Welcome to the Randall Family Big Idea Competition!

February through early April, Zoom

This competition is an experience-based learning opportunity for Pitt students and postdocs with Big Ideas who enjoy working in diverse teams to bring those ideas to life.  It is open to all Pitt undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs across all schools and departments.  This competition spans February and March of each year and awards monetary prizes to students with the most startup potential, including a grand prize of $25,000!  Since its inception in 2009, the competition has attracted hundreds of interdisciplinary teams seeking to bring their Big Ideas to market.

Application Deadline for the 2022 Randall Family Big Idea Competition has passed.

View this year’s winning teams

Who can apply?

This competition is open to all Pitt students, undergraduate through postdoc.

Teams must consist of at least two Pitt students and/or postdocs. Students from other institutions may participate as part of a team but cannot receive monetary prizes.

Having trouble assembling a team? Try our TeamFinder tool.

Click to view last year’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition winning teams.

RFBIC 2022 Informational Presentation

Watch the informational video below as Jess Malandro, our Manager of Student Programs, covers the ins and outs of this year’s Randall competition & how you can win some of the $100,000 as a Pitt student.



Important Competition Dates

The following dates are mandatory for ALL participating teams

Application Deadline – February 11, 11:59 P.M.

Bootcamp – February 17, 5:00 P.M.

Practice Pitch Round – February 25, 15-Minute Presentation Time Slots from 12:00-3:00 P.M.

Semi-Final Round – March 18, 15-Minute Presentation Time Slots from 12:00-3:00 P.M.

The following dates are mandatory for final round participants ONLY

Finalist Bootcamp & Meet Your Mentor – March 24, 5:00 P.M.

Final Round – April 8, 15-Minute Presentation Time Slots from 12:00-3:00 P.M.

Virtual Awards Ceremony – April 12, 5:00 P.M.

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!

Rhonda Schuldt
Director, rschuldt@innovation.pitt.edu 

Rhonda has a career rich in innovative problem-solving and entrepreneurial action, from leading an incubator for human service organizations, directing public-private regional economic revitalization initiatives, and founding several businesses, to executive leadership in technology startups. Rhonda enjoys helping innovative problem-solvers navigate the complexity, uncertainty, thrill, and satisfaction of realizing their entrepreneurial potential.

Jessica Malandro
Manager for Student Programs, jmalandro@innovation.pitt.edu 

Jess has been a part of the Big Idea Center since Fall 2018. She is a Pitt alum with extensive experience in student engagement as well as program management. In her roles as Manager for Student Programs, 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
Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, tiffany.bicek@pitt.edu

Tiffany currently serves as the Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for the Big Idea Center. She holds a BS degree in Marketing Management from Grove City College and is currently pursuing her MBA part-time at the Katz Graduate School of Business. 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.


Other Media

Students Showcase Entrepreneurial Drive, PittWire, April 22, 2021

Trek Wins $25,000 Top Prize in 2019 Randall Family Big Idea Competition, Innovation Institute, March 21, 2019

Randall Family Big Idea Competition Gives Golden Tickets to Student Business Endeavors, Pitt Chronicle, April 5, 2017

Ambient Cybersecurity and Tiny Lasers Win Big Prizes for ECE Students at Startup Competition, Pitt Swanson School of Engineering Virtual Newsroom, April 26, 2017

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