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DEBUT challenge guidelines

Posted December 30, 2018

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and VentureWell have come together to support and expand DEBUT, a competition that recognizes undergraduate excellence in biomedical design and innovation.

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DEBUT challenges teams of students in undergraduate biomedical education to solve real world problems in healthcare. Prizes of up to $20,000 will be awarded, with a total prize purse of $80,000. Strong DEBUT submissions will demonstrate a mastery of analytical and design skills and capabilities; the ability to manage the product development process; the ability to work effectively in teams; and technical communication skills. Submissions will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Significance of the problem being addressed
  • Impact of proposed solution on potential users and clinical care
  • Innovative design
  • Working prototype

Additional prizes will be awarded to entries that also demonstrate:

  • Market potential and economic feasibility
  • Patentability

In addition, five honorable mentions will be awarded without any cash prizes.

The deadline for submission is May 31, 2019. Winners will be announced on August 27, 2019.

Winning teams will be honored at an award ceremony during the Annual Meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

All applications must be submitted online and the call for applications is now open. We strongly recommend that you read these guidelines in full before applying.

In past years, undergraduate student teams have applied separately to NIBIB’s DEBUT challenge and to VentureWell’s BMEStart competition. In 2016, the two organizations formed a public/private partnership called the DEBUT challenge, allowing student teams to submit one application and giving teams more chances to win a prize in recognition of their technology solution.

NIBIB’s goals, specifically, are 1) to provide undergraduate students valuable experiences such as working in teams, identifying unmet clinical needs, and designing, building and debugging solutions for such open-ended problems; 2) to generate novel, innovative tools to improve healthcare, consistent with NIBIB’s purpose to support research, training, the dissemination of health information, and other programs with respect to biomedical imaging and engineering and associated technologies and modalities with biomedical applications; and 3) to highlight and acknowledge the contributions of biomedical engineering to advancing healthcare.

VentureWell’s goals for the competition are to challenge undergraduates to learn, practice, and demonstrate their technical, creative, and innovative capabilities by addressing a real clinical need and documenting the promise of 1) technical, economic and regulatory feasibility; 2) technological innovation; and 3) potential for commercialization of the solution described.

Strong DEBUT submissions will define a healthcare problem and demonstrate the development of a device, product, or technology designed to solve it. Examples include but are not limited to: surgical devices, home health care devices, diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative applications, rehabilitative and assistive technologies, technologies for underserved populations and low resource settings, point-of-care systems, precision medicine, or other innovations that will have a substantial impact on clinical care and patient outcomes.

DEBUT is open to undergraduate students only (teams with graduate students on them should consider applying to VentureWell’s BMEidea competition). Students enrolled in senior biomedical engineering capstone design courses are especially encouraged to apply to DEBUT. Multidisciplinary teams are also encouraged to apply and may include undergraduate students from diverse fields such as business, nursing, physical therapy, life sciences, physical sciences, or other related disciplines. Inter-institutional collaborations are also encouraged; in these cases we require a faculty advisor from each institution. Each team must include at least one bioengineering/biomedical engineering student. See full eligibility requirements for each sponsor under rules of participation for NIBIB and VentureWell prizes.

Team members have rights to all intellectual property, subject to the rules of their home institutions, unless assigned to others in exchange for support, sponsorship, or funding. Teams will be encouraged to retain a significant and motivating interest in their project results.

Six DEBUT prizes will be awarded. Prize categories and amounts are listed below.

NIBIB-sponsored prizes include:

  • First prize: $20,000
  • Second prize: $15,000
  • Third prize: $10,000
  • HIV/AIDS Prize: $15,000
    New! HIV/AIDS Prize: $15,000 (with funds from the NIH Office of AIDS Research) for projects that develop technology for HIV/AIDS prevention and/or care

VentureWell-sponsored prizes are made possible with support from The Lemelson Foundation, in partnership with IEEE EMBS, the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering Programs.
They include:

  • Venture prize: $15,000
  • Design Excellence prize: $5,000

In addition to these prizes, five DEBUT honorable mentions will be awarded. Honorable mention recognition does not include a cash prize.

Applying teams must indicate which prizes they wish to be considered for as part of the application process. Teams may choose to be considered for NIBIB prizes only, VentureWell prizes only, or all prizes. The rules for participation for each sponsor’s prizes are outlined below. It is the teams’ responsibility to check and abide by the rules of any and all prizes for which they wish to be considered.

Each winning team will be awarded one prize only.


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