UMBC’s Idea and Innovation Challenge


Do you have an idea that solves a problem in society or the environment? Is there a product or service you have that is better than the current solution? Do you love to find innovative solutions for all types of problems?

The Idea and Innovation Challenge is your chance to explore your solution and win money in the process.

The UMBC Idea and Innovation Challenge is designed to challenge you to think outside the box to create a  solution for any problem and make it happen! UMBC is one of the most innovative schools in the nation, so UMBC students are the kind of innovators that can change the world.

We offer three separate tracks this year. Students can enter ideas in the Technology & Innovation track, the Social Impact track, or the NEW Spark track.

The new Spark Track will be an opportunity for students who don’t have their own idea to work on a solution to a problem that will be announced in advance, and that will change from year to year (ie. gun violence, food deserts, food waste, homelessness). A brief description of the problem and a template for exploring the solution will be provided when the event is announced and registrations are opened in the Fall. Hopefully, this could lead to exploring partnerships with non-profit organizations that need help identifying solutions to problems and also the potential for the students to continue working on their idea after the competition.

Once you are ready, submit your idea via the online entry form. You can also grab your camera or smartphone and post a short YouTube video of you pitching your idea. The top entries will be judged by a panel of judges at the final competition.

The top 4 winners in each track will receive cash prizes up to $800. There will also be an additional $300 award for best overall pitch as determined by an audience vote.


How to Enter

To enter the competition, complete the UMBC Idea and Innovation Challenge Entry Form, which asks you to (i) describe a problem or opportunity, and (ii) describe your idea for addressing it.

Submission forms will be limited to one page, so you will need to articulate the problem you have identified and your idea succinctly.

You will also be allowed to post a short video to YouTube in which you can personally pitch your idea. The videos are not required, but they are encouraged as an effective way to communicate ideas to the review committee. YouTube videos are limited to 60 seconds and creativity is encouraged. Videos longer than 60 seconds will not be considered by the judges. Please submit your video entry with a link to your Youtube video.




The UMBC Idea and Innovation Challenge is open to all UMBC students (undergraduate and graduate). Individual students or student teams of up to four people may enter the contest. A student may only be included on one entry, i.e., either as an individual or a member of a team.


Example Ideas

The Idea and Innovation Challenge is open to any idea that complies with these rules. To aid students in selecting an idea for the competition, consider the following:

  1. Products or Services

Do you have an idea for a new product or service that meets some need in the marketplace? Alternatively, select an existing product or service and provide an idea about how it could be improved.

  1. Social or “Green” Concerns

Do you have any ideas that will improve society in some way? Ideas for this category include those that help the environment and those that help address social issues.

  1. Ideas that generate Artistic Value

Do you have ideas that will engage more people in the arts in terms of increasing appreciation for the arts and its importance in society. Do you have ideas for making art more accessible or for commercializing art?

  1. Commercial Applications of UMBC Research Projects

Are you working on a research project at UMBC? Do you have ideas for a commercial product or service related to your work?

  1. Campus Innovations

Do you have innovative ideas that would enrich campus life or ideas that will save UMBC money?

  1. Other ideas?

Any idea qualifies for this competition, so do not let these examples limit your creativity!


Judging Process

Judging of entries will consist of two steps. First, an independent panel of reviewers will be asked to review and score all entries using a number of criteria (described below). The reviewers will be able to review both written submissions and any submitted YouTube videos.

The top entries will be invited to pitch their idea in a final competition (see below) before a panel of judges. This final competition will constitute the second step in the judging process. During the final competition, the review panel will select the top three best ideas.


Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to consider the following criteria for scoring:

  1. Identification and Definition of the Problem/Opportunity

Has the problem/opportunity been described in a clear and convincing manner?

  1. Value Creation

Is this an original idea? How innovative is the idea?

  1. Feasibility of Implementing the Solution/Idea

How practical is the idea when it comes to implementation? How easily can barriers be overcome?

  1. Impact of Solution/Idea

Does the idea create economic or social value?

  1. Impact of the Solution/Idea

What’s the size of the population that will be impacted? What’s the level of impact that the idea will have on the identified problem/opportunity?



Entry forms for the UMBC Idea and Innovation Challenge must be submitted by the deadline. Entrants can include a link to an original YouTube video on their entry form describing their problem and their idea. Videos may not be longer than 60 seconds. Once the judges determine the ideas that will move forward, invitations to the final competition will be sent to students with the best ideas (as determined by the review panel). These students will participate in the Final Competition.


Final Competition

To determine a winner in each track, the finalists will deliver a live three minute presentation on the problem or opportunity they have identified and their idea for a solution. This will occur at the final competition.

Checks will be awarded to the top three ideas in each track. An award will also be issued to the finalist with the pitch that communicates the identified challenge and idea for a solution in the most creative/entertaining way. The Best Overall Pitch will be determined by an audience vote of those present at the event.

A description of the prizes is listed below for each track:


Best Idea/$800

Second Place Idea/$600

Third Place Idea/$300

Fourth Place Idea/$150

Best Overall Pitch/$300

All finalists and prize winners will be featured on the UMBC Idea and Innovation Challenge website.


UMBC reserves the right to reject any entry that it determines, in its sole discretion, is obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, lewd, derogatory, or otherwise inappropriate or in bad taste. This applies to written entries and accompanying videos.


Prior Competition Videos: 

2022 UMBC Idea Competition- Sample Presentation

2021 UMBC Idea Competition 

2020 UMBC Idea Competition

Previous Winners:

2023 Fall Winners, 2022 Fall Winners, 2021 Fall Winners,2020 Fall Winners, 2019 Fall Winners, 2018 Fall Winners2017 Fall Winners2016 Fall Winners