Perfect Pitch Competition

It has been traditional for students to present posters highlighting their research at the conference that ERCs hold each year for their industry partners. By asking students to answer the following three questions in 90 seconds—what real-life problem their research addressed, how they solved it in a unique way, and what impact it would have for society and in achieving their Center’s mission—they learn a succinct way of talking about their research in the context of societal needs and the broader impact of their success. Often these short presentations, sometimes called an “elevator pitch,” are organized as a competition among the students.

The ERC Program hosts such a competition across the ERCs, called the “Perfect Pitch” competition. The COMPETITION is open only to ERC undergraduates, Masters, and PhD students, all competing for a first-place $5,000 cash prize. Each ERC holds an internal competition in order to select one winner to send to the finals at the ERC Program biennial meeting, where an overall winner and two runners-up are chosen by a distinguished panel of judges from industry and the venture capital world.

To enhance the esprit de corps within each ERC and create an atmosphere of friendly competition among the ERCs, the specially designed Lynn Preston Trophy is presented to the ERC home of the contest’s first-place winner “for creating a nurturing environment that allowed their student to rise to the top of the competition.” The trophy resides at that center for the following two years.

The winner of the 2015 ERC-wide Perfect Pitch contest was Pablo Guimera Coll, an Arizona State University PhD student at the QESST ERC (Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies). Second place was taken by Justin Feng, a PhD student at Harvard Medical School and part of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC). Jessica Boles, an undegraduate electrical engineering major at the University of Tennessee's Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), won third place.