NICEE 2017: Competition Rules

NICEE 2017 Competition Rules

These are the official rules of the 2017 National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo.


This is an invitation-only event.  Each STEMIE Coalition Affiliate partner is allocated a certain number of invitations to extend to the best members of their respective programs. Inventors are carefully selected based upon criteria set by their state or affiliate programs. Original inventions that show promise in helping to create a more sustainable future will be given consideration, along with other criteria. Participants should check with their local affiliate programs for more details.


Inventors and entrepreneurs who have entered affiliate member competitions and won an invitation from your affiliate member are eligible to take part in this competition.

Students in Grades K-2 will compete online. In order to be eligible to attend the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, students must be in Grades 3-12 and be nominated by a state affiliate member program.  All projects must have an inventor’s log (log book or journal), a poster board, a prototype (which may be non-working), and a four-minute unedited and continuous video of the pitch.  Projects must also be of sufficient accomplishment and design to be at a national competition level, as determined solely by the judges. All accepted inventors will be deemed “Finalists” upon acceptance to the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo.

This competition is open to both individual and team competitors. Teams may compete against individuals, and vice versa, for select award categories.  There is a limit of four (4) team members who may be on a team.  All team members in attendance must take part in the team “pitch” for the video and on competition day.

Logbooks or journals must be brought to the competition when invention displays are set up on Friday night, June 2. They will be be judged during the dinner that night. Teams only need to submit one logbook for their project. Log books do not need to be uploaded to the Pitch Wizard registration site.

There are no age restrictions.

Each student can enter only one entry into the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo.  No student can participate in both Team and Individual competition.

Project Restrictions

This is a U.S. Government venue and proper expectations about behavior and projects should be considered.  The following items are not allowed on your person or in your project:

  • Electric stun guns, martial arts weapons or devices
  • Guns, replica guns, ammunition, and fireworks
  • Knives of any size
  • Mace and pepper spray
  • Razors and box cutters

Also, no balloons, glitter, or confetti are allowed in any form.

Award Categories

Place Awards (18): First, Second, and Third Place awards will be given for the following grade groupings:

  • Grades K-2 (Online)
  • Grades 3-4
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 6
  • Grades 7-8
  • Grades 9-12

Industry Focus Awards (12): One winner overall will be selected for the following:

These categories are:

  • Agriculture (Food, Machinery, Tools), Pets, and Animal Care
  • Home Technology, Smart Homes, Appliances – Sponsored by Macy’s
  • Home Organization
  • Household Tools
  • Consumer Goods and Fashion – Sponsored by Macy’s
  • Education (Technology, Systems, Tools, Hardware) – Sponsored by CA Technologies
  • Energy (Efficiency, Environmental, Clean Technology, Generation)
  • Government/Public Safety  – Sponsored by Washington Homeland Security Roundtable
  • Health and Medical Technology – Sponsored by Becton Dickinson
  • Transportation/Financial Infrastructure – Sponsored by The Poupard Family
  • Sports, Games, Entertainment, and Toys – Sponsored by Chicago Toy and Game Week
  • Technology/Wearables

Speciality Awards (3): One winner overall will be selected for the following:

  • Art / Creativity Award – Sponsored by Adobe
  • Electronics – Sponsored by Arrow Electronic
  • Earth and Geosciences – Sponsored by American Geosciences Institute

Provisional Patent Awards (3): All three patentability awards sponsored by Central Coast Patent Agency (CCPA). Three award-winners will be chosen in K-12.

Invention Process Awards (4): One winner overall will be selected for the following:

  • Best Pitch – Sponsored by Test My Pitch
  • Best Logbook – Sponsored by Maxim Integrated
  • Best Poster
  • Best Prototype – Sponsored by The Tidd Family

Global Change Awards (4): One winner overall will be selected for the following:

  • Accessibility – Sponsored by Microsoft
  • Community/Societal Benefit – Sponsored by Lemelson Foundation
  • Green/Environmental – Sponsored by United Technologies
  • Jules Verne (Forward thinking inventiveness) – Sponsored by Paul G. Allen Foundation

Best-of-Show Awards (6): One winner overall will be selected for the following:

  • Most Innovative – Sponsored by Stanley Black and Decker
  • Most Patentable – Sponsored by Cantor Colburn
  • Best Design and Engineering – Sponsored by IDEAZ LLC
  • Staff’s Choice – Sponsored by The STEMIE Coalition
  • Best Automation and Robotics – Sponsored by Maxim Integrated
  • Best App – Sponsored by

Teams will take part in the same judging processes as individuals. Rules for teams will mirror those of the individuals. Students will classify their inventions upon registration and will be judged in that category unless changed by the judges. The NICEE Staff and judges reserve the right to combine and/or reconfigure awards categories.

Awards provided to students, including any plaques and monetary awards, are the property of the awarded students and not the school or organization they are representing. Schools/organizations may purchase duplicate awards by contacting STEMIE staffers.  Where a team wins an award, The STEMIE Coalition will provide additional plaques for the additional team members after the event is concluded.


