Prize Categories

Applicants submit their inventions in categories that represent significant sectors of the economy, which could be reimagined and improved through invention. The prize categories are:

The “Cure it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
“Cure it!” rewards students working on technology-based inventions that involve healthcare.
   

   

The “Move it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
"Move it!" rewards students working on technology-based inventions that involve transportation or mobility.
   

  

The “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
"Eat it!" rewards students working on technology-based inventions that involve food/water or agriculture.
   

The “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
"Use it!" rewards students working on technology-based inventions that involve consumer devices – defined as tangible consumer products where the end users are retail customers who would purchase the product for use in their daily life.

   

Winners receive:

  • $15,000 to the winning graduate student in each of the prize categories
  • $10,000 to the winning undergraduate team in each of the prize categories
  • National media campaign and exposure to investment and business communities
  • A trip to MIT for an award celebration in June 2019 

Eligibility Requirements

2019 student applicants must:

  • Undergraduate Team Prize: Be an undergraduate student-founded and student-led team comprised of two - five students, with the majority of team members being undergraduate students. Graduate students can be part of the undergraduate team as long as there is a majority of undergraduate team members. Individual undergraduate students cannot apply without a team. The student completing the application should be one of the undergraduate co-founders/co-leaders. Undergraduate teams must have a tested prototype of one invention and should apply to the prize category that best fits their invention.
  • Individual Graduate Prize: Individual graduate students must have tested prototypes of at least two inventions to be eligible for the competition. Graduate students should choose a primary invention from their portfolio and apply to the prize category that best fits their primary invention. Their second and any additional (if applicable) inventions do not need to be in the same field as the primary invention. There is no graduate student team prize.
  • Serve as an inspiration to young people through creativity, outreach or mentoring activities.
  • Be a named inventor on all inventions entered into the competition.
  • Consider sustainability as an important factor in their inventive work. For additional information on sustainability-focused inventing, we encourage applicants to review these helpful toolkits.

** Patents are encouraged but not required**

2019 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners are required to attend EurekaFest at MIT June 19-21, 2019. For undergraduate team winners, at least one team member must attend. Domestic airfare and local hotel will be covered for all winners. EurekaFest is a unique, inspiring opportunity for winners to interact with one another and Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams. 

Selection Process & Key Dates

The 2019 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize features a two-part online application process, the Initial Application and the Category Application, using the SlideRoom applicant portal. All applicants need to create a SlideRoom account by clicking the “Apply Now” button on the Student Prize website's right side. Category-specific screening committees review applications to select finalists and a prestigious national jury selects winners. Details appear below:

The Initial Application deadline: Friday, September 28, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern
The Initial Application is a rolling application with a final deadline of September 28, 2018. If applicants meet all eligibility and Initial Application criteria, they will be invited to submit the Category Application within two weeks of submitting the Initial Application. Applicants are encouraged to submit materials BEFORE the September deadline, as doing so will facilitate an early review of materials AND grant earlier access to the Category Application if eligibility requirements and criteria are met, thereby giving more time to complete the Category Application.

The Category Application deadline: Friday, October 19, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern
Eligible applicants will be invited via email to submit the Category Application. All Category Application materials, including the faculty recommendation letter, must be received no later than October 19, 2018.

The Final Round and Announcement of Winners
Applicants selected as Finalists will be notified that they are advancing to the Finalist round by December 20, 2018, and will be required to submit additional materials due on January 16, 2019. See Finalist Application details on page 6. Winners will be notified in late February 2019 and a public announcement will occur in late April 2019. Awards will be made at EurekaFest, held June 19-21, 2019 at MIT (winners required to attend; for undergraduate teams, at least one team member must attend).

Note: the dates listed above and on the below dropdowns are subject to change.

