The project is done and the product is out. Now it's time to reap the rewards. But for the most part, the only visible indication of a successful development effort is a product that sells.
Increasingly, that no longer need be the case. Competitions that recognize new products, development efforts, engineering organizations, and even individual accomplishments seem to be popping up like mushrooms on a spring morning. Professional societies, government agencies, and commercial manufacturers have all begun promoting public awareness of noteworthy achievements. The trend is particularly true of component and material suppliers. Both camps have lately put more effort into creating contests that boost widespread consciousness of products that use their wares.
Though there are probably more opportunities for recognition than ever before, the main problem may be in finding them. Internet search engines, at least those that we tried, produce nearly useless results when asked to list design competitions. That's why the items listed here were uncovered largely the old fashioned way, by making calls and writing letters.
Events of potential interest to engineers fall into a few general categories. Besides "best product" type affairs hosted by suppliers and professional organizations, purveyors of CAD software frequently laud interesting designs created using their
packages. Also, there are a bevy of competitions for engineering students. These seem to be inspired by the senior design project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that has been profiled on PBS TV. To be found as well are contests for clever computer programmers and those who excel at solving story problems in physics.
Some events give whole development organizations and companies a chance to shine. The Dept. of Commerce Baldrige Award is probably the most widely known in this area, going to firms that convince judges of overall high quality in processes and procedures. Similarly, the Competitive Excellence Award cosponsored by MACHINE DESIGN and SDRC aims to bring fame to development departments that are world class.
Finally, researchers and individual inventors have a chance at the limelight through the auspices of organizations that include Hammacher Schlemmer, the Federal government, and M.I.T. These typically reward achievements that range from innovative research proposals and patented products to developments that have had an undeniably huge impact on the world.
ORGANIZATIONAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS
www.mtechexpo.com ... Peer Awards ... Engineering excellence awards given in conjunction with the IMET trade show, which takes place in November.
www.quality.nist.gov ... Baldrige National Quality Award ... DoC's Baldrige Award recognizes companies with outstanding business practices.
www.sdrc.com/nav/software-services/ce-award/ ... Competitive Excellence in Product Development ... Honors manufacturers demonstrating excellence in product design and development. Names finalists monthly with a top winner selected at the end of the competition.
www.industryweek.com/conferences/BestPlants/default.asp... Best Plants Awards ... Industry Week Magazine annually recognizes the best-managed industrial plants. This year's award ceremony takes place in May.
CONTESTS FOR RESEARCHERS AND INVENTORS
www.hammacher.com/ ... Hammacher-Schlemmer invention contest ... The retailer annually makes cash awards to inventors of patented consumer products and displays the winners in its New York City store. Entries are generally accepted until sometime in May, with winners named in September. Entry blanks aren't always on the site, so check back often.
web.mit.edu/invent/www/GenInfo.html ... Lemelson-MIT Prize ... The Grand Daddy of prizes for inventors winner gets $500,000. But if you have to ask how to enter, you probably aren't eligible. Candidates are selected by prize board nominators and must hold two or more patents, at least one of which has had a significant impact on society.
www.nsf.gov/pubs/1999/pecase99/pecase99.htm#one ... Early Career awards ... Given by various government agencies to researchers and faculty who are in the early part of their careers. Generally awarded based on research proposals that are considered innovative and otherwise noteworthy.
NEW PRODUCT AND DESIGN CONTESTS
www.autodesk.com/solution/mech/contest/i ndex.htm ... AutoCAD Mechanical Contest ... Winning entry designed using AutoCAD Mechanical or Genius 14 software gets $1,000.
www.mentorg.com./awards/ ... PCB Technology Leadership Awards ... PCBs designed using Mentor Graphics products qualify and are judged on design challenges met and innovative use of Mentor software.
www.rotomolding.org/1998achieve.htm ... Rotational molding achievement awards ... Open to members of the Association of Rotational Molders. Awards are generally in October, with entry deadlines several months prior.
www.mpif.org ... Powder Metallurgy Design Competition ... Annual competition to recognize outstanding P/M parts, conducted by the Metal Powder Industries Federation.
www.diecasting.org/ddc/ddcsecp1.htm#97 ContestSummary ... Die Cast Product Awards ... North American Die Casting Association's annual competition recognizes outstanding examples of die casting state-of-the-art.
www.aluminum.org/default3.cfm/31/103/0... International Aluminum Extrusion Design competition ... The Aluminum Association sponsors this contest every two years. Recognizes products that innovatively employ aluminum extrusions.
www.gespectrum.com/inet/vdc/edison/rule s.html ... GE Lighting Edison Awards ... Open to developers who have made significant use of GE lamps in a project.
www.cfa-hq.org/acewinners.htm ... Composites Fabricators Association ACE Awards ... Recognizes new products and processes in categories such as open molded parts, color, process innovation, corrosion, creativity, and so forth.
www.plasticparts.org ... Structural plastics design competition ... Promotes development and application of structural plastics technology and recognizes molders, designers, toolmakers, and end-users for design excellence.
www.idsa.org/whatsnew/idea2000/idea2000 _f.htm ... Industrial Design Excellence Awards ... Sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society, this annual competition honors products featuring innovative form, use features and interactive qualities.
www.dupont.com/finishes/na/contest.html... DuPont Top Gun Awards Contest ... Recognizes the best use of DuPont finishes on a motorized passenger vehicle.
www.dupont.com/teflon/plunkett ... DuPont Plunkett Awards ... Recognizes developers using DuPont fluoropolymer products in innovative ways.
www.caenet.com/ ... CAD graphics ... Images created via software for an engineering project are eligible for CAE Magazine's cover image contest. Deadline is usually sometime in September.
www.ugsolutions.com/publications/calendar_2000/ ... Unigraphics calendar contest ... Images created with UG CAD software are eligible.
www.solidworks.com/swdocs/Gallery/html/ F99contest_promo.cfm ... Solid Gallery Design Contest ... Designs created with SolidWorks CAD software are selected based on technical and aesthetic merit.
www.rdmag.com/rd100/100award.htm ... R&D 100 Awards ... Given by R&D Magazine to "the 100 most technologically significant new products and processes of the year."
www.mdeawards.com ... Medical Design Excellence Awards ... Recognizes medical products for outstanding aesthetics, form, technology, and design. Given in conjunction with the Medical Design & Manufacturing East conference in June.
STUDENT, PHYSICS, AND PROGRAMMING CONTESTS
www.engr.colostate.edu/~dga/competitions.html ... Student ME contests ... Compiled by ASME International
www.phoenix.net/~saint/contests/contests.html ... Computer programming contests ... Lots of artificial intelligence-oriented competitions, but covers a wide range of areas from solitaire optimizations to robot wars to race car driving simulations. Many of these are oriented toward students, but several are open to the programming public.
swhite.me.washington.edu/~me570/ecsel/ResGuide/TABLES.form.ht ml... ... Competition Resource Guide ... Contains information on competitions conducted by professional engineering societies, corporations, and government agencies. Most, however, are aimed at students.
www.usfirst.org/news/990903.html ... Student robot competition ... FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that, among other things, holds an annual robot competition.
www.ptdesign.com... Fun With Fundamentals ... Home page for PTDesign Magazine. Solve basic math and physics story problems to get a chance at winning software or other merchandise.