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Solving the unsolvable problem

October 18, 2016

ASU Global Security Initiative director Nadya Bliss on applying innovation to the world's toughest security challenges

“Bound to fail.” “Impossible.” “Can’t be done.”

Nadya Bliss has been hearing these phrases since she was a 5-year-old trying out for ballet in the former Soviet Union. These same phrases are used to describe many of the current seemingly unsolvable “wicked” problems, ranging from information security to the spread of infectious disease.

As the director of Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative and professor of practice at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Bliss is not deterred by personal discouragement, or the claim that complex problems are impossible to solve. Instead, she embraces complexity and integrates expertise from a broad range of fields and disciplines.

Here, she speaks on solving the unsolvable problem, and how that's not as much of a contradiction as it might appear.


Bliss’ talk is part of the ASU KEDtalks series. Short for Knowledge Enterprise Development talks, KEDtalks aim to spark ideas, indulge curiosity, and inspire action by highlighting ASU scientists, humanists, social scientists and artists who are driven to find solutions to the universe’s grandest challenges. Tune in monthly to to discover why space is the next economic frontier, how the next educational revolution will come about, and more.


Iti Agnihotri

Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications , Learning Enterprise


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Creativity, innovation shine at ASU appathon event

ASU students' fitness app takes top prize at appathon.
October 18, 2016

Three ASU students who didn’t know each other before this past weekend are now bonded for life, thanks to their innovation and participation in the Great Mobile Appathon.

screenshot of ASUFit app

Their winning app, called ASUFit, taps into a unique market — on-campus fitness — and efficiently pairs students with gym buddies.

Arizona State University was one of five schools to host the Modo Labs event, Oct. 15–16, which encouraged students from a non-technical background to learn how to develop apps in a competition for scholarship money. Other host schools included Harvard University and Notre Dame. 

Sixteen students formed teams and participated in the event, held at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus and sponsored by ASU’s University Technology Office. Each team chose a theme or idea that was geared toward campus life and efficiency.

Lindsey Moen had no prior app development experience before participating in the event.

“It seemed like an interesting opportunity and neat way to apply for a scholarship, so I signed up,” Moen said.

She then decided to use her interest in basketball and an issue she often faces — finding people to play with — to create the idea behind ASUFit.

“I enjoy playing basketball,” she said, “But not a lot of girls are found playing at the gym. Even though there is a gym buddy sign-up system, it wasn’t as efficient as I thought it could be. Plus, why use pen and paper when you can have an app!”

screenshot of ASUFit app

With the ASUFit app, users can select preferences to help match them with a gym buddy.

ASUFit was designed to allow students to set their gym preferences — from activities they enjoy, to what they would like to work on and whom they would like to work out with. It then pairs students from a database, and students are able to set times to meet up at the gym.

Moen’s teammates agreed that it would be a useful app on ASU’s campus. 

“I’ve seen that ASU has a big fitness culture, but it can be a hard for a newcomer to jump into going to the gym; this app can help with that,” said Vincent Truong, a computer science sophomore.

Samantha Muro, a community health major, was surprised by how much she enjoyed the competition. 

“Thinking about how innovative this campus is, I was really surprised I was selected,” said Muro. “But it was really neat to see how much goes into creating an app. It changed my view on the apps the we use every day.”

The three students won $3,000 as their first-place prize and now will compete against other first-place apps from the other host universities across the country. They all intend to continue competing next year.   

“I hope that this becomes more popular at ASU,” Truong said. “It would be interesting to see what other people’s ideas are as well.”

The team is excited to see how they will rank nationally, and to see their app through completion and come to life here at ASU — plans are in motion to move it toward production.

“I think it is so awesome that this is could potentially be used by ASU,” Muro said. “I love this school and seeing something that I did will make a difference on campus.”

Top photo: ASU students participate in the Great Mobile Appathon on ASU's Tempe campus Oct. 15. Photo by Kanak Jha/ASU Now


Reporter , ASU Now