Student Category

For high school and university student-only teams that wish to focus on learning and applying biomimicry.

The design brief for both the Student and Open categories are the same. Not sure which category to enter? Visit Essential Info and read about the challenge scope, requirements, and judging criteria below.

Challenge Scope

  • The Student category is for high school and university student-only teams that wish to focus on learning and applying biomimicry, rather than advancing their idea beyond the design concept phase. Entries in this category are not expected to show as high a degree of resolution and feasibility as entries in the Open category, and are therefore not eligible to advance to the Prototype round of competition.
  • The entry must involve a technology, product, service, or process that addresses a challenge related to improving the food system.
  • The entry must show a clear connection between a biological mechanism, process, pattern, or system, and the technological solution submitted; i.e., the solution must emulate a natural model(s).
  • Entries must describe an entirely new solution and represent a given team's unique work and intellectual property.

Submission Requirements

All entries must be submitted by a team manager via our online entry form, accessed via the team's page at We strongly recommend that you review the judging criteria carefully before submitting your entry. Entries from individuals and incomplete submissions will not be considered.

In order to complete your submission, you must provide the following:

  • Project title
  • A brief overview of your design concept (300 words maximum)
  • A video pitch (3 minutes maximum). The video should provide an overview of your design, highlight your design process, convey key discoveries or insights, and ultimately convince the judges that your idea has merit. The video must be uploaded to Vimeo and publicly available for view.
  • A photograph, rendering, or illustration, representing your design concept (JPG format). This will be the primary image used to identify your project on our website or in related media.
  • Team photo (JPG format). The team photo will be used in our gallery of submissions.
  • Project document (12 pages maximum, PDF format, landscape or portrait). The document should include:
    • A description of your scoping process
    • A description or depiction of your biological inspiration process
    • A discussion or depiction of how nature's unifying patterns were considered and applied to the design, including evidence of how this solution represents significant environmental or social wins.
    • The business case for your proposed solution. A discussion of value proposition and target customer segments is required; a Business Model Canvas is optional.
    • A description of the current limitations of your design and a description of next steps, obstacles to be overcome for the design to be implemented, and unknown factors to be considered (e.g. materials needed, engineering tests required, etc.)
    • An indication of your team dynamics and the team's ability to succeed.
    • A list of all references and sources, including experts consulted.
  • OPTIONAL - At the end of your submission, please include up to six scanned pages of hand-drawn or computer modeling sketches, if applicable, illustrating your development process. Sketches showing how teams distilled appropriate design strategies from biological strategies are particularly useful.

Judging Criteria

Submissions will be judged on the following six criteria. The bullets below each criterion are meant to serve only as a guide to the kinds of details that will help the judges evaluate your submission rather than a prescriptive list of questions that each team must answer.

Context and Relevance (25%)

  • How well do you define your specific challenge/problem?
  • How well do you understand the context, design criteria, and constraints of the challenge you decided to work on?
  • What are the benefits/impacts that your design concept has on your specific challenge/problem?

Biomimicry Process (25%)

  • How well do you demonstrate and document an understanding of function and biological strategies?
  • Did you effectively identify relevant biological strategies applicable to your design concept?
    • Did you identify multiple biological strategies before identifying the most relevant strategies for emulation? How did you determine and prioritize the strategies most relevant to your design?
    • Did you identify any deep/overarching patterns among the strategies you identified?
  • How well do you show a clear connection between a biological mechanism, process, pattern, or system, and how the design concept submitted emulates that natural model or models?
  • Does the design concept emulate a natural model(s) in more than a superficial way? Is it a unique or deep application of biomimicry?

Feasibility (10%)

  • Does your design concept represent a promising technology and/or solution? (i.e. show evidence of preliminary market understanding or research)
  • Have you investigated potential prototype concepts, talked to appropriate stakeholders, or in any way assessed or documented the likely feasibility of your design concept?
  • Have you identified the next two steps it would have to take in order to move your design forward? I.e., towards the prototyping phase?

Social and Environmental benefits (20%)

  • Will adoption of your design lead to significant social, cultural, and/or environmental wins?
    • E.g., does your design concept improve accessibility for a percentage of the population; help low income populations meet basic needs; address product lifecycle effects on the environment; address issues of toxicity, reduced material usage, and waste reduction; etc.
  • How well do you understand and address the underlying sustainability problems you aim to solve?
    • Have you articulated and defined any sustainability problems?
    • Have you provided more than shallow evidence of how your design concept will address sustainability concerns?
  • How have you applied nature's unifying patterns in your design?

Communication and Presentation (10%)

  • Do your submission materials (e.g. design concept, video, etc.) provide a clear overall description of the biomimicry process?
  • Do your submission materials describe/communicate well your proposed design concept?
    • What is your value proposition?
  • Do you support your design arguments with relevant, properly attributed data/information to enhance your credibility?
  • Are your visual materials (e.g. design concept sketch rendering and video) informative, and clear in how they describe your design concept?

Team (10%)

  • Is the team motivated to continue working on this solution?
  • Is the team interdisciplinary and does it have the right skills and depth to move the design beyond the concept phase?
  • Do you have the key people (team members, advisors) and core capabilities (interdisciplinary backgrounds/expertises) you need to move on to the next phase of the competition? If not, are you seeking outside assistance to fill those gaps in expertise?
  • Have you sought out experts and mentors as needed?

Judging Process

More details on the judging process will be available soon.


The following prizes will be awarded in the Student Category:

First Prize - $5,000

Second Prize - $3,000

Third Prize - $1,500

Prizes will be distributed to team leaders. Awardees may receive the funds by US check or via a PayPal account.