Open Minds Guidelines


Open Minds is the annual exhibition of NCIIA's best student teams. The event takes place in conjunction with the NCIIA annual conference and involves an evening exhibition for NCIIA conference attendees as well as an exhibition open to the general public and an exciting video competition. 10-15 teams are selected to participate each year. 

Open Minds 2014 will be held on March 22 in San Jose, CA.  Interested in applying? The Open Minds 2014 RFP will open in November and  applications will be accepted until December 13.

Learn more about Open Minds 2013 here.

Application Guidelines

Why Apply?

  • Great exposure and networking oportunities
  • Present your innovation and pitch to a wide range of audiences (peers, academics, potential investors, and the general public)
  • Selected teams receive an all-expense paid trip to NCIIA's annual conference to participate
  • Opportunties for high profile, media attention
  • Chance to win video competition cash prizes to further your venture

Eligibility and Requirements

  • Interested teams must be previously or currently affilliated with NCIIA, and can be one of the following:
    • An NCIIA Advanced E-Team grant recipient
    • A student team that has resulted from an NCIIA Course and Program grant
    • A student team that has attended an NCIIA venture development workshop (E-Team Program, VentureLab, Advanced Invention to Venture) or is involved with the University Innovation Fellows program.
  • Teams must have a working prototype, or something engaging to showcase at the time of the exhibition (hands-on and interactive displays draw the most media attention and interest from the public).
  • Applying teams must submit a brief video as part of the Open Minds application (see details below). Teams selected to participate in Open Minds will have their videos entered into the video competition. Cash prizes will be awarded to teams with the winning videos.
  • Selected teams are required to be on location  and must attend all activities related to Open Minds.

Questions about your team's eligibility? Contact Patricia Boynton

Video Competition Details

Started in 2010, The Open Minds annual video competition has enabled participating teams to spread the word about what they're doing among a wide range of audiences leading up to, as well as beyond, the Open Minds exhibitions. Teams are required to submit a link to their video as part of their initial application. First prize is $1,500.

Teams selected for Open Minds participation will have their videos automatically entered into the competition. Videos will be judged by a panel of reviewers and ranked based on originality, creativity, and pitch delivery. The top 5 videos will be posted online for public viewing and voting, and the video with the most public votes will be awarded $1,500. Winners will be announced on location during Open Minds.

Download the video competition guidelines for additional information.

Watch videos from 2013 participating teams.

How to Apply

The Open Minds 2014 application will become available in November, 2013. Check back for details, including the submission deadline, this fall.

Interested teams will submit an easy, 5-step online application, which can be accessed here. If you have not already done so, you will need to create a NCIIA account to access the application. Teams should be prepared to provide the following as part of the application:

  1. A brief narrative (no more than 3 pages) that addresses the following:
    • Your Technology: What is your invention or technology innovation and is it technically feasible? What problem are you solving for what customers? In what way is it better than other solutions on the market? What large-scale impact would successful adoption of your innovation create (e.g., lives saved, amount of C02 reduction, increased income to customers, etc.)?
    • Why Open Minds? Explain why you want to participate in Open Minds and what your team hopes to get out of this experience.
    • Your Exhibit Plans: During the Open Minds exhibition, participating teams engage with a wide variety of people––from the general public and media representatives, to college faculty, to angel investors. Successful exhibits are inviting, interactive, and teach people (regardless of age or level of expertise in your area) about your product and/or venture. If your team is selected to participate in Open Minds, please describe what you plan to showcase. What equipment (if any) do you plan on bringing (laptop, etc.)? Do you envision needing electricity for your exhibit? Will you bring a prototype and/or any relevant tools or materials with you? If so, please describe the size of your prototype and any materials that would be included as part of your exhibit. If bringing a prototype is not possible, please explain how you intend to create an attractive, interactive exhibit.
  2. A high resolution (at least 2MB/300 dpi in size), compelling photo. Photos can be of your prototype and/or demonstrate your device's intended use or market. Photos from the field are also acceptable. This photo will be used for marketing purposes, so just be sure it's high resolution, compelling, and one that you're comfortable sharing.
  3. A link to your team's video. If your team is selected to participate in Open Minds, your video will be entered in the video competition. Complete video competition guidelines can be downloaded HERE.
  4. Verification of support from a faculty advisor. This may take a day or two, so plan accordingly in advance of the submission deadline.


Applicants and faculty advisors will be notified of their status in early January 2014. Selected teams will be responsible for making their own travel arrangements. NCIIA will subsidize travel and expenses for up to two winning team members to attend. These expenses include airfare, hotel accommodations, and a small stipend for food. Most meals will be provided.


The Malo Traders team from Temple University shows a sample of their nutritional rice

The SAFE AGUA: Ducha Halo Portable Shower team from Art Center College of Design delivers their pitch

The Rickshaw Bank team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What past teams are saying

“It was great to be able to present our concepts to new faces and get new insight and opinions, as well as see our work in comparison to what else is being done in the academic world.”

--2012 participant

“This is an invaluable experience that will put you in touch with some great contacts and breathe new life and excitement into your project. You'd be crazy not to take advantage of this opportunity.”

--2010 participant

“[Open Minds is an] overall fantastic experience that gives you the unique opportunity to learn about the mechanics of the successful presentation and pitch of your product as well as an opportunity to practice in an extremely prestigious and unique environment.”

--2011 participant