Application Guidelines

As a courtesy to the distinguished individuals who volunteer their time to help make the Student Prize possible, we ask that you strictly observe all of the guidelines for submission. Please note, applications that do not follow instructions will be disqualified from consideration. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Once a SlideRoom account is created, applicants will complete the Initial Application.
Initial Application requirements include:

  • Indicate the Prize Type (Undergraduate Team or Individual Graduate Student) and Category (“Cure it!”, “Move it!,” “Eat it!” or “Use it!”)
  • Biographical Information and Team Member Listing (undergraduates)
  • Invention Description(s) in non-technical terms (must have a tested prototype)
  • Resume or CV (PDF upload)
  • Slide Deck Presentation (5-slide PowerPoint or PDF presentation upload about the invention(s), which must include visual evidence of a tested prototype. Photos are preferred, but if you embed a video, please also provide a link to it on the slides)

All eligible applicants meeting the Initial Application criteria will be invited via email to submit the Category Application.

Note: the character counts below refer to the maximum allotment for that section's text box response in SlideRoom. Word counts given are an approximation.

Category Application requirements include:

Faculty Letter of Recommendation
​​One letter of recommendation is required from a faculty member, research-scientist staff or advisor/mentor who is familiar with your work. Letters must be requested via the SlideRoom applicant portal, which triggers an email request to your letter writer with a unique link for them to upload the letter to your application. Each letter should be addressed to the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Committee, limited to two pages or less, and include the following:

  • Describe the significance of the applicant's invention(s) to the field
  • State the student's/students' role(s) in developing the invention(s)
  • Define the state-of-the-art status in the area of the invention(s)
  • Describe the potential implications of the student's/students' work

Cover Letter (maximum 9,000 characters/approx. 1,500 words for undergraduate teams and 6,000 characters/approx. 1,000 words for individual graduate students)

  • Provide the reader with a brief snapshot about who you are and your main focus and inspiration as an inventor or team of inventors. Be sure to include details about your background, including education and any relevant job experience. Undergraduate students, please include background details for each inventor on the team.

Description of Inventiveness (single invention for undergraduate teams – maximum 6,000 characters/approx. 1,000 words; portfolio of two or more inventions for individual graduate students – maximum 12,000 characters/approx. 2,000 words)
Address all of the following as it relates to your invention(s). Graduate students, address these aspects with a focus on your primary invention but also include details about your secondary invention as you see fit.

  • Define the problem or need that your invention(s) is/are trying to solve and explain how your invention(s) offers solutions.
    • How did the problem come to the inventor's/inventors' attention?
    • How did the inventor/inventors decide that this was an important problem to solve?
    • What solutions were attempted to solve the problem and how were they developed and tested?
  • What makes your invention(s) novel?
  • What makes your invention(s) useful?
  • How does/do your invention(s) improve upon prior technology or processes?
  • What were the roles and responsibilities of each inventor with regard to the invention(s)? If you have worked in team environments, specify your individual role(s) in developing the invention(s): for graduate students working in a large lab or as part of a team, outline your individual contributions to developing your inventions; for undergraduate teams, identify the roles and responsibilities of each team member in regard to the invention.

Description of Potential Commercialization or Adoption (maximum 3,000 characters/approx. 500 words)

  • Describe how your invention(s) could be commercialized or possesses the potential for adoption, including any steps that you have taken to achieve this or plan to take in the future. Graduate students, address these aspects with a focus on your primary invention but also include details about your secondary invention as you see fit.

Description of Systems & Design Thinking (maximum 1,800 characters/about 300 words for undergraduate teams and 3,000 characters/approx. 500 words for individual graduate students)

  • A systems thinking approach means viewing your invention(s) as a collection of separate parts and processes that make up a larger system or whole. This includes the design, materials sourcing, manufacturing/building, and end-of-life of your invention(s), and the decisions that informed each phase. Design thinking is a multi-step process for innovating that generally involves understanding a need, defining a solution, prototyping and testing, and refining or iterating your solution. As appropriate, provide a description of both your systems and design thinking related to your invention(s), including any economic, social/community, and environmental impacts resulting from the invention’s/inventions’ development and its use. Graduate students, address these aspects with a focus on your primary invention but also include details about your secondary invention as you see fit.

