachi, BA ’17 is a Bio-Engineering major at UCLA, and was a grand prize winner of the FuturizeX 2015 Student Challenge, along with Mitchell Zia and Sohom Paul.

See Jonathan’s winning idea here. Bruins, now it’s your turn. Are you the next winner? Submit your entry.