Interdisciplinary design challenge “CRUNCH” kicks off

To mark the opening of USC Annenberg’s new Innovation Lab, organizers are kicking off a design competition that aims to recruit and showcase the university’s best student-led, collaborative innovations. Sweetening the deal is a $25,000 purse, to be distributed among the finalists.

The CRUNCH contest is looking for “socio-cultural/digital solutions to the world’s problems,” said Erin Reilly, creative director of the new Annenberg Innovation Lab and architect of the competition.

“The power of innovation is in your hands and our economic climate screams for us to re-think the models of our environment, daily life, social relations, entertainment, and business. We’re looking for out-of-the-box thinkers,” Reilly said in a pitch to about 60 USC students, faculty and staff who gathered at USC Annenberg last week to hear more about the lab and the contest.

Organizers are also looking for students outside Annenberg to step into the mix, Reilly said. The contest welcomes interdisciplinary team members who will “pool their knowledge toward a common goal and foster collective intelligence.”

Step one for entrants is to register an account at the online innovation lab. From there, follow the directions outlined here. The contest is organized into three timelines and matching deadlines: 1) concept 2) paper prototype and 3) alpha test.

The initial deadline, for submitting your concept to the contest, is Oct. 4 at 10 p.m. PST. If you meet the basic criteria of each check-in, then you automatically move on to the next level of the competition. Judging criteria are listed here.

Organizers are even offering mentoring time twice weekly in ASC 103, on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m.

The contest wraps up in April 2011, when 10 finalists will showcase their work to a panel of experts that will give critical feedback. First place wins $5,000; second place wins $2,500 and three honorable mentions win $1,500 each. (In addition, $5,000 will be split among the teams that pass the third contest deadline in March.)

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