Rise-Up program

Innovation Challenges

What are Innovation Challenges?

The University of Rhode Island is thrilled to invite students to the first annual Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenges, a transformative initiative powered by RISE-UP. This opportunity allows URI students and researchers to contribute to problem-solving for real-world issues within the university environment. With great enthusiasm and support from Deans, Faculty and staff, we have complied a list of challenges for students and researchers to select from. Submissions leading in points for innovation, feasibility, creativity and impact will win cash prizes as listed below!

The program will kick off on Feb 1st, 2024 and come to an end with the first annual “URI Start-Up & Innovation Month” celebration in April 2024.

By aligning RISE-UP resources with local and global challenges, the program will provide hands-on experiential learning, access to seasoned mentors, and lean launchpad-based tools and curriculum. Bootcamps, seminars, and access to advanced technical resources will equip participants for success.

Step 1: Attend a Bootcamp

These live and mandatory sessions will provide participants valuable tools and support to clearly identify their problem, understand their target market/audience/user, show the feasibility of their proposed solution and how to present their idea in a compelling and creative way. The sessions will be facilitated by innovation and entrepreneurship experts from URI and the broader industry and community. It is expected at least one member of the participant team attend a session. Note: The session content will be the same – you only need to attend one session to receive credit for attendance

Step 2: Pick a Challenge

Challenges are open to all students (bachelor – graduate), across all disciplines and majors. A student can apply for a Challenge from any Sponsor (i.e. you do not need to be a member of that Sponsor college to participate in that challenge).

Teams are restricted to a minimum of 1 member and maximum of 5. Teams can also apply for multiple challenges.

Please select from options. You will be redirected to Zealous with more information – like scope, requirements, judging criteria etc – before you sign-up for submissions.

Spring 2024 Innovation & Enrepreneurship Challenges

Challenge #1: R&R – Repurpose & Redistribute

This challenge aims to reduce hard waste in our campus community by developing innovative ways to repurpose items and/or finding new homes for them. This challenge is designed to target inorganic waste – mainly plastic and metal. The goal is not to get more things into recycling bins, but to prevent things from getting in to BOTH the trash and the recycling.

Sponsor: URI First Lady, Mary Parlange
Prize: 1st $2000 | 2nd $1000 | 3rd $500
Eligibility: Open to All

Challenge #2: Imagining Your Own Utopia: Green Rooftop Design

Students are invited to design plans for an environmentally-friendly and aesthetically appealing rooftop terrace for the available space in Lippitt Hall. The overarching objective is to propose ideas for utilizing green infrastructure to transform the space in a way that addresses one or more campus sustainability challenges, and serves as a scalable model for the integration of green rooftops across campus and/or in other contexts (for example, urban environments)

Sponsor: Honors Program
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All

Challenge #3: Improving Health Across the Lifespan

The College of Health Sciences promotes the health and well-being of individuals, families, and populations. We seek to develop innovative solutions to complex problems that promote physical and mental health and well-being of others. Interventions that improve physical and mental health (ex., healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, restorative sleep, social connections, psychotherapy, community-based supports) can improve the quality of life for people of any age.

Sponsor: College of Health Sciences
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


This challenge invites participants to address the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities in their daily lives. From reimagining public spaces to enhancing digital interfaces, the challenge aims to foster creative solutions that make the world more accessible and equitable for everyone.

Participants are encouraged to select any domain they are passionate about and apply their skills to make tangible improvements that better the lives of people with disabilities. These include, but not limited to, public spaces and infrastructure, urban planning, adaptive materials, assistive devices, durability and comfort of prosthetics, accessible and user-friendly pharmaceutical products, or water-based recreational activities.

Sponsor: College of Engineering
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


Students are invited to propose a design of a modular hotel for autonomous underwater robots in different sizes (range from 1 meter to 5 meters) and shapes (box shape or torpedo shape). A small mating attachment is allowed on the robots to allow reliable operations when a robot is returning to the hotel. Meanwhile, student will determine 5 deployment locations for the hotels (5 robots in each hotel) to maximize the monitoring coverage.

Sponsor: Graduate School of Oceanography
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


This challenge aims to make an impact as it serves as an engine for regional and inclusive growth. In line with that goal, we invite you to share your ideas and innovative approaches that can make an impact, an intentionally broad scope that encompasses social issues, technological interventions and other focus areas like sustainability.

Sponsor: College of Business
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


This challenge invites students to collaboratively address intersecting environmental and social challenges and help catalyze change by fusing the creative arts/humanities with the natural/social sciences.

Sponsor: College of Arts & Sciences
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


This challenge invites students to combine knowledge of biological systems with design thinking skills to address sustainability challenges through biodesign.

Sponsor: College of Environment and Life Sciences
Prize: 1st $1500 | 2nd $750 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All


Nautilus is fast approaching an inflection point where our focus will shift from what can we build to what should we build with our technologies. This challenge seeks to engage Rhode Island’s academic community to develop innovative products, systems, and solutions that will have a positive and lasting global impact by harnessing the potential of our groundbreaking textile-integrated systems technologies.

Sponsor: Nautilus Defense
Prize: 1st $1000 | 2nd $500 | 3rd $250
Eligibility: Open to All

Spring 2024 Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenges – Key Dates:

  • February: Workshop Recording | Passcode: +W2cc2t= – How to define your problem, customer and solution
  • March 21: Video: How to deliver an effective pitch (coming soon)
  • March 29: Team Selections – due here
  • March 25-29: Pitch Presentation Support
    • March 27: In-person from 3-4 pm @ URI Launch Lab (Library)
    • March 29: Virtual from 12-2 pm (Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85074786916; Meeting ID: 850 7478 6916)
    • If you would like to schedule an individual support session during this week, email meganpruskowski@uri.edu
  • April 5*: Final Submissions Due @ 11:59 pm EST (Presentation & Online Form – via Zealous)
    • Presentations must include
      • Slide 1: Cover Slide – Concept/Project Title & Team Member Names
      • Slide 2: Problem Statement
      • Slide 3: Target Audience / User
      • Slide 4: Proposed Solution
      • Slide 5: Expected Impact
      • Slide 6: Closing / Why Us?
  • April 8: Finalists Announced
  • April 9: Pitch Presentation Support – URI Launch Lab: 3-6 pm
  • April 10: Pitch Presentation Support – URI Library Active Learning Classroom 6:30-7:30 pm
  • April 15-19: Finalist pitch presentations to challenge hosts (e.g. a panel comprised of the Dean’s leadership team, RISEUP member and industry / academic expert) – Note: Pitch times will be determined by respective host’s availability.
  • April 20-23: Dean’s Challenges winners receive individual support to refine their pitches from RISEUP team
  • April 24: Dean’s Winners submit final pitches for university-wide finals @ 12 pm EST

Why Apply?

  • Exciting Prizes: Cash prizes including RISE-UP Grand Prize “Accelerator” and additional Accelerator prizes for the top three winners.
  • Comprehensive Support: Benefit from hands-on experiential learning, access to seasoned mentors, and cutting-edge resources.
  • Collaborative Environment: Join a community that emphasized creativity, connections, and the joy of innovation.

Advisory Council

Bethany Jenkins

Interim Vice President for Research

Dean Rogers

College of Business Dean

Anthony Marchese

College of Engineering Dean

Christy Ashley

College of Business Associate Dean

Maryrai Gindy

College of Engineering Asscioate Dean

Meet Our Team

Erik Brine

Director of Defense R&D Initiatives & Operations

Peter Rumsey

Program Executive

Ancita Sherel

Program Manager

Joe Loberti


Linda Larsen

Operations Manager