Note: For additional information on sustainability-focused inventing, we encourage you to review these helpful toolkits

Description of Youth Mentoring and Leadership Experience (maximum 3,000 characters/about 500 words)
Describe your/your team's youth mentoring and leadership experience, addressing the following:

  • How have you mentored youth or others?
  • How have you served as a leader or leaders?
  • What was the impetus for your involvement in these activities and what did you learn?
  • Be sure to touch on any community outreach activities, academic and co-curricular.
  • For graduate students: any activities that go above and beyond mentoring and advising undergraduates/lab members that would generally be expected as part of the graduate student experience should be highlighted.

Optional – up to two supplemental documents/media uploads are permitted. While not required, if you have additional materials that would strengthen your application, we encourage you to include them. These materials could include PDF's of articles or news coverage, a list of links to other sources, photos, diagrams, videos, YouTube links, or even additional letters of recommendation.

Application Guidelines for Finalists

A small number of graduate and undergraduate team applicants will be advanced as finalists in each category. Applicants selected to advance past the Category Application round to the Finalist round will be asked to produce and submit a short, two-minute video by Wednesday, January 16, 2019. The video must describe your invention (primary invention for graduate students) and adhere to the content guidelines set forth by the Lemelson-MIT Program. Video files should be submitted to SlideRoom in .mov, .mp4 or .mpg. Each video upload can be up to 250MB. The minimum video resolution is 1080 x 720. Creativity is encouraged! DO NOT USE ANY COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS (music, images, video, etc.) without the explicit written permission for use from the copyright holder. Finalists will also be asked to submit two additional letters of recommendation. Detailed Finalist Application instructions will be sent to all finalists in December if advanced.

Please Note: For those applicants who are selected as Student Prize winners, some (non-confidential) information presented in their applications will be used to prepare public press materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize?
The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize seeks to serve as a catalyst for burgeoning inventors. Prizes are awarded annually to inventive graduate students and teams of undergraduate students from any college or university in the United States. The award publicity helps to expose winners to technology, engineering, science, business, and investment communities.

What qualifies as an invention for the purposes of this competition?
The Lemelson-MIT Program considers an invention to be a new technology, product, or process developed by the student applicant that is unique, useful, and solves a real-world problem with an identified user. Strong applications have evidence (data) supporting that the invention works as intended to, including engagement with users during the evaluation of the invention.

What is a tested prototype?

A prototype must be tested and functional. It should work as designed beyond proof of concept models. Evidence of the functional prototype can be data from lab, human subjects testing or consumer products testing that has been collected and analyzed. Applicants need to provide evidence that the functional prototype performs as intended.

Prototypes do not need to be commercially available but they should be commercially viable. Applicants are not expected to develop prototypes past early stages nor do they need to present a business plan. Commercialization potential is however a criterion of the competition, and prototypes further along in development that exhibit strong commercialization potential may be rated higher than early stage inventions.

What does it mean to be “an undergraduate student-founded and led team”?
An undergraduate student-founded and led team is one in which the idea for the invention was generated by an undergraduate student who then built and is actively leading a team of 2-5 students (majority of whom are undergraduates) to develop and commercialize that invention. Graduate students can be part of the undergraduate team provided the majority of team members are undergraduates. The team must identify a member who will serve as the group leader and primary representative.

Are applicants required to have any patents?
No, applicants are not required to have any patents. However, the Lemelson-MIT Program strongly encourages applicants to discuss in their application any intellectual property (IP) that they have filed or plan to file and correctly attribute ownership (i.e. candidates should own the IP of any invention entered into the competition). The supplemental materials section is an excellent place to submit patent abstracts. The strongest applications over the years have featured patented inventions or inventions involved in the patenting process.

Does the candidate forfeit intellectual property rights by submitting an application?
The Lemelson-MIT Program asks screening committees and the judging panel to acknowledge that student applications are distributed solely for the candidacy of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, and should not be reproduced for other purposes. Candidates are advised to consult their school’s Intellectual Property policies as directed by their Technology Licensing Office, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to ensure protection of their intellectual property, if applicable.

Are winners required to use the award money for research?
No, the money is an unrestricted cash gift but could certainly be used for future research or development of their prototype(s).

