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Competition invites students to invent the future of wireless technology

A new competition this year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will challenge students to discover and build the next big idea in wireless technology, a field that continues to transform the way the world communicates.

The Qualcomm Wireless Innovation Prize, slated for April 28, 2011, will have student teams develop and prototype new wireless hardware and software ideas and combine them with tangible, market-ready business plans. All UW-Madison undergraduates and master’s-level graduate students are eligible to compete for prizes of $10,000 (first), $5,000 (second) and $2,500 (third). Student teams can also apply for up to $1,000 in equipment stipends for prototypes.

“Wireless technology today is the perfect platform for big thinking, because it has the potential to drive major progress not only in personal communication, but in healthcare, security, manufacturing and other fields,” says Paul Peercy, dean of the UW-Madison College of Engineering. “The new Qualcomm wireless prize will build on the strong culture of innovation we are encouraging in UW-Madison students campus-wide.”

Top technology prizes will be awarded the day of the annual G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition, run by the Wisconsin School of Business. The close association with Burrill will help wireless teams take their technology idea to the next level by partnering with business students and creating a business plan that could launch a new company.

Students from all UW-Madison degree programs are encouraged to participate, and can learn more by attending one of three UW-Madison Ideafests in September. These receptions showcase how to get involved in campus innovation competitions. Ideafests are on Thursday, Sept. 9, 5:30 p.m., 1610 Engineering Hall; Thursday, Sept. 16, 5:30 p.m., 4151 Grainger Hall; and Thursday, Sept. 23, 5:30 p.m., Sellery Hall Main Lounge. Learn more at:

John Booske, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, says the prize will be run in partnership with faculty and staff from electrical and computer engineering, computer sciences and business.

“Wireless is part of our everyday lives, and this competition is for any student who imagines a creative new way to apply the technology,” says Booske. “Technical knowledge is not a barrier to participation. We strongly encourage the formation of teams that bring the creative, technology and business expertise together.”

The contest is based on a Qualcomm initiative called Venture Fest, which invites Qualcomm employees to follow a new wireless idea from proof of concept to a full-fledged business. The College of Engineering and the School of Business brought Qualcomm’s creative approach to a university setting.

The competition is made possible by a gift from Qualcomm Incorporated of San Diego. Qualcomm has graduate fellowship programs with a number of universities, but this is the one of the few university competitions it has sponsored around wireless applications.

“We think UW-Madison is a great choice for this type of competition based on the strength of its electrical engineering and computer science programs, its excellent business school, and its commitment to fostering innovation in the student experience,” says Qualcomm Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer William Keitel, a 1976 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Business. “Qualcomm also has a great relationship with UW-Madison and has hired many talented Badger alumni over the years.”

Booske says competition ideas can be wide-ranging, including devices, designs and processes, and should meet the parameters of disclosure to the U.S. Patent Office. “We’re looking for anything unique — the proverbial ‘better mousetrap’ with wireless assist,” he says.

Brian Mattmiller, (608) 890-3004