The region’s version of “Shark Tank” for middle and high school students, the CNY Innovation Challenge aims to spark ideas for groundbreaking products or services and to foster entrepreneurship.
The CNY Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for students to develop unique products or services, learn about entrepreneurship, and present their ideas to industry professionals!
This “Shark Tank” style pitch competition is in collaboration with the Maker Faire Syracuse; Le Moyne College’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, & Creativity; MACNY; Partners for Education & Business; and The Technology Alliance of Central New York (TACNY).
The Challenge is open to students in grades 6-12. Students will present their pitches at the Maker Faire Syracuse at Le Moyne College on Saturday, April 1. There will be winners in two categories: high school (grades 9-12) and middle school (grades 6-8). Teams need to have a minimum of two students and a maximum of four. There will be cash prizes awarded to the top teams in each age category. Each member of the winning high school team will win a $5,000 scholarship to Le Moyne College.Get Started
Develop a solution to a problem by whatever may inspire you.
Talking to potential customers and learning about others’ perspectives can provide valuable information. In addition to designing and developing an idea, you will need to have a customer marketing plan and a 1–5-minute pitch to “sell” your concept. Teams should also research existing and related products that serve potential customers, as they would be competing with your idea. Cite resources in your presentation as appropriate
Some topic areas may include:
Service providers. Talk to someone who provides a service to your family or friends and ask what problems they have at their work. These individuals could include your postal worker, hairdresser, Uber driver, teacher, etc.
Shopping. Go to a grocery store or other retailer and observe shoppers. Notice what they are buying, how they make decisions, how they seek help from employees. Use observations to create a new product or help customers’ retail experience.
Community. Talk to neighbors or leaders in your community. Ask them what challenges they see and create a solution.
Teams: The Challenge is open to CNY students in grades 6-12. Teams need to have a minimum of two students and a maximum of four. If a team has students from different grades, they will be entered in the category of the oldest student. Team members can be from different schools.
Teams need to register online by March 3, 2023.
Mentors: Teams should select an adult mentor who will check in throughout the process to receive assistance.
Winners: Winners will be announced at the Maker Faire Syracuse at Le Moyne College on April 1, 2023. There will be winners in the high school category (grades 9-12) and middle school (grades 6-8). Winning teams will receive a check a few weeks after the competition made out to the winners.
Independent judges from the business community will be evaluating teams based on the following criteria:
5-25 pts – Originality/creativity of idea
5-25 pts – Market considerations
5-25 pts – Design worthiness
5-25 pts – Documenting intellectual property
5-25 pts – Advertisement & packaging
5-25 pts – Presentation
Participants can earn 30-150 potential points.
Are you a CNY educator? Talk to your students about this exciting opportunity! Click here to download a CNY Innovation Challenge flyer to share with your students. You can also help students form a team of 2-4 members. Students can find an adult mentor to guide their team, whether it is you or someone else.
Student teams can register by completing an online form here. One form is required per team.
Review the rules above. A downloadable copy can be found here.
The Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, & Creativity is available to help teams with the entire CNY Innovation Challenge Process. They have 3-D printers, prototyping resources, and a MakerSpace, where students can develop their product. They can also help with developing a pitch. Please email [email protected], and we will connect you with the Keenan Center.
It is helpful to understand the role of intellectual property when creating your own product/service and researching potential market competition. The Keenan Center is available to support students that want to further develop their product as intellectual property
Check out these websites for more information.
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Students are not required to provide a prototype. However, students should provide visuals to support their pitch. This can include a poster, PowerPoint presentation, drawings, etc. Teams are encouraged to connect with the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, & Creativity for access to 3-D printers, woodshop tools, and much more. They can also help with developing a pitch. Please email [email protected], and we will connect you with the Keenan Center.
A pitch is a 1–5-minute presentation where a team provides a case for people to be interested in investing or buying your product. Learn more about developing a pitch here.
Some examples of past products include:
In the high school division: $750 for the first place team, and $500 for second place. Each member of the top winning high school will also win a $5,000 scholarship to Le Moyne College.
In the middle school division: $500 for the first place team, and $250 for second place.
Each team’s amount is equally split among the members and distributed directly to the individual via check.
The Maker Faire Syracuse is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, the Maker Faire Syracuse is a venue for these "makers" to show hobbies, experiments, projects. It is a combination of a show-and-tell, carnival, and science fair. Learn more here. Check out a video from last year’s event here.
The Keenan Center is located on the Le Moyne College campus. They provide students and the community with the support and resources to pursue their own entrepreneurial journey. The Keenan Center has helped many individuals turn their ideas into profitable companies. Learn more here.
Judges are volunteers from local companies and organizations. Many of them have experience with entrepreneurship, research, or technology.