Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Create the Future Design Contest: My Press Release

I am very pleased to be able to make my own press release for a project I've worked on the last few months, the NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future Design Contest website. The contest this year is co-sponsored by SolidWorks, a great company and my current client. The contest is open to all inventors regardless of their software choice, however!
Design Contest Graphic

Grand Prize is $20,000, and there are significant other prizes in the prize list, too. Plus, a great t-shirt if you enter with a qualified entry. (The contest image was acquired--legally--from the patently absurd inventions archive.)

The Create the Future design contest has been running for at least 5 years now. They regularly receive around 1000 entries. In previous years, the folks at NASA Tech Briefs handled this contest entirely on paper, which was a lot of work for them. There was no website featuring the entries, so the entrants had no idea what their competition was, and the public didn't get to play at all.

SolidWorks (and I) wanted to make the fun more visible and reduce the work for the NTB editorial team. So we've dragged the contest into, okay, about the year 2004 -- the site is pretty basic, was done on a shoestring dime, and next year will be a lot fancier and more dynamic. But I'm still very pleased at what we've done.

We wanted to help people who enter have a better shot at winning, too -- I emailed all the past year's judges and asked them what advice they had for entrants, and we got excellent responses. Anyone considering entering should definitely read the Tips page.

I was particularly struck by how important clear communication is in creating a good entry. Some example quotes:

  • One judge recommends: “Write at least 4 drafts of your presentation and have 2 or 3 people of various levels of understanding review it. This will provide for a presentation suited for the diverse backgrounds of the judges.”
  • "I look for a concise description of the design and ask, ‘Have I seen this before?’ and ‘Do I think this is useful?’ If it passes those tests, it makes it to the ‘for further review’ pile. “Then, I’ll look again at the entries I initially discarded and ask if they are trying to take something similar and existing to a new level. If the answer is ‘yes’ and the idea is useful, it goes on the final’ pile.”
  • “For models of good technical presentations, check out Science, Nature and other well-known technical periodicals. You’ll see a good cross-section of abstracts and structured papers. The contest emphasizes content, not structure—but in a professional setting, structure is important."
The CAD world has a tendency to think it's all about the beautiful image, but the text is enormously important in this contest.

Although the main prizes are awarded by the NASA Tech Briefs' invited judges panel, there are 10 prizes for the entries that most captured the public eye. You can help by coming to view them yourself, and posting links to the entries you particularly like. While you're looking around, try finding the guy who has a real beef with NASA (whoa), the personal cooling system, the strangely redundant (IMO) salt and pepper shaker. You may not be surprised by the entry with the current top page views -- apart from being a very cool idea, it's extremely well-written, too.

Help us advertise the contest and the best entries! And consider entering yourself. There's still plenty of time: the contest closes for entries in October. Even if you're afraid you're not up to NASA Tech Brief's judging panel, you might capture the public eye and get blogged and get famous (and get $250 too).

(After the next round of contest entry validations, when we've got more visible on the site, I'll post some links to my own favorite entries to help them out on their page views.)


Anonymous said...


I believe that the entry that you talked about as currently getting the top page views is the idea for vehicle blind spot detection.

I am an engineer for a very large corporation with a huge engineering/design network. I have been telling my colleagues about the NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future Design Contest and its website. There appears to be a lot of interest here and many discussions of possible inventions to add to the contest.

You have done such a great job of explaining the contest (better than I have been doing) that from now on I will refer my colleagues to your blog. From there they can link to the Create the Future Design Contest website as they please. You may be seeing a lot more entries soon.


Lynn said...

Thanks, Bill. We would really like to see a lot more entries, especially from engineers. We're assuming a lot will come in close to the deadline -- that's what happened in previous years -- but I want time to browse around and get their page views up :-)

Definitely encourage people!

Anonymous said...

How are the entries policed concerning the rules? I know that the contest folks are very very busy. But golly gee, a simple Google search shows entries that have won previous awards and have been shown to the public.

Lynn said...

Hello Anonymous,
This is a good question -- I don't believe the entries are currently being checked by hand for previous exposure, but I'll pass this on to the NTB staff as a suggestion for the pre-judging review phase. They may plan to do that anyway. If you have specific ones in mind, please drop the admin staff a note on the Contest Site and they'll follow up.