News Releases
Annual NCIIA Student Invention Showcase Returns to Smithsonian
March 24, 2011

Washington—March 24, 2011—The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) will host its annual Open Minds showcase of student innovation (formerly March Madness for the Mind) in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH). The public event, held in partnership with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, is an opportunity for the nation’s top graduate and undergraduate students to unveil their inventions, many for the first time. Fifteen teams and emerging start-ups, all funded or mentored by the NCIIA, will display their state-of-the-art innovations on the first floor of the museum.

“During his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us as a nation to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. Our goal at the NCIIA,” said Phil Weilerstein, Executive Director of the NCIIA, “is to teach students to do just that, and in the process, to create technology solutions that can both achieve commercial success and improve lives globally, positively impacting the economy and boosting creativity within the U.S.”

The Ducha Halo shower system

The NCIIA works with many of the nation’s leading universities and colleges to help student teams successfully grow their innovative technologies, from concept to commercialization. Student prototypes—solutions for alternative energy, bottom-of-the-pyramid technology, medical devices, safety, transport and wireless technology—that will be on display at this year’s event include:

  • An antenatal screening kit designed to lower maternal mortality worldwide; make health care available to expectant mothers; and bring business to communities in rural areas (Johns Hopkins University).
  • Ducha Halo, an affordable, pressurized shower system designed for Chile’s poorest areas that has quickly spread beyond its intended market, reducing the spread of disease in developing regions (Art Center College of Design).
  • The GlucoReader™, a painless, Bluetooth-enabled continuous glucose monitoring system designed by mobiLIFE, Inc. to provide quick and accurate blood sugar readings for patients suffering from diabetes (Boston University).
  • Rickshaw Bank’s improved and affordable cycle rickshaw carts that can eventually be bought by their operators rather than rented (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Several of the teams attending Open Minds will share their prototypes with young museum visitors in the Spark!Lab exhibit, at 10:30 a.m.; 11:15 a.m.; 12:30 p.m.; and 1:15 p.m.

For the second year in a row, Inventors Digest, the nation’s longest-running publication for the inventing culture, will host a video competition in partnership with Intellectual Ventures and the NCIIA. The top three teams were selected by online voters, and a panel of judges—including Robert Lemelson from The Lemelson Foundation; Adriane Brown from Intellectual Ventures; John Calvert from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Gene Quinn from IPWatchdog; and Mike Drummond from Inventors Digest—ranked the finalists. Videos will be shown, and the winners announced at noon in the Spark!Lab exhibit.

Open Minds concludes NCIIA’s 15th Annual Meeting, Open, held at The Westin Alexandria in Alexandria, Virginia on March 24 and 25. The conference brings the country’s leading engineering, science and business faculty and students together for three days of workshops, events and speakers. This year, Dr. Kristina Johnson, former undersecretary of Energy in the Obama Administration, will deliver the conference keynote address on March 24, and Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership, will address meeting attendees the morning of March 25.

About the NCIIA

The NCIIA achieves positive and sustainable social and environmental impact through technological innovation by providing end-to-end service grants, mentoring and other experiential resources to higher education institutions. With support from The Lemelson Foundation, the National Science Foundation and a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from all over the United States, the NCIIA engages more than 5,000 student entrepreneurs each year, leveraging their respective campuses as working laboratories and incubators for businesses and ultimately helping them to bring their concepts to commercialization.

Approximately 100 patent applications have resulted from projects supported by NCIIA grants, which have also helped create more than 100 new businesses. These companies manufacture and sell products in many industries—alternative energy, bottom-of-the-pyramid technology, medical devices, safety, transport and wireless technology. For more information, please visit

About the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Lemelson Center logoThe Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit