USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Where can I submit my application and what is the deadline?

We are not currently accepting applications as the Stevens Showcase, unfortunately, has been canceled for the 2020-2021 academic year due to the ongoing pandemic. We hope to return in Fall 2021 or when it is safe to hold in-person events again on campus. We will provide updates on our website and social media, and in email updates to applicants.

Where and when will the event be?

The next USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase will take place in the 2021-2022 academic year (date to be determined).

COVID-19 Update: For the most up-to-the minute information on the pandemic, please visit USC’s official Coronavirus COVID-19 webpage.

Who is eligible to apply for the Student Innovator Showcase?

All current USC undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students are eligible to apply for the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. Applicants can be of any major, and projects can be of any academic discipline.

You may have project team members who are not current students of USC, but your team leader must be actively enrolled as a USC student for the entire Fall 2020 semester and have an active USC student ID number.

Please note that projects which have previously been accepted to participate in past USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcases are not eligible.

Why should I participate?

  • From pre-event pitch coaching to presenting your business idea or invention at the actual event, participants selected for the Showcase gain valuable first-hand entrepreneurial experience and many end up developing their ideas further into successful businesses.
  • All participating teams will receive written and verbal feedback from our panel of judges, who are innovation experts at USC and from greater Los Angeles, including USC staff and faculty, as well as entrepreneurs and investors from the local business community.
  • The top scoring, most innovative teams will win thousands of dollars in cash prizes to support their startups or get their businesses off the ground. Last year at the 2019 USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase, 5 winning teams were awarded $27,500 in USC-sponsored cash awards + in-kind awards valued at over $30,000 total.

What is the Stevens Center looking for in the applications?

We are looking for projects with unique ideas that showcase the entrepreneurial and innovative talents of the USC student community in ALL disciplines, including the arts, science and technology, medicine, social welfare, etc. We define innovation as the process of translating new ideas into tangible societal impact.

The judging criteria can be summarized as follows:

  • Ideas – Originality and Creativity: Does something like this already exist? Is it a creative solution to a common problem?
  • Feasibility and Strategy: Is the project viable? Is it scalable and sustainable?
  • Market Potential and Impact: What market need does this fulfill and how well do you know your market? Does your solution solve a global problem with a tangible product, service or organizational model?
  • Wow Factor: Are you showing risk taking? Will this excite us? Can I buy stock or get involved?
  • Quality and Presentation: how thoroughly have you put together your application package and are you able to communicate it effectively to potential investors?

What should I include in my application?

In addition to completing the application questions, extra documentation should be included with your application. Marketing materials, prototype images or a business plan (although a formal business plan is not required) will make your work appear more developed and help reviewers better visualize how your project can have a societal impact. Also, all applicants must submit a 3-minute video (YouTube link) to verbally pitch their project. The video can be as sophisticated as a Kickstarter video, but it can also be as simple as a person talking to the camera and communicating clearly and concisely about the project.

When will I be notified if I am accepted into the Student Innovator Showcase and what happens next?

Please note the following information will be updated after we determine our new Spring 2021 event date.

All teams will receive an acceptance or regrets notification via email approximately 2-3 weeks prior to the Showcase date. Please be prepared to be at the Showcase during the entire event from 9AM to 3PM (with setup starting at 8AM). You will have a few weeks to prepare for the Showcase, such as refining your verbal pitch, business plan, and marketing materials including models or prototypes that you will display at the event. Also, teams accepted to compete in the Showcase will be invited to a mandatory pitch and presentation training workshop, approximately one week prior to the Showcase date. The class will be provided by instructors from the USC Marshall School of Business and USC Entrepreneur Club (E Club) for all teams selected for the Showcase. The training session date will be announced via email to accepted teams.

Is it free to attend or apply?

Yes! We have never charged a fee to apply for our competition, as the cash prizes are generously sponsored by the USC community. The event is free to attend and open to the public, so we encourage you to invite friends and family.

What happens at the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase?

Day of Event

8AM-9AM: Teams set up their display tables
9AM-11AM: Student Innovator Showcase (24 teams)
11AM-12PM: Lunch provided to teams
12PM-12:45PM: Keynote Speaker (TBA)
12:45PM-2:30PM: Finalists announced & Finalist Fast Pitch Round (10 teams)
2:30PM-3PM: Announcement of Winners and Awards Ceremony

Each team selected for the Showcase will be provided one 6-foot table and one easel to display their projects at the Showcase. Posters and/or a physical display (including prototypes) are encouraged. The provided easel best accommodates a 24×36-inch poster mounted on foam board. Additional materials such as tabletop sign displays, laptops, or TV monitors are the responsibility of the team. Each table will have access to an electrical outlet.

From 9AM to 11AM, teams will spend the morning speaking to judges and Trojan Family Weekend attendees as they visit their tables. Each team of judges will have a scheduled 10-minute timeslot with each team and will be gathering information to assess and score the teams. After lunch and the keynote speech, the ten finalist teams will be advanced to the Fast Pitch round in the afternoon. Lunch will be provided for all participants.

Student teams chosen as one of 10 finalist teams can designate one speaker to deliver the pitch.


How will the finalist “Fast Pitch” round work?

The ten finalist teams will be announced one at a time and then invited to the stage to deliver their 3-minute fast pitch. It is important for all teams to stay during the fast pitch afternoon round should their team name be announced as a finalist.

Each finalist team will get 3 minutes at the podium with a microphone to speak about their project before an audience and the judges. No other audio/visual aides will be used; however a hand-held prop is allowed. Pitch speeches should describe projects in a brief yet engaging fashion. The following information should be included:

  • A quick overview of the project.
  • Why is the project innovative?
  • What is the project’s potential for societal impact?

We recommend teams develop their 3-minute pitch before the Pitch and Presentation Training Workshop, and then further prepare their pitch for the Showcase in case they are selected as a finalist. The goal of the Fast Pitch Round is to provide another medium to present and sell the idea, in addition to what was already displayed at the Showcase, so it’s great to bring something new that hasn’t already been shown. The panel of judges will select the overall competition winners following the Fast Pitch.

What happens after the finalist presentations (Fast Pitch round)?

After all finalists have completed their fast pitch speeches, there will be a short 10-minute break followed by an awards ceremony when the winners will be announced and presented with their awards.

If I can’t be there the day of the Showcase, can someone stand in my place?

Yes. If you are working alone and have a classmate or friend that can represent your project it is fine. If you are working in a team, not all team members have to be present.

Can I be part of two different projects/presentations?

Yes. The USC Stevens Center for Innovation does not want to hinder or limit your innovation process. If both of your projects are selected to be in the Showcase, it is up to you as to how you want to divide your time and present both ideas.

What should I know about my public presentation?

The Showcase is a public forum; therefore, any discussion you have or any information you display will be considered a public disclosure. This means you should consider removing all confidential information out of the presentation if you are seeking patent protection and have not yet filed a patent application.

If you want to protect patent rights while still publishing information about your invention, it is best to focus on a results-oriented description and not a description of how those results are obtained. It is important not to describe how to make or reproduce the invention.

While we are encouraging full and creative presentations, please understand that the public disclosure of your invention or the public display of a product or prototype that embodies your invention may prevent you from patenting the disclosed embodiments of your invention at any time in a foreign country or beyond one year from public disclosure or display in the United States.

We will not ask you to disclose any information about your projects that you are not comfortable with disclosing. There will be a program published for the Showcase for which you are asked to write a synopsis of your presentation. After the Showcase it will be put on the USC Stevens Center for Innovation’s website in digital form. If you do not wish to have your synopsis put on the website, please let us know and we will adjust the information and/or take it down as you request. If you have any questions about this, please contact us at

Do I still own my own invention if I participate?

Yes. There is no requirement to transfer IP, or intellectual property, for this competition. The USC Stevens Center for Innovation does not and will not have ownership of your invention if you apply for and/or participate in the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase.

Still have questions?

Email us at