Judging Process

Students will be judged at multiple times for different awards.  In some instances, the student will be present during the judging, and other times not.  There are three judging periods:

  1. Before the event.  All students will upload an Invention Profile as part of the registration process. This will, among other things, contain a description of your invention, a picture of your poster, one or more pictures of your invention, and a 4-min (max) unedited and continuous pitch video about your invention. All student inventions will be judged according to this Invention Profile information by a set of pre-event judges. During this judging period, each invention will be given a score, and feedback on their invention — both to be provided to the student at the conclusion of judging. Dozens of judges will review these inventions and score them, and we expect each invention will be scored by multiple judges. Some awards, such as sponsored awards by sponsors without a physical presence at the event, may be judged wholly on this preliminary judging period. Some awards will use this score in combination with the on-site score to come up with a final score for each student. In short, the Invention Profile is important and should not be just done in a few minutes off the cuff
  2. During the morning of the event.  All students will take part in “judging circles” — ~10 -inventor large peer review judging environments where each student will pitch to the other students while the judges watch and ask questions of all the kids in the circle.  Each student or student team will have four minutes to pitch their invention, and five minutes to answer questions. For teams, all team members attending for a team project must share a part making the pitch. Judges will take a moment at the end of each student’s/team’s presentation to make any notes or comments they have on their electronic scoring device, before moving on to the next student/team. When the judging circles are done, designated award judges may visit the student exhibits and have a follow up conversation with some students before determining the final scoring for their respective award.
  3. During the public viewing period.  Students are not asked to remain at their invention during the public review period — in fact, they are encouraged to go around and view other students’ inventions on the exhibition floor.

For the main Place awards, a combination of the pre-event judging and judging circle judging scores will determine placement. Ties will be broken by highest scores in this criteria order:

  • Process
  • Solution
  • Impact
  • Presentation

For the Staff’s Choice award, the pre-event judging will solely be used to determine a winner.  For the rest of the awards, any or all of the event judging periods may be used to direct judging, at the discretion of the judges.  In most instances, these are sponsored awards who will determine the best process for their organizations to select winners.

All K-2 will be judged online before the event using the student invention profiles only.

All students — online and in person — will only find out how they did in the competition at the Closing Awards Ceremony Saturday afternoon. This awards ceremony will be streamed live over the Internet for parents and siblings at home to watch.

We want this process to be one of instilling enthusiasm and excitement in students, and not one focused solely on the competition.  More than 45 awards are likely to be given out to Individual contestants at the event, plus awards to Teams taking part, but all the students attending are winners for just having gotten to D.C.  We will be making a lot of effort to make this clear.  Still some kids will excel, and we will be working hard to showcase these kids to the nation too!  We hope to see lots of kids here year after year — serial kid inventors are our favorites!

Judging Criteria

All projects must have the following information in one consolidated place on the poster:

  • Student(s) Name(s)
  • Project Name
  • Student(s) Grade(s)
  • Student(s) School
  • School City, State
  • Preferred Industry Focused Award Category (e.g. Telecommunications)
  • Patent Status

For the last point, Patent Status, there should be three options:

  1. None
  2. Under Counsel
  3. Patent Pending

Student should note on their posters with “Patent Pending” for Patent Status only if a provisional or non-provisional patent application has been filed.  If you are currently represented by an attorney or patent agent (pro bono  or otherwise), then mark “Under Counsel.”  It is possible to be both “Under Counsel” and “Patent Pending”, or just “Under Counsel”, or just “Patent Pending” (if you did the filing yourself, e.g.).

The following criteria will be used for judging the Place category.


  • Problem identification: To what extent do you feel the problem is well identified and real? To what extent do you feel the is problem clearly defined? Has the inventor(s) demonstrated that they know who has the problem?
  • Process to create solution: To what extent was the appropriate research and testing performed? To what extent did they get feedback and iteratively improve their invention? To what extent did the inventor appropriately and thoroughly research his/her invention? To what extent did the inventor seek outside expert opinion?
  • Reasoning: To what extent were critical thinking and critical thinking skills used to understand the problem and develop a solution?
  • Current Solutions/ Market: To what extent did the inventor research at least 3 sources to assure that he/she was creating something unique? To what extent do they know the competitors? To what extent do they know if similar patents exist?


  • Justification: For what reasons is this solution the best way to solve the problem? To what extent does the inventor appropriately justify the path he/she took?
  • Prototype: How well does the prototype work? To what extent is it a functional and well thought through design? To what extent does the child use the invention?
  • Protectable: How protectable is the solution from an IP perspective? To what extent is the solution original and novel


  • Market size: How large and/or viable is the potential market? To what extent was the market appropriately scoped?
  • Society: What are the potential benefits to people and society of this invention?
  • Environment: If applicable, in what ways the invention considers the environment? To what extent does it improve environmental conditions or have minimal adverse impact?


  • Verbal: How appropriate and compelling is the inventor’s body language, charisma, enthusiasm, inflection, pace, volume, and clarity? To what extent is it clear the invention was genuinely born of the youth’s idea; and clearly not work of parent/coach.
  • Visuals: How well does the prototype, poster, logbook, and any other visuals support the need for and function of the invention?
  • Questions: To what extent does the inventor answer the judge’s questions clearly and succinctly?
  • Teams (if appropriate): To what extent did every member of the team speak, contribute, and participate?

When presenting your pitch and making your poster, you will optimize your competitiveness if you pay attention to the above criteria.

About the four-minute videos for pre-judging, we’re aiming for continuously running unedited videos to make sure the playing field is as level as possible. This is not a video competition, so we don’t want to confuse the purpose. Some regional competitions haven’t even happened yet, so many will be working on significantly compressed timelines. Additionally, some won’t have access to editing and we don’t want to arbitrarily disadvantage them.

For information how to pitch and how to make your video, check out our blog posting here. Also see a more extensive discussion of the video pitch uploads on the Student Registration page.

Other awards have more specific criteria which are not shared but are can be reasonably extrapolated from the category.  For instance, Best Pitch will focus more on the Presentation elements above.

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