Minority Business Development Agency

Tougaloo College Seal logoHBCU STEMpreneur ChallengeTougaloo College Seal logo

The STEM Entrepreneurship Initiative (HBCU STEMpreneur), is a session where HBCU students will pitch their proposed science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) based invention, solution or business to an audience of potential customers. The pitch session will be the culmination of a process designed to select the top five products or service ideas for potential customer presentation. All ideas will be submitted to entrepreneurs for review, analysis and grading. The top five products, solutions or services ideas will be pitched to potential customers, who will vote for the product, solution or service idea with the greatest probability for success. The winners of the pitch session will receive $5,000 in cash prizes and a six-month coaching session from a successful entrepreneur in the product or service idea's business line. HBCU STEMpreneur will be open to all HBCU students.

Students may participate in the challenge individually or in a three to five-member team to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to develop an innovative product or solution to solve real world problems and compete for cash awards.

What the Challenge Does

  • Provides students opportunities to strengthen their STEM capacity by applying STEM thinking to real world problems.
  • Introduces students to entrepreneurs who can assist with their innovative interests.
  • Relates classroom learning to real world problems.
  • Releases new ideas into the marketplace.

Stage I - Invention

Assemble your Challenge Team. Each team should consist of a faculty mentor, 3-5 students and an industry partner, if possible. Develop breakthrough ideas. All STEM areas are welcome.
Your team is required to:

  • Assess the innovation's potential impact (such as on the economy, national security, global competitiveness, etc.)
  • Determine the scientific and market feasibility, and societal relevance of the project
  • Identify any potential challenges (scientific, market or societal) and ways to work through them.
  • Share ideas for how the innovation would be implemented in a real-world scenario. Start thinking of yourselves as entrepreneurs with a new invention you want to bring to the marketplace.
  • Enter the solution in the Challenge by submitting a written entry that will be vetted by STEM innovation experts.

Stage II - Transformation

Finalist teams will present their inventions and solutions to a panel of potential consumers at an Innovation summit at Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi on April 29, 2019.

The top five teams will win cash awards. Teams are judged by their interaction and display at the Innovation Summit, and on their final presentation and pitch of ideas at the Awards reception.

Stage III – Pitch

Each of the five finalists will be given five minutes to pitch their invention, idea, solution or product. Potential consumers will vote following the final pitch and the winners will be announced immediately following voting.

Eligibility and Process

  1. Only HBCU Students are eligible to participate in the Challenge. Teams of 3-5 students join forces with a faculty mentor and industry partner if possible, to develop a breakthrough idea that addresses a real-world problem.
  2. Propose the idea to Tougaloo College and Tougaloo College Research and Development Foundation via researchdev@tougaloo.edu on or before April 1, 2019.
  3. Prepare a description of the solution following the outline below, with a limit of 1,500 words to describe the problem, solution and value.


In a clear and succinct statement, define the problem with background information including population impacted, how long this problem has been an issue, why this problem should be eliminated and other factors.


Describe your solution highlighting the STEM principals that support the solution. Explain why the solution is feasible along with the challenges to making the solution commercially viable.


Explain how the value of your solution will be measured, if implemented. How will the solution benefit society or the subpopulation of society? Is the solution scientifically and financially practical?

In addition to the idea description described above, each team should prepare and present a 500-word summary for layperson consumption. The summary should state the project, show why it is important and the impact it will have on the public or a specific population.

Proposal Reviews

All entries and team members will be screened for compliance with the rules and eligibility requirements. Each entry will then be evaluated anonymously based on the judging criteria below and will be assigned a numerical score by each judge. Judges will equally weigh these criteria when scoring the entries:

Innovation and Impact

An assessment of the proposed solution's use of science to address the problem, potential impact (potential to be transformative in the areas of economy, national security, global competitiveness, new knowledge, quality of life, education, etc.), and uniqueness (how the proposed solution differs from existing efforts in its use of novel concepts, methods and/or instrumentation).


An assessment of the likelihood that the solution will work as presented based on scientific laws and theories (can the innovation be replicated) and relevant economic, political and social issues, etc. Evaluation of the team's recognition of potential barriers and suggestions for ways in which these barriers may be surmounted.

Clarity of Communication

An assessment of the team's adherence to the entry guidelines.
Each Awardee team will have 5 minutes to present their solution to potential customers. For the cash awards, teams will be judged on: (1) ability to describe the solution and the details of its design and inspiration; (2) clarity of description of how it addresses a public challenge; (3) success of demonstration; and (4) plan for how it could be commercialized.

Applicants submitting a solution will be notified on or about April 5, 2019 as to whether they will receive an award and be invited to the Pitch stage.

What You Get - Finalist Teams:

  • Meet and interact with entrepreneurs and experts in business planning, stakeholder engagement, communication and marketplace dynamics.
  • Gain life-changing business acumen and communication skills.
  • Network with other HBCU innovators, make new friends and share ideas.
  • Build students' resumes.
  • Gain recognition for faculty mentors and their college.
  • Compete for cash awards (for students and faculty mentors) in a friendly, yet competitive, environment.

What You Win:

  • A plaque for all finalist schools.
  • A $500 honorarium for all finalist faculty mentors.
  • Cash awards to the teams (students only):
    • First place: $2,000
    • Second place: $1,500
    • Third place: $750
    • Fourth Place: $500
    • Fifth Place: $250