Connect Challenge

Friday, February 23, 2024

9:00 AM1:00 PM


Taking place in conjunction with the Connect Conference is the Connect Challenge — an idea pitch competition for College of Arts + Sciences students! Present your idea to a panel of industry professionals and alums. Winners will receive a prize package to help bring their idea to life.

The Connect Challenge is made possible by financial and professional support from The Dimension Mill, IU Ventures, IU Shoemaker Innovation Center, IU Innovates, IU Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and the Walter Center.

Have a great idea for an arts project, nonprofit, or startup? Read the guidelines and submit your application!

Submit Your Application


The Connect Challenge is open to any student enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington during the semester in which the Connect Challenge takes place.

Students may enter the Connect Challenge on their own or with a team of up to five people. All applicants, including members of a team, must be enrolled at IU Bloomington.

During first-round vetting, a select number of spots at the finals may be reserved for students who are in a program in the IU College of Arts + Sciences. Students may apply only once per year with one idea. Students who applied in previous Connect Challenges may apply again but must apply with a different idea.

The only thing needed to apply is an idea! Manifestations of the idea (prototypes, patents, launched businesses, market viable products) are not required to apply. The idea must be the student’s own. Students may apply to one of three categories. The categories are:

  • Creative Endeavors
    • Ideas in which the main objective is to create or manufacture something. The idea can, but does not need to, generate revenue or solve an overt issue.
    • Ex: Fine arts projects, film or tv scripts, music compositions, creative writing projects.
  • Nonprofit + Social Good
    • Ideas in which the main objective is to address a problem faced by humans or the planet, typically generating revenue not from the sale of goods or services but from donations, grants, membership fees, or public funding.
    • Ex: public programs, environmental programs, consumer products, business models that give back, research, investigative journalism.
  • Startups and Technology
    • Ideas that are typically seen at pitch competitions, in which the idea addresses and problem and generates ongoing revenue through the sale of goods or services.
    • Ex: Software as a service (SaaS), phone apps, consumer products, medical devices, inventions.

Please refer to Handshake to see details and register for events

  • January 17, 5-6 p.m. — Zoom info session
  • January 18, 12:00 a.m. — Application opens
  • February 4, 11:59 p.m. — Application closes
  • February 9 — Finalists notified
  • February 13 & 14 — Finalist feedback sessions
  • February 23, 9:30-11:30 a.m. — Connect Challenge during Connect Conference
  • February 23, 12:15-1:45 p.m. — Awards Ceremony during Connect Conference

All students wishing to be considered must apply online. The application link will become available when the application opens and can be accessed through the Walter Center website. The online application asks for student information, a summary, and a pitch deck.

The summary is a 1-page document that outlines what the idea is and why it should be pursued. The summary must be a PDF document. The pitch deck is a 10-slide maximum slideshow that shows what the idea is and why it should be pursued. The pitch deck must be a PowerPoint document.

Successful summaries and pitch decks typically address:

  • The problem – why should the idea be pursued?
  • The solution – what is your idea?
  • The team – who is involved in bringing the idea to life?
  • The audience – who benefits from the idea?
  • The challenges – what are potential setbacks, and how will you address them?
  • The plan – how will this idea come to life?

At both stages of judging (initial applications and the in-person Connect Challenge) ideas will be evaluated with the following rubric based on the core values of the IU College of Arts + Sciences.

SkillDescriptionScore 1-5
Question CriticallyDid the student/s question the status quo? Are they solving a problem? Is the reason behind this idea compelling?
Think LogicallyDid the student/s create a plan for their idea? Did they analyze a target audience, challenges, or resources? How viable is this plan? Will it work?
Communicate ClearlyHow well did the student/s convey their idea? Is it clear what it is? How was the overall presentation?
Act CreativelyIs the idea innovative? Are there elements that are particularly imaginative or creative?
Live EthicallyDid the student/s analyze the ethical implications of the idea? You do not have to agree with the ethics – but have they been addressed?
Total Score:

After the initial application closes, a committee comprised of IU staff will select five (5) ideas from each category that will pitch their idea in-person at the Connect Challenge. Those finalists will be notified via email.

Finalists are expected to:

  • Complete a finalist form
  • Schedule and attend a 1:1 virtual feedback session with an expert
  • Pitch in-person at the Connect Challenge
  • Attend the Connect Challenge awards ceremony

Applicants who are not chosen as finalists will automatically be placed on a waiting list. If any finalist cannot compete in the Connect Challenge, the students on the waiting list may be invited to pitch their idea at The Connect Challenge.

Finalists will potentially have their name, photos, and brief information about their idea shared on a slideshow during the Connect Challenge awards ceremony and on the Walter Center website. Finalists will have an opportunity to consent to this in their finalist form.

The Connect Challenge will take place over the course of one Friday morning. Students will pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges. A computer and projector will be available.

Each idea category will have a distinct panel of judges and ideas will only be judged with other ideas in the same category. For example, an idea from the creative endeavors category will not be competing with ideas from the startups category.

The general public is welcome to watch pitches. Finalists are also invited to watch the pitches of other finalists. We ask that everyone in the audience show respect to the people pitching.

Each room/category will have the following volunteer staff: An emcee to host the event, a timekeeper, a doorkeeper, and a panel of 3-5 judges.

The emcee will give opening statements, then invite the finalists to the “stage” to pitch their idea. Finalists are expected to be in the room (or just outside the door) and ready at their assigned pitch time. The doorkeeper will close the door while finalists are pitching, and people will be asked not to enter or leave during a pitch.

Finalists will have a total of 20 minutes in front of the judges – 10 minutes to pitch their idea and 10 minutes to answer questions from the judges. Only judges may ask questions; the audience will be asked to withhold questions.

After all ideas have been pitched, the judges will have time alone to decide the winners.

Winners will be announced during the luncheon occuring concurrently with the Connect Conference. The Connect Conference is an annual all-day event in which alumni of the College of Arts + Sciences come to campus to talk to students about their careers.

Winners and runners-up in each category will receive scholarship money along with other gifts. After winners are determined, prize money will be awarded to the students as a scholarship on their bursar accounts. If the recipients are a team, the scholarship money will be divided evenly among the team members.

At any time between 6 months and 1 year after the competition, the Walter center will contact the finalists to see where their idea has taken them.

To help your application prep, we’ve provided a PDF of the Connect Challenge Rules and Information to download and print.

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