New Discovery Competition offers $25,000 prize to undergraduates for innovative ideas

Washington University undergraduate students with great solutions to problems can win $25,000 to take their innovative ideas from concept to their own business.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science has launched the Discovery Competition with the goal to promote new and innovative discoveries to solve challenges or needs.

The competition provides undergraduate students the forum to explore their entrepreneurial interests with support from mentors, to use their creativity to develop solutions for real-world problems and to compete for financial resources that could help turn their ideas into businesses.

Teams must be composed of currently enrolled WUSTL
undergraduate students, with at least one engineering student and at
least one non-engineering student. Teams must produce original work and
adhere to competition deadlines.

Faculty and graduate students are not eligible to compete and cannot join teams.

“We believe that there are people who have the ‘E gene,’ but I also think that you can give people that entrepreneurial interest,” says Dennis Mell, professor of practice in electrical engineering and Discovery Competition director. “We want to provide an environment in which people feel safe to play with that.”

Parker Spielman, a fourth-year student earning a combined BS/MS in computer science with a minor in Chinese, has helped to get the competition off the ground through his involvement with Washington University Technology Entrepreneurs (WUTE). More than 40 students came to the introductory meeting.

“With the partnership of the Engineering school and WUTE to make this competition happen, students truly interested in creating will have access not only to funding, but all of the other equally important needs to launch a successful company,” Spielman says. “The larger goal of this competition is to strengthen the connectivity of students, faculty, alumni and St. Louis professionals in the entrepreneurship circle, and this offers far greater reward to students to help pursue their ideas than any amount of funding.”

To be held annually beginning this fall, the competition includes multiple rounds held during the fall and spring semesters. Students will interact with mentors, advisers, judges and other students through several events held during the academic year. Each spring, the winning team or teams will win at least $25,000, provided by alumni donors, to continue developing prototypes leading to new ventures.

Interested teams must register and submit a composition and title of proposal by Oct. 7, and a one- to two-page description of their idea by Nov. 2. Descriptions should include the problem or need and proposed solutions, not a business plan. Finalists will be selected Dec. 14, and the winner(s) will be announced in late April.

For more information and a list of key dates, go to, or contact Mell at or 935-4876.

For more information or to join WUTE, go to