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Since 1973, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has partnered with the nonprofit National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). Together, the USPTO and NIHF run the NIHF museum located at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, induct extraordinary inventors into NIHF, and sponsor programs that encourage creativity, exploration, and inventiveness in people of all ages and backgrounds, including children, teachers, parents, and college students.
Camp Invention was founded in 1990 by the USPTO in partnership with NIHF and has since grown to a series of education programs for students from preschool through high school. Inspired and informed by NIHF Inductees, NIHF educational programs are hands-on STEM and innovation programs for children. These programs not only promote creativity, entrepreneurship, and inventive thinking, but also educate children with age-appropriate introductions to the workings of the USPTO, and the value of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The programs are taught by local, certified teachers, who receive professional development training.
Collectively, these programs reach more than 250,000 children in 2,500 schools nationwide each year, and exponentially more through teachers who report transferring these strategies to their classrooms. NIHF programs take place in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In 2022, two-thirds of the students came from underserved communities and received funding to attend. The USPTO and NIHF are committed to offer equal access to STEM education, to help reduce disparities in STEM fields, and to build a more innovative future.
Founded in 1990, the Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) encourages students to innovate and expand boundaries, as they envision a better society. It promotes collegiate competition among the country’s universities and connects inventive spirit and entrepreneurship. Students learn to see the value of their ideas to society, develop their inventions, patent their work, seek investors, start businesses, and contribute to new economies.
CIC entries represent diverse disciplines, like medical devices, biotechnology, nanotechnology, renewable energy, robotics, and systems engineering. Finalists are determined through two tiers of judging. In the preliminary round, entries are reviewed by expert judges in the applicant’s field of invention or research. The scores from the preliminary round help to determine the finalists who gather at the USPTO for an immersive judging and feedback experience with NIHF Inductees and top officials from the USPTO.
CIC is marketed to faculty and students at over 1,000 colleges and universities and awards over $100,000 in prizes annually to first, second, and third prize winners in both the undergraduate and graduate categories. Winners also receive a USPTO patent acceleration certificate. A large number of CIC Finalists have gone on to start their own businesses, license their technology through university technology transfer, and continue their research at the graduate and postdoctoral levels.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) celebrates the visionaries whose inventions have changed the world. NIHF shares engaging stories of extraordinary inventors, the obstacles they overcome, and their relevance to the past, present, and future. NIHF builds a community of inductees, who spark the innovative mindset of future generations. NIHF Inductees are integrated throughout all programs – through program development and inspiration, curricula, program participation, and philanthropic support.
NIHF accepts inventor nominations from all sources. To be inducted into NIHF, candidates must hold a United States patent that has contributed significantly to the nation’s welfare and the advancement of science and useful arts.
The NIHF induction ceremony is held in Washington, D.C. It honors and celebrates the world’s foremost inventors by highlighting their outstanding contributions to society. In addition, the inductees’ inventive legacies are featured in the NIHF Museum, located at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
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