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Behind the NIHF Scenes

The 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition

Innovation was on display at the 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition® (CIC), offering a glimpse into the future of invention.

After months of preparation, the competition took place Oct. 29-30 at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia. The two-day event began with welcome receptions for the Judges and Finalists. Judges for CIC comprised USPTO officials and National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees, many of whom look forward to participating in the event each year. Following the Judges’ welcome, Finalists arrived to the NIHF Museum where they explored exhibits and mingled with other teams. The Finalists were then welcomed by NIHF leadership and attended an interactive Q&A with NIHF Inductee Gary Sharp on intellectual property and the patent process.

The next day involved a morning of judging where Finalist teams each had 30 minutes to present their work. Altogether, there were five Undergraduate and five Graduate teams, representing fields such as materials science, mechanical engineering and medical technology.

While judging ended and deliberations began, the Finalists regrouped to prepare for the Expo. Booths for each team were arranged around the USPTO’s Upper Atrium and offered a chance for the public to learn about their inventions. For two hours, thousands of USPTO employees and members of the public met the Finalists and engaged in discussions about their work. After meeting each team, visitors were then able to vote for their favorite team to win the Arrow Electronics People’s Choice Award. The team that collected the most votes by the end of the Expo would win $1,500.

As soon as the Expo ended, Finalists and Judges took a break to refresh for the evening’s private Awards Dinner. Attendees enjoyed a sit-down dinner where both Finalists and Judges had the opportunity to mingle and learn from one another. Once dinner ended, the room brimmed with anticipation as the winners were announced.

  • First-Place Winners ($15,000 Prize):
    • Undergraduate: PE-IVT (Positively Engaged, Infinitely Variable Transmission Using Split Helical Gears), University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    • Graduate: Infinite Cooling, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Runner-Up Winners ($5,000 Prize)
    • Undergraduate: PeritoneX, Johns Hopkins University
    • Graduate: Nanodropper, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine/University of Washington
  • Arrow Electronics People’s Choice Award ($1,500): PeritoneX

The Winners were asked to share a few words on their invention and their plans for the future. In addition to accepting their prize money, they also received medallions and posed for team and group photos.

Although the event seemed to go by quickly, the memories of this year’s competition will likely last these student Finalists a lifetime. CIC offers participants the opportunity to build confidence in presenting their work, earn helpful prize money and build new relationships with fellow student inventors and entrepreneurs.


Thank You

Thank you to our sponsors from the USPTO, Arrow Electronics, Merck, Hologic and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for making this year’s event the best yet! More details for CIC 2020 will be shared soon, but in the meantime, you can learn how to enter your invention by visiting our website.

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