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 can improve healthcare.
   

   

The “Drive it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
"Drive it!" rewards students working on technology-based inventions that can improve transportation.
   

  

The “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
"Eat it!" rewards students working on technology-based inventions that can improve food and agriculture.
   

The “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
“Use it!”rewards students working on technology-based inventions that can improve consumer devices.

“Use it!” submissions are for technology-based, tangible consumer products where the end user is a retail customer who would purchase the product for use in their daily life.

   

Inventions can address opportunities in both developed and developing economies.

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 exposure and exposure to investment and business communities
  • A trip to MIT for an award celebration in June 2017

Eligibility Requirements

Student applicants must:

  • Be a full-time, matriculated, degree-seeking student in the Spring semester of 2017 at a U.S. college or university. Postdocs, audit students, and alumni are not eligible.
  • Undergraduate Team Prize: Be an undergraduate student-founded and led team of two - five students with the majority of team members being undergraduate students. All team members must be actively enrolled at a U.S. college or university. Individual undergraduate students cannot apply without a team. The student completing the application should be one of the undergraduate co-founders/leaders. Undergraduate teams apply to one prize category with a tested prototype of their single invention.
  • Individual Graduate Prize: Individual graduate students must have tested prototypes of at least two inventions to be eligible for the competition. Graduate students choose a primary invention from their portfolio and apply to the prize category that best matches the field/industry of their primary invention. Their second and additional (more than two, if applicable) inventions do not need to be in the same field as the primary invention. There is no Graduate 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 environmental sustainability as an important factor in their inventive work.

** Patents are encouraged but not required**

Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners are required to attend EurekaFest at MIT June 14-18, 2017. 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

Dates below are subject to change.

The 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize features a two-part online application process, the Initial Application and the Category Application, using the SlideRoom applicant program. All applicants create an account on SlideRoom by clicking the “Apply Now” button on the Student Prize website’s right side bar. Applicants are reviewed by category-specific screening committees and winners are selected by a prestigious national jury.

The Initial Application deadline: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern
The Initial Application is a rolling application with a final deadline of September 30, 2016. Applicants are encouraged to submit materials BEFORE the September deadline as doing so will facilitate an early review of materials AND grant access to the Category Application if eligibility requirements and criteria are met. Hence applicants submitting earlier will have more time to complete the Category Application.

*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 must complete the Initial Application first.*

The Category Application deadline: Friday, October 21, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern
Eligible applicants will be invited via email to submit the Category Application. All Category Application materials must be received no later than the October 21, 2016. Applicants are encouraged to submit the Initial Application before the October deadline as this will accelerate the review of the application and provide access to the Category Application.

*Note: Applicants selected as Finalists will be required to submit additional materials due January 10, 2017.

All materials are to be submitted electronically through the SlideRoom applicant system. Deadlines are 5:00 p.m. Eastern unless otherwise indicated.

Initial Application Deadline: September 30, 2016
Category Application Deadline: October 21, 2016
Finalists notified to advance to the next round: December 21, 2016
Finalists must upload a 2-min video & two additional letters of recommendation: January 10, 2017
Winners notified: Late February 2017
Winners publicly announced: Late April 2017
EurekaFest 2017: June 14-18, 2017 @ MIT (winners required to attend)

Application Guidelines

Dates below are subject to change.

As a courtesy to the distinguished individuals who volunteer their time to help make the 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 consideration.

Once a SlideRoom account is created, Applicants will start the Initial Application:

The Initial Application deadline: September 30, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern

Initial Application requirements include:

  • Applicants indicate the prize (Undergraduate Team or Individual Graduate Student) and category (“Cure it!”, “Drive it!”, “Eat it!”, or “Use it!”)
  • Biographical Information and Team Member Listing (if applicable)
  • Resume (PDF upload)
  • Invention Description in non-technical terms (must have a tested prototype)
  • Slide Deck Presentation (5-slide slide deck in PowerPoint or PDF of a presentation on the invention)

*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 must complete the Initial Application first.*

The Category Application deadline: October 21, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern
Eligible applicants will be invited via email to submit the Category Application. All Category Application materials must be received no later than October 21, 2016. Applicants are encouraged to submit the Initial Application before the October deadline as this will accelerate the review of the application and provide access to the Category Application.

Category Application requirements include:

  • Cover Letter
    • One-page (about 1500 word for Undergrad Teams and 1000 words for Individual Graduates) summary giving the reader a brief snapshot of who you are and your main forcus and inspiration as an Inventor.
  • Description of Inventiveness (single invention for Undergraduate Teams - about 1000 words, portfolio of two or more inventions for individual graduate students - about 2000 words) addressing the following:
    • Define the problems/needs and how your invention(s) offers solutions
    • What makes your invention(s) novel?
    • How does your invention(s) improve upon prior technology or processes?
    • What are the potential economic, environmental and societal benefits of your invention(s)?
    • If you have worked in team environments, what was your role in developing the invention(s)?

