Antlion Pit Competition



The Antlion Pit Competition (APC) is designed to empower ESA members to develop and present their innovative ideas for entomology-related products and services.  The competition encourages the development of the entrepreneurial spirit through idea leadership, innovation, teamwork, and mentorship.  Before the competition, participating individuals or teams will receive support in the form of mentorship and webinars to help them identify a user group, ideate problems and solutions, prototype, and test their innovations while competing for cash prizes.  The venture idea may focus on a technology, product, process, service, or social venture.

View the 5 easy steps of the Antlion Pit Competition

Competition Information

The APC will take place during the Annual Meeting in St. Louis from November 17-20, 2019 and will take place in two stages.  The date and time of each phase will be finalized by May 31, 2019.  Teams will be expected to be present at both of the events.

Stage I – APC Demonstration Day – Teams will participate in a 2-hour informal interactive “exhibit hall” style event where they will present their ideas and prototypes to judges and interested meeting registrants.  Each team will be given access to a table, floor space, and electricity. At least one ESA member on the team must be present during the demonstration day.

Stage II – APC Presentation Pitch – Teams are given 5 minutes to give their pitch, followed up by 10 minutes of questions from both the judges and audience.  There is a maximum of two individuals that will be on stage to present and at least one individual needs to be an ESA member. Each team should be present and should plan to attend the entire event.  Teams will be able to upload their presentations in the presentation preview room and are also encouraged to bring prototypes, final designs, and/or presentation props as needed.

Team Structure and Size    

The competition is open to both ESA members and non-members; however, each team must consist of at least one ESA member in good standing. Non-ESA members may be members of the team and participate in planning the venture. During the final competition, only one non-member may present the venture and answer questions from the judges alongside an ESA member.  There are no restrictions on team size.  Individual ESA members can also enter as a Team.

Diverse teams lead to more creative and diverse ideas. We encourage individual entomologists to team with non-entomologists that can help bring their creative idea to implementation (e.g., designers, programmers, marketers, etc.).

Intent to Compete and Deadline

The intent to compete deadline has passed. 
Each team member will required to complete a signed Antlion Pit Competition Participant Acknowledgement and Agreement Form by September 3, 2019 and provide as part of the team proposal.

The below information will be required when completing the intent to compete form:

View the Antlion Pit Rules and Scoring Criteria


Deliverables will be due by September 3, 2019 in order to be a part of the finals during the Annual Meeting.  In the case that there is an overabundance of submissions, the judges will complete a first-round determination based on the deliverables and will select teams that will move to the finals.  Teams will be notified no later than September 30, 2019 to confirm it they will be presenting during the finals. 

  1. Name of presenting individuals
  2. Written Venture Summary
  3. A PowerPoint of up to 10 slides, or a video that is no more than 5 minutes in length, that provides an overview of the problem, research, solution and prototype.
  4. Proposal on how the money would be spent if awarded.

Cash Prizes and Awards

Funding and in-kind prizes will be awarded to the winning teams and finalists. Prize information will be continually updated on the competition website based on additional sponsorship raised. As of January 1, 2019 there will be a Grand Prize of $5,000, 2nd Place Prize of $2,500, and an Audience Favorite of $2,500.  If, in the opinion of the judges, the proposed innovative ideas do not represent a favorable business opportunity or societal win, then the prize money or some portion of the prize money will not be awarded. Judges are under no obligation to award all – or any – of the prize money.

Support for Teams and Webinars

Participating teams will receive support before the final to help them discover the most suitable tools that can aid them in the design process and venture creation. This support will be provided through webinars, web resources, and mentorships (organized and supervised by Dr. Marianne Alleyne).

Participation in the webinars in not required for teams.  Any interested individual can sign up for the webinars and they are not required to enter the competition.  Advanced registration is required for the webinars.  To register for each webinar select the associated webinar below.  All webinars will be recorded and posted online; however we highly recommend that you attend live so that you are able to get the most out of the webinar and participate in the conversation.

Webinar Presenters:
Dr. Marianne Alleyne – Research Scientist and Lecturer; Department of Entomology at University of Illinois
Dr. Aimy Wissa - Director of the Bio-inspired Adaptive Morphology Lab; Mechanical Science and Engineering Department at the University of Illinois

Drs. Aimy Wissa and Marianne Alleyne bring years of experience in interdisciplinary design to the webinar series offered by the Entomological Society of America.

Dr. Wissa earned her doctorate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. Her current research focus is on bioinspired adaptive structures for robotic applications.  

Dr. Alleyne received her doctorate in entomology from the University of Illinois. She is involved in multiple interdisciplinary research teams working on novel designs inspired by multifunctional biological materials, insect locomotion, and insect sensing.

Drs. Wissa and Alleyne co-teach a bioinspired design course at the University of Illinois, as well as various design workshops. They teach biology and engineering students to design nature-inspired solutions to solve societal problems. In the bioinspired design course, the students are required to follow the design thinking process. Aimy and Marianne have adapted the content of their course and workshops for the purpose of this webinar series.

Click here to register for the Design Thinking Webinar Series

  • The webinar series will follow the Design Thinking format. For an introduction to the different steps of this process we recommend you watch the following videos:
    Design Thinking
    David Kelley's Ted Talk
  • Webinar #1 - Tuesday April 30 – Empathy/Personas & Problem Identification Stages - View the recording
    During this first webinar we will discuss how important it is to truly understand the problem your product or service is trying to solve. You will learn how to develop personas and empathy for the potential users, which can be incorporated into a more successful design. You will be exposed to tools that will help you to observe, engage, watch and listen to the potential user, to get a realistic understanding of the end user’s experiences.
  • Webinar #2 - Thursday May 16 – Ideate Stage - View the recording
    During our second webinar we will discuss different ways for generating the best solutions that will address the problem you defined using the tools from the first seminar. We will show how ideation methods such as bodystorming, mindmapping and sketching can help you to come up with the broadest range of possible ideas (not necessarily with the “right” idea). The goal of these creativity tools is to look beyond the obvious, to harness your team’s expertise and to uncover unexpected solutions.
  • Webinar #3 - Tuesday May 28 – Prototyping & Testing Stages - View the recording
    The next step in the design process is to bring your creative ideas to be. In the third seminar we will discuss different prototyping methods, with a focus on low and medium fidelity prototypes, that can help you ideate, problem-solve, communicate and cheaply test multiple design solution possibilities. We will also discuss how to best test your design solution and the prototypes. Testing will help you refine your design, teach you more about the user, and will help you validate your own point of view of the problem and the solution.
  • Webinar #4 - (new date) Tuesday September 17  -  Pitching and Demonstration webinar
    Learn methods for how to pitch your novel ideas.


For any questions on the Antlion Pit Competition, please contact Dr. Marianne Alleyne

View the 5 easy steps of the Antlion Pit Competition

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