Invent@SU is comprised of two immersive, six-week invention accelerators for Syracuse University students. The program uses Invention Factory‘s proven model of developing students’ abilities to innovate and communicate. Invent@SU trains undergraduate students to “design, prototype, and pitch” as they develop tangible products.
The program takes place at the Fisher Center in NYC and on the SU campus every summer.
Students learn about design, ideation and intellectual property, then conceive an original invention, prototype the invention, and refine it in response to weekly feedback from diverse audiences of guest evaluators.
In addition to a chance to win cash prizes of $5,000 for best invention and $3,000 for second best invention, students receive:
- A $1,000 stipend
- A $1,000 budget per team for project materials
- Guidance from expert consultants and evaluators
- Access to laser cutters, 3D printers, a machine shop, and professional machinists
- Assistance with a provisional patent application
- Daily lunch, coffee, and snacks
Please note that participants will need to arrange their own housing at both sites.
Past Participant Accomplishments
- 2018 Impact Prize Winners (MedUX, Prioritage)
- 2017 International James Dyson Finalists (Fibrefree)
- 2017 Impact Prize Winners (In-Spire, Fibrefree)
- 2018 SU ACC InVenture Prize Winners (In-Spire)
- 2018 RvD iPrize Winners (In-Spire, Fibrefree)
- 2018 Panasci Business Plan Competition Winners (In-Spire)
- 2018 New York Business Plan Competition Winners (In-Spire, Fibrefree)
Will I apply for a patent?
By the end of the program, you will file a provisional patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A provisional application is nothing more than a detailed description of your invention including drawings. Inventions produced through Invent@SU will be the sole intellectual property of the student inventors. Your provisional application will give you limited protection of your invention for one year from the date the application is filed. If you and your partner wish to commercially exploit your invention and seek an enforceable patent, you should file a non-provisional application within that one-year window.
Who can apply?
All matriculating SU students in good standing may participate in the program. This includes incoming freshman and current seniors who will graduate just before Invent@SU begins this summer.
How do I apply?
Selection for the program is competitive. We select approximately twenty students, for each location, each year, who will participate as ten teams of two. You will find the application form at invent.syr.edu/apply. Applications are accepted until February 28. As applicants will be evaluated on a rolling basis, it is best to apply early. Depending on the applicant pool we may interview some or all applicants.
The online application form asks for your name, college/school, anticipates graduation date, contact information, and up to 500 characters (which may include URL’s to some of your work) to persuade us that you are a good fit. Depending on the pool of applicants we may follow up with Skype interviews.
What kind of invention might I work on?
Check out what students invented last summer on http://invent.syr.edu/2018-inventions/.
You will choose your project (and your partner) during the first week of the program. A critical focus of the selection process is determining that your invention addresses a real need — a consumer need, a societal need, or both. We don’t want you to invent a particular widget for the reason that you can invent that widget – the world may not need it, and therefore may not be willing to pay for it. You will have to convince us that there is a need for your invention before we approve your project.
Another important criterion will be feasibility. We want you to have (or be able to quickly develop) the expertise/skills necessary to complete a working prototype of the invention within the 6-week program. This precludes overly ambitious proposals such as tissue engineering and nanostructures. Other constraints on project selection: no chemical inventions and nothing that would require IRB approval (i.e., involving human subject experimentation).
We are looking for inventions that perform a useful function, not purely ornamental creations that could receive a “design patent.” Your invention must be both “novel” and “non-obvious.” This means that you must be the first to invent your device, and your invention must be, in some sense, non-trivial. Your invention may be an improvement of someone else’s existing invention.
Your invention must have commercial potential (“need”). Your invention must be something tangible – something you can build. You will spend much of your time making, testing and refining a prototype of your invention — and demonstrating it to others. Your invention may involve software, but it cannot consist entirely of software (e.g., a smartphone app).
What if I haven’t invented something before?
You are an SU student! Believe in yourself. We believe in you.
Is this an entrepreneurship program?
No! There will be no writing of business plans, considerations of marketing or seeking venture capital. This is a program in inventing.
What are the deliverables at the end of the program?
You will file a provisional patent application that will be backed up by a prototype that you have developed and tested. SU will pay the filing fee for your provisional application.
You will present your invention to a jury that will include designers, architects, engineers, patent lawyers, consumers, venture capitalists, and others. Your presentation will include a short video that demonstrates your invention. The jury will select the first and second prize winning “best inventions.”
What do I get if I win?
$5,000 for first prize. $3,000 for second prize. To be split by the two team members.