What is required of winners?
Winners are asked to participate in media opportunities arranged by the Lemelson-MIT Program to celebrate their win and recognize their work. Winners are required to attend EurekaFest, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s annual multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, which is held at MIT in June of the award year. Undergraduate team winners must have at least one team member in attendance. Attendance at EurekaFest is at the Lemelson-MIT Program’s expense. The Lemelson-MIT Program may request winners to participate in future public education and press activities as applicable.

When is the deadline to apply?
The Initial Application deadline is Friday, September 28, 2018. Applicants can apply any time before that date and are encouraged to do so, as it will enable earlier access to the Category Application if all criteria are met. The Category Application deadline is Friday, October 19, 2018.
*See “Selection Process and Key Dates” above for more information.

Who are the judges?
All applicants who meet the Initial Application requirements will be advanced to the Category Application round. Following that, there is a two-tiered judging process:
Category Application round: Screening committees who have expertise in the candidates' field areas (i.e. the Student Prize categories: healthcare, consumer products, transportation and mobility, and food/water and agriculture).
Finalist round: A national jury consisting of a panel of experts from a variety of disciplines such as mechanical engineering, bioengineering, physics, medicine, finance, transportation and mobility, and food/water and agriculture.

What criteria are used to judge the candidates?
Applicants will be evaluated by category-specific screening committees and a prestigious national jury based on a range of criteria including:

  • Description of inventiveness (single invention for undergraduate teams and portfolio of inventions for graduate students)
  • Potential or realized commercialization/adoption of the invention(s)
  • Ability to articulate a systems and design thinking approach to the invention process
  • Potential or realized youth mentoring and leadership experience
  • Supporting letters of recommendation
  • Finalists only: two-minute finalist video

No criterion is considered paramount. Judges are asked to take a holistic view of each candidate with respect to the goals of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.

What makes an excellent application?
An excellent application is well-presented, complete, and follows instructions (e.g., character count). Strong applications feature truly inventive technology and make a compelling case based on the selection criteria listed above. For specific advice on how best to complete your application and clearly communicate about your invention(s), we encourage you to set up a phone call with Janell Ciemiecki, Awards Program Administrator, at janellc@mit.edu to discuss your application in detail prior to applying.

Read about past winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize here.

How many student prizes are awarded each year?
There will be up to a total of eight prizes awarded in 2018.

  • “Cure it!” category: one $15,000 prize for one graduate student, and one $10,000 prize for a team of undergraduate students.
  • “Use it!” category: one $15,000 prize for one graduate student, and one $10,000 prize for a team of undergraduate students.
  • "Move it!" category: one $15,000 prize for one graduate student, and one $10,000 prize for a team of undergraduate students.
  • "Eat it!" category: one $15,000 prize for one graduate student, and one $10,000 prize for a team of undergraduate students.

I would like to apply – but my project does not fit into either of this year’s categories. What can I do?
The Lemelson-MIT Program hopes to award prizes in additional categories in future years. For now, applicants must choose one of the four current categories: "Cure it!”, "Move it!”, "Eat it!” or "Use it!”. For graduate students, at least your primary invention must fit into one of the four prize categories. If you are unsure if your invention fits into one of the categories, contact Janell Ciemiecki at janellc@mit.edu.

Is the prize given to college students with proposed work/inventions?
No, this is not an idea competition or funding pitch for yet-to-be developed projects. Submissions must be existing tech-based inventions with tested and working prototypes, having potential for real commercialization, implementation or greater impact.

For any additional questions, please contact Janell Ciemiecki at janellc@mit.edu.

Other Student Invention Competitions and Resources

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BMEidea
Cleantech University Prize
DEBUT
E-Teams Grants
Inventing Green Toolkits
NSF I-Corps

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Baylor New Venture Competition
Collegiate Inventors Competition
Food+City Challenge Prize
James Dyson Award
MIT Clean Energy Prize
MIT Water Innovation Prize
NAI Student Innovation Showcase
Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize
Rice Business Plan Competition