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Create the Future Design Contest

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The 2008 Create the Future Design Contest is now open for entries, with a $20,000 grand prize and other prizes up for grabs. Presented by SolidWorks and NASA Tech Briefs, the annual design contest was started in 2002 by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs to help inspire and reward engineering innovation. It has since attracted more than 5,000 product design concepts from entrepreneurs, engineers, and students throughout the world.

The 2007 competition had nearly 1,000 entries, setting a new record in the contest's history, according to its website. This year's contest is cosponsored by Hewlett-Packard, National Instruments, and COMSOL.

Previous grand prize-winning concepts include an improved fastening system for orthopedic splints and casts; a low-friction gear set for electric vehicles; a new long-lasting light source material for safety applications; a portable, noninvasive joint and bone damage detection device; an integrated motor/fluid pump that reduces size and weight while increasing performance; and a low-cost in-vehicle emergency warning device.

Contestants must complete the official entry form (which can be found at and choose a category for the given entry. The categories for this year's contest are Consumer Products; Machinery, Equipment and Component Technology; Medical Products; Safety and Security; Sustainable Technologies; and Transportation. Contestants must provide a maximum 500-word description of the entry in the form of a technical abstract with a visual illustration, which can be a scanned sketch, a chart, a 2D CAD image, a 3D CAD image, or an eDrawings file.

Entries will be judged on the criteria of innovation, marketability, design communication, manufacturability, and cost-effectiveness. The grand prize winner will take home $20,000, while first prize winners in each category will receive an HP xw4600 Workstation. Five popular vote winners will each receive $100.

''Winning ideas are practical, address a well-defined need, and have strong commercial potential,'' says Joseph Pramberger, publisher of NASA Tech Briefs.

The best entries will clearly demonstrate the problem that the design idea solves, its potential benefits, where it would be applied, its market potential, how it works and would be manufactured, and how it compares to and is an improvement on products currently in the marketplace. Additionally, successful concepts will improve quality of life, prevent or reduce injuries, offer alternative energy solutions, reduce consumption of natural resources, automate menial tasks, and save money and time.

''The successful entries combined creativity, sound reasoning (or actual experimental data), and an underlying passion, presented in a clear and concise manner,'' says a judge from the 2006 contest, according to the contest's website. Contestants are advised to keep their concepts simple, practical, and marketable, but also to be bold, conduct as much research as possible, and make sure the illustrations are high-quality and eye-catching.

''Coming up with a great idea is often the easiest part. Most folks have a creative streak that is overwhelmed by the work required to bring that idea to fruition. Helping them overcome the challenges of honing and developing that idea into an application or marketable product is the best part of this job,'' says the aforementioned 2006 contest judge.

The current contest began July 8th and will end October 17th. Good luck with your designing entry!
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