What do I get if I don’t win one of the two prizes?
An exciting summer experience. Pizza/Thai Food/Chipotle. A cool Invent@SU t-shirt. An invention that you may want to bring to market through Kickstarter or with the help of a VC. Perhaps you will enter your invention into a larger competition (e.g., the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize). You will learn just enough about patent law to help you protect any inventions you might develop in the future. You may also greatly improve your communication skills and your prototyping skills. And, you might just get hired by one of the judges or guest evaluators who come to SU looking for talent.
How will the program be structured?
After you are accepted into the program, but before Invent@SU begins, you will be sent a few warm up (“ideation”) exercises by email to get your creative juices flowing. We know that final exams will be approaching, so the exercises will not be very time-consuming. But the exercises are required. They may be solo exercises or we may require that you work with one other admitted student.
Once the program starts, by the end of the first week you will have selected your partner, identified your problem, studied the “prior art” (is your invention new?
Is it (in the patent law sense of the term) obvious?), and you will learn how to use the laser cutter and 3D printers.
By the end of week two, you should have conceptually finished the design of your invention and ordered any required components. You will likely be working on your first prototype.
Weeks two through six will focus on building and refining prototypes, testing your invention, subjecting your prototype to critiques from other members of the program as well as outsiders. Critiques will focus on the need for your invention, whether or not your invention meets that need, and diverse practical considerations (safety, size, weight, and cost). Everything you do must be documented. You will likely be taking photographs, producing short video clips, and perhaps making CAD animations for inclusion in your weekly presentations to “guest evaluators.”
There will be plenty of unstructured time for you to develop and refine your invention.
Who will own my work?
You and your partner will be co-inventors in the eyes of the patent office. While Invent@SU funds will pay the nominal cost of filing your provisional patent application (currently $65), SU does not retain any interest in your invention or any obligation to help you develop it further (e.g., underwrite the cost of filing a non-provisional patent application). If you want to protect your inventor after the provisional application expires (one year from filing) you and your partner should file a full patent application.
When will I get my stipend?
You will receive your stipend shortly after the end of the program provided that you have completed all program requirements on time (attendance, a working prototype, presenting your invention to the judges on ‘judgment day,’ a filed provisional patent application, and in some cases, completion of a video shoot). Development of the professional videos will likely extend into the fall.
Do I have to pay taxes on my stipend?
The IRS says a stipend is reportable income. Of course, depending on a number of factors, you may not owe any taxes in a given year or you may be entitled to a refund.
What ultimately happens to all of the materials my partner and I purchase with
our project budget?
You and your partner will have a budget of up to $1,000 for materials. Anything you purchase from that budget that does not appear in your final prototype will remain the property of Syracuse University. You are free to retain your final prototype, once we have completed all photography and videography required for promoting the Invention Factory program.
Must I work with a partner?
Yes, unless we accept an odd number of students into the program. If you want to work with a friend, the two of you should apply separately and there is no guarantee that we will accept both of you. Teams will form by the end of the first week of the program.
What if I don’t find a partner / don’t like my partner / my partner quits halfway
through the program?
Yes, we can expect some of these issues to arise, just as they do in the “real world.” We will deal with such problems as they arise.
Can I work in a group of 3?
Is this program only open to students in engineering and industrial design students?
No! The program is open to all current Syracuse University undergraduate students.
Will there be classes?
Yes, there will be a few single session classes in things like using a laser cutter, how to research prior art, writing a patent application. They will be informally structured, with no tests or grades. Mostly this program is about giving you the support and resources to develop an invention without distractions.
Can I get academic credit for participating?
Can I continue a project that I am already working on?
During Invent@SU can I also… (work at a job/take a course/participate in an externship)?
No. Not even if the work/course/etc. takes place before or after the ‘official’ program hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Not if the job/course/etc. overlaps with the six-week program.
Do I have to sign a photo/video release to participate in Invent@SU?
Yes. Videos and still images of participants, their inventions and their presentations help to promote SU and the Invent@SU program. We require that participants sign the standard SU photo/video release and participate in the making of videos. You will be provided with a copy of the release to review and sign if you are offered admission into the program.
Do I really need to be there from 11 to 5 every weekday?
Yes. And as discussed in the answer to the very first question in this FAQ, there will be one late night per week in weeks two through five.
I have to leave a week early, or mid-day each Thursday. Is that okay?
What will I be judged on?
Identifying a need, meeting that need, and meeting the need practically. While there may be a need for an improved can opener, it probably shouldn’t weigh 100 lbs., cost $1000 or emit gamma rays.
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