Please be sure to address for IP purposes:

  • What is the background of each inventor including education and any relevant job experience?
  • What were the roles and responsibilities of each inventor particularly with regard to the invention?
  • What is the problem that the invention(s) is trying to solve?
  • How did the problem come to the inventors’ attention?
  • How did the 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

 

  • Description of Potential Commercialization or Adoption
    • Describe how you envision your inventions being commercialized, or possessing the potential for adoption (500 words or less).
  • Description of Systems & Design Thinking
    • Answering how you have applied systems thinking to your invention process (500 words or less). Be sure to highlight the entire process from start to finish and discuss any materials sourced/used and the product lifecycle, as well as the economic, environmental, and community impacts resulting from the invention's development.
  • Description of Youth Mentoring and Leadership Experience
    Describe your/your team’s leadership and youth mentoring experience (500 words or less), addressing the following:​
    • How have you served as a leader(s)?
    • How have you mentored youth and others?
    • What was the impetus for your involvement and what did you learn?
    • Be sure to touch on any community outreach activities, academic and co-curricular. For Grad Students - Activities that go above and beyond mentoring and advising undergrads/lab members that would be generally expected as part of the graduate student experience should be highlighted.
  • Faculty Letter of Recommendation
    One letter of recommendation from a faculty member or research-scientist staff is required. Letters are submitted via the SlideRoom applicant portal via email request (see “Add References” tab). Each letter should be addressed to the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Committee, limited to two pages or less, and:
  • Describe the significance of the applicant's invention(s) to the field
  • State the student's role in developing the invention(s)
  • Define the state-of-the-art status in the area of the invention(s)
  • Describe potential implications of the student's work
  • Optional – up to two supplemental documents/media uploads. Media can be PDFs of news articles, video links, photos, etc.
  • Other pertinent supporting materials may be provided, such as videos, professional articles, photos, diagrams, and press clippings.

*Note: Applicants selected as Finalists will be required to submit two additional letters of recommendation and create a 2-minute video explaining their invention due in early January 10, 2017.

Application Guidelines for Finalists

Finalists will be asked to produce the following: 

Video
Applicants selected to advance past the Category Application round (a.k.a. “Finalists”), will be asked to produce and submit a short, two-minute video that describes their invention (primary invention for graduate students) and adheres to the content guidelines set forth by the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Video Format:

  • Video files should be submitted to SlideRoom in .mov, .mp4 or .mpg
  • Each video upload can be up to 250MB
  • Minimum video resolution of 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.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Finalists will be asked to submit two additional letters

Please Note: If a candidate is selected as a prize recipient, 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 will be awarded annually to inventive graduate students, and teams of undergraduate students from any college or university in the U.S. The award publicity can expose winners to the technology, engineering, science, business, and investment communities.

What qualifies as an invention for the purposes of this competition?
Lemelson-MIT 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 some evidence of reduction to practice and 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 exhibiting 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 this team of 2-5 undergraduates to develop and commercialize that invention. The team must identify a member who will serve as the group leader and primary representative.

Is the candidate/are the candidates required to have any patents?
No, the candidate(s) is not required to have any patents. However, the Lemelson-MIT Program strongly encourages applicants to discuss in their application any IP 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 be used for future research or development of their prototype.

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

When is the deadline to apply?
The Initial Application deadline is September 30, 2016. Applicants can apply any time before September 2016 and are encouraged to do so early as it will enable access to the Category Application if all criteria are met.
The Category Application deadline is October 21, 2016.
*See “Selection Process and Key Dates” above for more information.

Who are the judges?
There is a two-tiered judging process:
1st & 2nd Rounds:
Screening Committees who have expertise in the candidates' fields areas (i.e. Prize categories: Healthcare, Consumer Products, Transportation, and Food & Agriculture).
Finalist Round:
A judging panel composed of experts from a variety of disciplines such as mechanical engineering, bioengineering, physics, medicine, finance, transportation, and food and agriculture.

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

  • Portfolio of inventiveness for (graduate students) and single-specific inventions (undergraduate teams)
  • Potential adoption and/ or commercialization of inventions, to help boost the economy
  • Ability and experience to be a role model for youth
  • Ability to articulate a systems design approach to the invention process
  • Supporting letters

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. word count). Strong applications feature truly inventive (not just innovative) technology and make a compelling case based on the selection criteria listed above. The material should be written for a technically literate audience, similar to the writing style in Scientific American or Technology Review.

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 2017.

  • “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.
  • "Drive 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!", "Drive it!", "Eat it!", or "Use it!".

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

For any additional questions, please contact Marlena Love at marlenam@mit.edu

Other College Inventor Prizes and Resources

VentureWell
E-Teams Grants
BMEIdea
Debut

Collegiate Inventors Competition
Intel-Cornell Cup
Food+City Food Challenge Prize
Georgia Tech Inventure Prize
MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize