BIG Ideas Contest Fall 2023-Spring 2024




What is the BIG Idea?

BIG Ideas is a student innovation contest focused on developing ideas with social impact.

BIG Ideas is, by design, an entry-level program that encourages students who have limited or no competition experience to develop their ideas, transform their thinking and address societal problems through creativity and ingenuity. Advising, mentoring and assistance are integral parts of the program, along with funding and recognition. Beyond the contest itself, BIG Ideas will support every participant throughout the learning process, helping them to be better prepared for other idea competitions, as well as for the future real world competition of ideas.

Special thanks to UA Honors and Computer-Based Honors Program alumnus, James C. Kennemer. Jim has long had a vision of providing UA Honors and undergraduate students across campus with a significant program for developing innovative ideas to improve society. His generosity and support are making that a reality with the Honors College Kennemer Center for Innovation and the BIG Ideas Contest.

The BIG Ideas contest is patterned after a similarly-named program developed at the University of California – Berkeley. We are grateful to UC Berkeley and the Blum Center for generously sharing their Big Idea resources.

Some differences versus typical business plan and entrepreneurial contests.

BIG Ideas Schedule:

BIG Ideas Rules:

  • BIG Ideas projects must be student initiated and Honors College student-led. The project may not be an extension of faculty-guided research or a non-student organization.
  • BIG Ideas focuses on early-stage projects that are based on ideas that are new or that have been formed within the past two years.
  • BIG Ideas prize money is an award, not a grant. This allows each project to remain under the ownership of the student teams, and avoids any intellectual property issues with The University of Alabama.
  • Participating in the BIG Ideas Contest does not preclude student teams from entering submissions in other contests or programs.

Four Track Options:

  • Education and the Arts

  • Health and Well-being

  • Energy and Transportation

  • Technology


  • Ideas may be submitted by any UA Honors student.
  • UA non-Honors undergraduates may also submit an idea by partnering with a UA Honors student.
  • All submissions will be reviewed and pitched to the BIG Ideas panel. The panel will determine if each idea submission will move forward to the full contest.

Team Lead:

  • Team Lead must be an Honors College student.
  • Team Lead must be the main contact person for all BIG Ideas communications.
  • Team Lead must submit all team member names and contact information by Jan. 8 by 1 p.m. CST.


  • All team members must be current UA undergraduates or Stillman College Honors undergraduates who are in good academic standing, and can be from any field of study.
  • Teams should consist of 3-5 members and must participate in required BIG Ideas activities.
  • Teams may compete in only one track and students may only participate on one team.

Phase I

Pre-proposal Criteria:

A 3 page pre-proposal and a 1 minute video. Identify a social problem and a proposed solution with emphasis on the solution’s creativity.

Phase II


An 8-10 page proposal and a 5 minute video. Increased emphasis on viability.

Phase II also requires a 30- to 60-second video and a short description with non-proprietary information that may be used for marketing purposes.

* Specific criteria and instructions for Phase I and II proposals and videos will be listed in the Participant Handbook.

BIG Ideas Judging:


Creativity / Innovation (30%)

Potential for Impact (30%)

Quality (20%)

Viability (20%)


Creativity / Innovation (25%)

Potential for Impact (25%)

Quality (25%)

Viability (25%)


BIG Ideas Awards:



$3,000overall top team on any track

$2,500each top team in other tracks

Additional awards may be given.

BIG Ideas Past Winners 


2024 BIG Ideas Mentors
























If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Nancy Norwood at or 205-348-5557 or Gordon Martin at or 205-348-5537.