Big Idea at UW-Parkside

The Big Idea Innovation Challenge

The BIG IDEA Innovation Competition provides competitive funding opportunities for UW-Parkside students to develop innovative ideas and start-up initiatives. This funding opportunity provides you with funds and expertise needed to successfully take your idea from "spark" to "seed," and the potential to have a healthy fruit bearing plant, as you prepare to seek support from competitive funding sources statewide.

If all you have is an idea, the BIG IDEA initiative provides the resources to help you develop and present it for the chance to turn your idea into $2,500 (or ultimately much more) as it develops into fruition.  Check back or look for announcements on Parkside social for the 2021-22 season due date.

One winner of the challenge is selected to enter the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament, which provides an opportunity to win additional funding.
The application requires the following: Product or Service Description, a statement of the problem the product or service will solve, a description of the novelty and benefits of the solution, next steps to continue development, the name of a faculty mentor, and a request for funds that indicates how the money will be used.  The application link for 2021-22 will be available in Fall.


Congratulations Gabrielle Richardson!

Gabby Richardson


Pre-med, Spanish and Criminal Justice major

Gabrielle Richardson, a UW-Parkside pre-med undergraduate majoring in Spanish and Criminal Justice, is the winner of the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament.   

The tournament was sponsored by UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Council (WEDC) and part of the 2021 WiSys SPARK Symposium Virtual Series – which honors faculty, staff and student research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the UW System.

Richardson, the first Parkside winner of the tournament, competed against fellow university students from across the state. Like her fellow competitors, she was tasked with developing and pitching an innovative idea to a panel of judges led by WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, who was also the featured guest speaker at the event. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Greg Keenan and the Center for Technology Commercialization’s Idella Yamben also served as judges.

Richardson developed the idea for the app “LinguaMD” while volunteering at a free health care clinic where many of the patients could not speak, read, or write in English, causing challenges to their treatment.

"My intended goal for this app is to help patients understand their diagnosis and course of treatment through the use of verbal, written, and visual explanations,” said Richardson. “I had the privilege of developing this app with the support of Dr. Robert Barber and Dr. Zaid Altahat from UW-Parkside. I am so very proud to be a UW-Parkside student as well as grateful for the education and opportunities I am provided through attending school here."



If you have a seed of an idea, reach out to your college mentor and they can guide you through the process.  

headshot of Zaid

Zaid Altahat  
Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department  |  262-595-2314


  • We are here to explore how ideas like yours have led to life changing products, get your creative mindset flowing, advise you on how to begin work on your idea, answer questions about the competition, and get you started.
  • Successful projects receive $2,500 from the Parkside Venture Fund, depending on project needs, to be used within one year to develop their idea to the next stage of growth.
  • You'll have access to campus resources that may help them advance your idea, including: 

App Factory 
Digital Design and Fabrication Lab
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
University of Wisconsin System Technology Foundation (WiSys)

  • Where applicable, funding from the Venture Parkside Fund will be used to prepare your idea for funding opportunities from agencies across the state, such as:  

Angel Investor Network
WiSys Technology Foundation 
UW System/UW Extension 
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation 
BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, Inc. 


NOTE  | If you plan to enter the Foxconn Wisconsin Smart Cities Smart Futures Competition, you might want to consider using the same idea for the Big Idea Competition.

Application Deadline
December 2020

Winners Announced
January 2021


Who can enter the competition?

You, if you are enrolled at UW-Parkside, in any discipline or program.

You partner with a UW-Parkside faculty/staff mentor and submit a competitive application presenting the idea, a business or marketing plan, and how support would advance the project. (There is a faculty advisor stipend of $500.00 per project.)

How is funding awarded?

Selection for funding is based on the quality of the application and the proposed idea's potential for commercial and/or social impact.

A team of UW-Parkside faculty/staff, alumni, and community supporters (donors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs) reviews applications and makes investment decisions for the Venture Parkside Fund.

Additional Questions?

We are here to help you be successful! Contact one of the college mentors listed above, and we will get answers to your questions and the resources you need.


Past UW-Parkside Winners


Mariana Nelson  |  Capp, LLC  |  First Place
Capp is an app designed to review companies based on the level of accessibility that they provide to people with disabilities. 

Thomas Stirrat, Venu Rajyaguru, Holden Whitledge  |  Primeval Games
Second Place

Primeval Games is a science-focused board game and children’s book publishing company, designed to engage children and introduce them to the realm of science in an entertaining way. 

Sam Rozzoni and Mya Peterson
2019 Winners
Novel Nutrition Supplements for Physical and Cognitive Enhancement in the Aging Population

Jeremy Preischel
2018 Winner
Automated Vertical Farming

Cassie Van Hoof
2017 Winner
Purrfect Pal

Nikolai Lumpkins
2017 Winner
The Pillar Project

Read more about it
WiSys page


Caleb Dykema  |  UW-Platteville

1Swipe is a full white or blackboard eraser that can be pushed across to erase everything in its path saving time and solving the issue of inefficiency in the classroom for STEM professors.

Tyler David  |  UW-Platteville

Bright Idea produces colorful wooden items such as candleholders, coat trees, lamps, tables and many other items using a lathe.

James Schierl, Carol Brehmer, Matt Halbur  |  UW-Green Bay

EIR Apparel's product is a belt offering superior comfort and flexibility for blue collar workers and outdoor athletes and enthusiasts.

Jiaxin Li, Lakshmi Priya Girish Kumar, Soren Netka  |  UW-River Falls

Franklin is a smarter and more affordable parking ramp management system designed to minimize the amount of time and effort it takes to manage a parking ramp or garage.

Parker Schmidt, Jessica Tarter, Macall Hill  |  UW-Oshkosh

Hive Central's product is a bee shield which helps keep cold winds out of beehives. This allows the internal temperature of hives to be higher in order to increase survival of bees during the winter.

Kristine Maurina, Cole Caldwell, Benjamin Durkin  |  UW-Eau Claire

Li-Fly are agriculture service professionals that create value through data acquisition, management and professional delivery working directly with farmers.

Jim Flynn  |  UW-La Crosse

Mente, is an online database that focuses on creating an easier process for struggling entrepreneurs and professionals by teaming them up with mentors around the world.

Hunter Driscoll, Sam Struebing, Brendon Kranz, Dan Pomeroy  |  UW-Whitewater

OmniSpeakers is a 4-in-1 portable, bluetooth speaker system that can act as one powerful speaker or be broken apart into four separate units to create a surround sound experience.

Matthew Nicholes, Christian Kaiser, Sachin Ambazhakkat  |  UW-Milwaukee

Sojourner Mobile Coffee is a partner industry that seeks to equip everyday people with premium coffee. Sojourner serves handcrafted and affordable third-wave coffee, wherever its customers are.

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