Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge

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2021 Awardees Announced!

Click here to read about the winning projects


The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and VentureWell are challenging undergraduate student teams to develop technology solutions to unmet needs in any area of healthcare. Three NIH partners, NIH Office of AIDS Research, the National Institute of Minority and Health Disparities, and the National Cancer Institute are providing a prize each for 1.) technologies for HIV/AIDS prevention and/or care, 2.) technologies for underrepresented populations and/or for low-resource settings, and 3.) technologies for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment prize. 

Important Dates

  • Submission Deadline: January 4, 2021 to June 1, 2021, 11:59 PM EDT
  • Judging Period: June 8, 2021 to August 20, 2021
  • Winners Announced:  August 25, 2021
  • Award Ceremony: October 2021, Biomedical Engineering Society Conference, Orlando, Florida

NIBIB-sponsored prizes

  • The Steven H. Krosnick Prize: $20,000
  • Second prize: $15,000
  • Third prize: $10,000
  • HIV/AIDS Prize: $15,000
    (with funds from the NIH Office of AIDS Research)
  • Healthcare Technologies for Low-Resource Settings: $15,000
    (with funds from the National Institute of Minority and Health Disparities)
  • New! Technologies for Cancer Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment Prize: $15,000
    (with funds from the National Cancer Institute)
  • 5 Honorable Mentions will receive $1,000 each

VentureWell-sponsored prizes

  1. Venture prize: $15,000
  2. Design Excellence prize: $5,000

Important Announcements

Rules for DEBUT 2021 Announced

  • DEBUT is a team challenge. Projects must be submitted by Student Teams of at least three students. At least one student on the team must be from a biomedical engineering or bioengineering department (i.e. majoring in biomedical engineering or bioengineering), but interdisciplinary teams including students from other fields are welcome and encouraged. 
  • All team members must be undergraduate students enrolled full-time in an undergraduate curriculum during at least one full semester (or quarter if the institution is on a quarter system) of the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • Each Student Team may submit only one entry into this Challenge through the Team Captain. The Team Captain will register here and follow the links and instructions to certify that the entry meets all the Challenge rules and submit the Student Team's entry on behalf of the Student Team. At this time, teams will have the option to indicate that they wish to have their entries also considered for prizes sponsored by VentureWell. 

See the DEBUT Participation Rules and Guidelines for details. 

Read the Complete DEBUT 2021 Announcement


Rule Changes Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

In light of the social distancing measures that continue to restrict access to labs and workshops, we are maintaining the modified criteria from 2020 to acknowledge teams that had excellent ideas for healthcare innovations but could not build and/or test/debug a prototype. We also want to reward teams who were able to achieve a working prototype. As in DEBUT 2020, each team will receive an ideation and a prototype score. The ideation score will be based on the significance, impact, and innovative design criteria weighed equally. The prototype score will be based on the significance, impact, innovative design criteria, and working prototype criteria, weighed equally. The team's final score will be the higher of the two. Prizes will be selected based on the final scores.

Teams that could not achieve a prototype can indicate so in their write-up and focus their video on the presentation of the problem addressed and the conceptual design developed to address it.

DEBUT Details

Read more information about the DEBUT Challenge: 

Additional Information: 

For more information and to submit entries, visit the DEBUT page.

For Further Information Contact: or (301) 451-4792

Browse winning projects from previous years:

202020192018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013

For further information, contact Dr. Zeynep Erim at (301) 451-4797 or

Related News

September 22, 2021
Duke Engineering’s First-Year Design program team triumphed at the NIH’s 9th annual DEBUT Challenge. The team’s project, named LowCostomy, received the National Cancer Institute Prize for Technologies for Cancer Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment. The team received $15,000 in prize money in recognition for their work. Source: Duke University.
August 25, 2021
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NIBIB selected three winning teams for designs that excel according to four criteria: the significance of the problem being addressed; the impact on clinical care; the innovation of the design; and the ideation process or existence of a working prototype.
August 25, 2020
DEBUT 2020 logo
The winners of National Institutes of Health’s 9th annual Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge developed simple and low-cost diagnostics and treatments for conditions such as tuberculosis, cervical cancer, birth defects, and onchocerciasis (river blindness).
August 27, 2019
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The winners of the 8th annual Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge developed simple but effective solutions that can make a significant difference to the patient population, such as a tool to make intubation easier and more accurate and a rapid screening test for C. difficile infections (CDI).
August 25, 2018
Projects focused on providing simple, low-cost modifications to surgical techniques that could reduce pain or damage from these procedures dominated this year’s Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) challenge.