By Perry Payne, Jr., MD/JD/MPP

The National Institutes of Health National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NBIB) has announced the DEsign by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams Challenge (DEBUT Challenge).

This Challenge is one of the few government technology challenges that focus on undergraduate innovators. With the DEBUTChallenge, NBIB is seeking to “improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies.”

This challenge is not limited to mHealth ideas, though, it is definitely a good challenge for mHealth innovators to consider.

There are three main goals of the Challenge are as follows:

  • Providing undergraduates with a team building experience that leads to designing, building, and debugging problems in order to address unmet clinical needs
  • Producing novel technologies in line with NIBIB’s to “support research, training, the dissemination of health information, and other programs with respect to biomedical imaging and engineering and associated technologies and modalities with biomedical applications”
  • Highlighting and acknowledging the achievements of undergraduate students in the area of biomedical engineering


NIBIB is looking for innovations in three major areas:

  1. Diagnostic Devices/Methods
  2. Therapeutic Devices/Methods
  3. Technology to Aid Underserved Populations and Individuals with Disabilities

Who’s eligible?

NIBIB is encouraging students to form teams to enter the challenge. Each student that participates in a team must be a full time undergraduate student enrolled during the 2011-12 year. The DEBUT Challenge also requires that participants are US citizens or permanent residents and have an active account. If individuals are not students, they must join a team that has at least two students that satisfy the aforementioned criteria.

Hence, teams can be made up of people of all ages as long as they contain two full time undergraduates. Although the competition is geared towards students in biomedical engineering programs, the “student teams” can also include people of other academic backgrounds.

Any teams that enter the Challenge must sign a NIBIB DEBUT Challenge Certification form indicating understanding and acceptance of the Challenge rules. Teams are not asked to give up any intellectual property rights, but they are agreeing to grant NIBIB an “irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free, nonexclusive worldwide license to post, link to, share, and display publicly the entry on the Web, newsletters or pamphlets, and other information products.”

Teams cannot contain a federal employee acting within the scope of their employment. Student teams must consist of individuals 13 years of age or older, which presumably leaves open the possibility of high school and middle school students participating (as long as they sign the requisite parental consent form).