More about the Competition


Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their big ideas to market. The Randall Family Big Idea Competition is made possible through the generous support of the Randall family. Robert P. Randall, a Pitt alumnus and trustee, was president and chief executive officer of the Three Rivers Aluminum Company (TRACO), a prominent regional door and window company, which was acquired by Alcoa and is now a division of Kawneer. Mr. Randall continues to give back to the community through his position on the Board of Trustees at the University of Pittsburgh, his work with the United States Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member of both the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.

Who is eligible?

The competition is offered to all Pitt undergraduate and graduate students across all schools and departments. Post-doctoral fellows are included.


  • First prize – $25,000
  • Second prize – $15,000
  • Third prize – $5,000
  • Fourth prize – $2,000
  • Video round – $2,000

Meet the Big Idea Competition Team!


Babs Carryer is the director of education and outreach. Her role encompasses programs to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship across campus to all students, post-docs, faculty, researchers, and clinicians. Babs teaches the Benchtop to Bedside and Academic Entrepreneurship technology commercialization courses to researchers, clinicians, and graduate students. Babs is a serial entrepreneur, writer, and educator. She blogs about entrepreneurship on NewVenturist.

Jessica Malandro
Student Program Coordinator 

Jess has served as the Big Idea Center’s student program coordinator since 2018. She is a Pitt alum with extensive experience in student engagement as well as program management. As part of the Big Idea Center, Jess oversees the organization and execution of all department competitions, workshops, and programming. Additional responsibilities include management of the Big Idea Center website and YouTube page, in addition to all digital video production efforts as they relate to in-classroom and public use.

Tiffany Bicek
Student Program Administrator

Tiffany currently serves as Student Program Administrator for the Big Idea Center. She holds a BS degree in Marketing Management from Grove City College. She assists Jess with the organization and execution of Big Idea Center events and competitions as well as manages the Big Idea Center’s social media (@pittbigidea) and blog.


Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Joanna is a Business Innovation Advisor with Brights Lights Innovations helping small businesses create profitable growth with accelerated times to market. Since 2007, she held various B2B Marketing Executive roles with Westinghouse Electric Company. She helped create numerous business opportunities leveraging a range of advanced technologies.

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Don is a serial entrepreneur and visionary leader who has consistently leveraged technology to improve the customer experience and top and bottom-line results. Don has been involved in the growth and development of several businesses, including American Eagle Outfitters, from one to 165 stores as President and CEO, Sundance Catalog Company as Executive Director, and Bear Creek Corporation as Senior VP of Sales and Marketing. He is currently chairman of deal flow for BlueTree Allied Angels.

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Kelly has spent her career working across many facets of healthcare innovation and product development. First, as the founder and CEO of a medical device company spun out of Carnegie Mellon’s Biomedical Engineering department, followed by an experience leading new product development and R&D within the medical supply corporation that acquired her startup. Currently, Kelly has a business development role at UPMC Enterprises where she looks to connect startups, corporations, and other health systems with strategic opportunities to partner with UPMC to commercialize innovations in healthcare IT and life sciences.

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Stephan has spent the last 25 years in the technology startup ecosystem primarily in senior leadership roles on both the investor side and the operational side of the table. This has helped him develop a deep understanding of how technology can be applied to solve social and commercial challenges. More importantly, he’s learned firsthand how to take innovative ideas and turn them into real businesses.

Entrepreneurship/Competition Coach

Rhonda is an entrepreneur and seasoned professional experienced in driving customer-focused, purpose-centric strategy and innovation, especially in complex environments. She is the founder and President of The Synergos Group LLC, a boutique firm providing business and strategic consulting for early stage and evolving organizations across multiple industries and sectors.

Other Media

Trek Wins $25,000 Top Prize in 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition, By Mike Yeomans, March 21, 2019

Randall Family Big Idea Competition Gives Golden Tickets to Student Business Endeavors, By Micaela Fox Corn, Pitt Chronicle, Issue Date: April 5, 2017

Ambient Cybersecurity and Tiny Lasers Win Big Prizes for ECE Students at Startup Competition by Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer, 4/26/2017

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