ASCE Innovation Contest Offers Creative Thinkers an All-Star Audience

December 16, 2015

The right idea, no matter how brilliant, means nothing until it gets in front of the right people. It’s all about finding and getting the attention of that audience, right?

Well, consider the ASCE Innovation Contest that audience.

ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council designed the contest to gather innovative ideas that will help transform the future of infrastructure. The panel of 22 judges who will consider those ideas is a who’s who of industry leaders and decision makers, divided into groups assigned to each of the four Innovation Contest categories – innovative business models, “Internet of things,” green engineering, and resilience.

InnovationContestLogo  “When we put together the judging teams we wanted to have a combination of academia, companies, and government people,” said Jerry Buckwalter, chair of the ASCE Innovation Forum Task Committee. “We wanted a combination of those who are in traditional civil engineering, people who are in less-mainstream areas, all the way to people who are from outside of civil engineering altogether.”

The caliber of judges includes Bob Prieto, CEO of Strategic Program Management LLC and chair of the contest; Tom Sawyer, deputy editor of Engineering News-Record; and Marc Hoit, vice chancellor for IT and CIO of North Carolina State University.

The blend of many perspectives makes a perfect brew to evaluate grassroots engineering ideas, Buckwalter said, as innovations often develop when connections are made between seemingly non-related disciplines or industries.

“This is a way to get innovative people exposure to the kind of cross-disciplinary professionals who think creatively and are able to connect the dots and really assess the value of some of these innovative ideas,” he said. “Their idea might not be recognized as innovative or applicable by the company they’re in, but someone who’s outside that mainstream of their company might fully recognize the applicable benefit or the disruption that could occur in a beneficial way to another portion of the industry.”

Buckwalter should know. He’s the director of strategy for aerospace and defense technology giant Northrop Grumman. In the past, he has helmed campaigns similar to the ASCE Innovation Contest to help surface innovations at Northrop Grumman.

“[The right audience] just often isn’t available to them in whatever structure they happen to be in, whether it’s a student in a particular university or a young engineer in a particular company,” Buckwalter said. “That’s the huge benefit of this Innovation Contest. No matter what topic you submit on, you will be exposed to that wide spectrum of people.”

Those interested in the Innovation Contest can enter at the official page; the deadline is Jan. 18.

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