We have seen an increase in engineering competitions for high school and collegiate students ranging from concrete canoes [1] to human powered vehicles [2], FIRST Robotics [3] to iGem [4], and hackathons to business plan competitions. Each of these efforts challenges students to develop new ideas, methodologies, technologies, and designs to solve problems. Indeed, on a larger scale, X-Prize competitions foster innovation by getting top inventors to compete against one another to create solution methodologies in specific problem domains (e.g., automotive, space, or genomics).

We have developed the Y-Prize competition that flips the X-Prize structure by challenging students to innovate in the problem space instead of the solution space. In the problem space, students compete to develop the best applications for technological solutions that have been developed in university research laboratories. The three goals of the Y-Prize competition are: a) Expose a wide range of students in and outside engineering to emerging technology and to shine the spotlight on the opportunities in research labs on campus; b) Educate university students on the challenges inherent with technology transfer in research laboratories and engage them in technological innovation; and c) Develop and evaluate a new methodology for innovation based on cutting-edge university research which dramatically increases the number of students engaged in technology transfer.

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