Finalists named in inaugural InVenture Prize

The InVenture Prize held its preliminary round Wednesday night, trimming the field of contestants to eight inventions. During the event, 14 inventions were presented before a panel of four judges, who rated each invention on five categories related to potential success. Eight finalists, announced at the end of the evening, will compete in the final round on March 26.

The InVenture Prize is a competition for undergraduate students, encouraging them to create innovative inventions. One winning inventor will win $5000, and the winning team will win $10,000. Paid internships will be given to the winners so that they may continue work on their inventions.

Semi-finalists presented their inventions for two and a half minutes, with as much time allotted for questions from the judges.

“The judges will haggle them and encourage them and push them on to the finals,” said Craig Forest, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the organizing committee.

Forest said that he hopes the presentation experience will not only create excitement on campus but also prepare students for the questions they will face in many entrepreneurial settings.

“It was really exciting to see everyone in the audience, and also to get positive feedback on our ideas,” said Matt Eicholtz, a fourth-year ME major and semi-finalist.

Tech will provide provisional patents for the eight finalist inventions at no cost to the inventors. These patents will protect competitors’ intellectual property, allowing them to safely share their ideas with other companies and the media.

“These are Tech’s best inventors, and we want them to be able to present without any reservations,” Forest said. Each invention will also be teamed up with a faculty member to provide experience and support.

As part of registering for the competition, inventors were required to complete a patent search related to their idea, as well as write a one-page business plan.

Each step was designed to help the inventors understand a facet of entrepreneurship. “[Initially] we were nervous that [our idea] had already been invented. It was really helpful to see what other people had come up with along the lines of [our invention],” said Jessica Carter, a semi-finalist.

The event is designed to provide students with product development experiences otherwise unavailable on campus.

“Even if I do not qualify to become a finalist, I have now done this once and will be more prepared in the future,” said Ajai Karthikeyan, a second-year CS major and semi-finalist.

Campus departments offered InVenture participants a variety of support services. To help students with the patent search process, the library offered a full-time staff member exclusively for InVenture competitors. To help with prototyping inventions, GTRI offered free machining services to any InVenture competitor. InVenture’s events were also supported by many in-kind donations.

Despite the support offered, there has been significant attrition. “Being an entrepreneur is hard,” Forrest said. From a pool of over 200 registered inventors, 62 made it to competitions held this week.

On Monday, InVenture held a screening round open only to 20 faculty judges, who worked to select 14 semifinalist inventions for presentation on Wednesday night.

In future years, Tech hopes more students will be able to reach the competitive rounds. “We think we can do more to help students…follow through with their ideas,” said Ray Vito, vice provost for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. By reaching the screening round, inventive students get a chance to stand before judges and exercise the skills required to pitch an idea.

The InVenture Prize currently has enough funding and manpower committed to continue the event for at least three more years.

The funding for the prize comes from the Class of 1934 fund, which was designed to improve the student experience at Tech.

Over the next three years, the InVenture Prize will provide participants the chance to leave Tech with the experience of attempting to turn their own ideas into reality.