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MIT student-innovator prize goes national

The Lemelson-MIT Program has opened its Collegiate Student Prize competition to student innovators nationwide.
The Lemelson-MIT Program today announced the expansion of its Collegiate Student Prize competition to include student inventors nationwide, with the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize Competition.

The Lemelson-MIT Program will award $50,000 in prizes this year, with winning undergraduate teams receiving $10,000 and winning individual graduate students receiving $15,000, in each of two categories.

The national prize builds on the legacy of the Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize, which has served as a springboard for collegiate inventors for nearly 20 years. The Lemelson-MIT Program has awarded a student prize at MIT since 1994, with additional prizes awarded in collaboration with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2007, as well as the California Institute of Technology from 2009 to 2011.

“Building and upholding excitement around invention at the undergraduate and graduate levels is critically important. Inventors who can think globally and create technologies to solve problems anywhere in the world are key to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy,” says Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “We are excited to leverage our experience awarding the student prize at MIT and select partner schools to recognize students across the country who are reimagining a better tomorrow through invention.”

Prize categories and judging criteria

The national competition, supported by The Lemelson Foundation, is open to teams of undergraduate students and individual graduate students enrolled at U.S. institutions.

Applicants can submit their technological inventions in two prize categories: the “Cure it” prize, for inventions that improve healthcare; and the “Use it” prize, for inventions that improve consumer devices and tools. Inventions can be for both developed and developing economies.

Applicants will be evaluated by category-specific screening groups and a national jury — which also selects the winner of the annual $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize — on a range of criteria. These criteria include: the portfolio of inventions for graduate students and a single invention for undergraduate teams; potential for commercialization of inventions; and demonstrated youth leadership and mentorship. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31. Winners will be selected in April 2014.

Past winners include Carl Dietrich, founder of Terrafugia and inventor of the Transition, Terrafugia’s street-legal airplane (sometimes called a “flying car”); and Nate Ball, founder of Atlas Devices, inventor of the ATLAS Powered Rope for emergency responders and soldiers, and host of the PBS Kids show, Design Squad Nation.

Expanding program

Founded in 1992 by prolific U.S. inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, The Lemelson Foundation says it aims to inspire and enable the next generation of inventors and invention-based enterprises. To that end, it funds the Lemelson-MIT Program to celebrate outstanding innovators and inspire young people to invent.

The Lemelson-MIT Program — administered by MIT’s School of Engineering — has plans to expand the collegiate competition to additional categories. The program is seeking partners with interest in sponsoring the “Cure it” and “Use it” prizes and support the scaling of its national prize.

According to the Lemelson-MIT Program, potential future prize categories include: “Drive it,” for students reimagining transportation; “Eat it,” for students reimagining food and agriculture; “Wear it,” for students inventing the next generation of wearable consumer products; and “Network it,” for students reimagining how products and services are delivered through web-based networks.

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