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What is your BIG idea for a tiny technology?
engineering design computers technology creative problem solving applications product innovation devices
top 3
62 months ago
There will be 3 prizes awarded for the top ideas: 1st place - $1,500, 2nd place - $700, 3rd place - $400
Small pic intel 1


Imagine the tiniest computers, smaller than a grain of rice down to a grain of sand!  Sometimes known as smart dust (or millimeter scale computing), these micro-computer systems may have the following example functionalities:

  • -Sensing & actuating - for example, but not limited to light, temperature, humidity, touch, vibration, magnetism, chemicals, any other known / future technologies
  • -Mobilizing - they might be able to fly, drive, or just stay in one place
  • -Communicating - in varied methods to and with the environment, and functioning as part of a swarm or on their own
  • -Harvesting their own energy and never getting charged
  • -Operating autonomously 

In the future, smart dust will be used all around us (even inside of us!) and has a wide array of potential applications for humans, machines, and within the environment.  Smart dust can also be embedded in existing products or replace / enhance products that we see in the market today that can benefit from having tiny brains.  

Consider the following example uses for these micro-scale computers:

  • -Replacing pollination by bees
  • -Detecting and preventing diseases
  • -Dropping them into a forest fire to measure wind direction and temperature 
  • -Detecting hazardous conditions in industrial systems in locations too difficult or dangerous for a human to visit 
  • -Controlling the future battlefield 
  • -Developing smart materials
  • -Monitoring and metering


We are interested in the ways that smart dust may influence our daily lives in the future.  We want YOU to propose a new application for smart dust that will showcase the value of this tiny technology!  Specifically, please answer the following:

1. Describe your concept for smart dust:

  • - What will it do?
  • - What problem(s) does it solve?
  • - How could it enhance your daily life? 
  • - How will people, machines, or the environment interact with it?  

2. Why is your idea possible with smart dust and not larger computing systems? *Please keep in mind that "larger" computing may be as small as a few centimeters.  This is still giant compared to micro-scale smart dust!

BONUS 1: What will it look like? - illustrate your idea with a visual (sketches, drawings, CAD renderings, mock-ups) or any other visuals that support and communicate your idea. Consider this example image: 

BONUS 2: Submit your proposal in the form of a presentation (Powerpoint, Slideshare, Prezi, etc.) or a video (include Dropbox, YouTube, or Google drive link in submission text)

BONUS 3: Submit more than one application for smart dust answering the same deliverables above.  Please be sure to distinguish between your ideas and present them in an organized format.   

Considerations: We are interested in creative ideas that cannot be accomplished with today's technology.  When describing your concept, try to go beyond  "traditional" sensing to describe the unique advantages of using smart dust over other technologies (such as bigger computing systems). 

    Submissions will be graded on the following criteria:
  • Meets Deliverables
  • Creativity
  • Clarity
Reward Tiers
Rewards will be handled by Global Tech Co.
$1,500.00 Square pic 60 wp 20140415 004 Delhi University
$700.00 Square pic 60 college profile picture University of Kansas
$400.00 Square pic 60 img 2896 New York University
Submission questions

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