Fifth Annual Isaac L. Auerbach Innovation Competition & Award

The fifth annual Isaac L. Auerbach Innovation Competition and Award, which exemplifies the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship at the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI), seeks to recognize the culture of innovation in our CCI community. The competition is open to all currently employed CCI faculty, professional staff and currently enrolled students. Collaboration among faculty, professional staff and students is encouraged.

We are seeking your best innovative and actionable ideas, which can help to develop new ways to significantly improve CCI along the dimensions of College priorities.

Projects Moving Forward to CCI Selection Committee

Following two weeks of crowd voting and based on the distribution of those votes, we are pleased to announce that five projects will be moving forward to the CCI Selection Committee for review (projects are listed in alphabetical order and remain anonymized):

  • CCIConnect: CCI Research & Opportunity Portal
  • CCI Sidekick
  • Everyone Deserves an Opportunity
  • For Women by Women
  • More than Toast 

Thank you to all the submitters!

The Selection Committee’s review starts Tuesday, April 20 through Thursday, April 29. Winners will be announced in early May.  

Watch this video featuring 2020 winners Sabah Lala and Sanobar Lala to learn about their experience developing and submitting a winning idea to the Innovation Competition & Award. 

The CCI 2020-2021 Innovation Priority: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

For the 2020-2021 competition, we are focusing on a singular theme: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). DE&I are integral components of the teaching and learning experience, and an essential element of our ongoing social and intellectual collaborations at CCI. A diverse community is one in which we recognize and celebrate our differences. Diversity is also a representation of different identities, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientation, and more. An equitable community focuses on access to opportunities, with a recognition that advantages and barriers exist. An inclusive community is a welcoming one that fosters an understanding and appreciation for diversity among our students, faculty and professional staff.

In conjunction with the launch of CCI’s inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, the focus of this year’s innovation competition is vital to our continued growth and success as individuals and a community. This theme spotlights the College’s commitment to support the aspects that make us unique: race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and socio-economic status. We are committed to cultivating an academic environment that is marked by openness to different perspectives, knowledge generated through intercultural connections, and an understanding of a variety of human experiences.

Established in 2017, the CCI Isaac L. Auerbach Innovation Competition and Award helps to fuel the ideas that address these challenges and opportunities while encouraging and celebrating creativity among students,  faculty, and professional staff. The goal for the College is to foster and sustain a culture of innovation, with this competition as the cornerstone of this effort.

How Can We Build a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive CCI Community?

A vibrant community is one in which individuals are engaged and committed to one another through shared responsibility. We are seeking projects that encourage understanding, define new ways for CCI community members to learn from one another using personal experiences, and offer innovative ideas for building an inclusive College culture.   

As you develop your business case for your innovative concept, please focus on the overarching theme of DE&I. You are welcome to consider innovations in any of the following areas. Please keep in mind that these are broad topics in which to formulate your innovations. They are only meant to guide and not overwhelm nor limit your ideas. 

Examples of DE&I initiatives could include (but are not limited to):

  • Process improvements in our academic or College operations
  • Events such as meet ups, conferences, symposiums and speaker series
  • Training and workshop opportunities
  • Outreach and engagement from CCI to our local West Philadelphia Community

Focus Areas

  1. Recognizing and Increasing CCI’s Diversity
    • Create unique opportunities to celebrate the diversity that exists in our College community.
    • Identify ways for CCI to recruit and retain to increase racial, gender, ethnic diversity, and more in the student, faculty and professional staff populations.
  1. Understanding and Increasing Equitable Opportunities
    • Examine approaches to create opportunities for students from underrepresented groups.
    • Offer unique ideas for training or professional development opportunities for students, faculty and professional staff.
  1. Creating an Inclusive Community
    • Provide suggestions for how CCI can better welcome students, faculty, and professional staff into the College.
    • Outline ways to create an environment that is not only inclusive, but also offers a sense of belonging for each member of the CCI community.
  1. Enhancing the Student Experience
    • Involve students in more high-impact, high-quality research projects around DE&I.
    • Examine current teaching structures and identify opportunities to foster inclusive teaching practices.
    • Provide insights into improvements for inclusive advising and academic and community support for all students.
    • Evaluate new ways to foster student engagement that will contribute to community building in CCI.

Key Dates

Competition opens: Monday, February 1, 2021

Submission deadline: (Extended to) Monday, March 29 by 11:59 p.m. EDT

Crowd voting opens: Monday, April 5, 2021

Crowd voting closes: Wednesday, April 14 at 11:59 p.m. EDT

Selection committee reviews: Thursday, April 15

Decisions/Winner(s) notified via email and posted on the CCI website: Late April 2021

CCI Honors & Awards Event: May 2021

Funding and Selection Process

Funding level and award distribution: A total of up to $12,500 will be awarded with no single award being more than $2,500. Proposers can be an individual or team. In the case of an award-winning team, funding will be split equally among the team members.

All eligible submissions will be anonymized, vetted, and posted for voting. The winning project(s) will be selected by a combination of the most crowd votes and feedback from the Selection Committee. Following the March 29 submission deadline, all current CCI students*, faculty and professional staff will be emailed an online ballot from Election Runner. Voters will select their top five submissions, and the projects with the highest vote totals will move on to the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will be composed of students, faculty and professional staff. Decisions of the Selection Committee are final. Award winners will be notified in writing via email, posted on the CCI website, and recognized by the College.

*An enrolled student list will be pulled after the end of the add/drop period of winter term closes and will become the official email list of CCI Innovation.

Submission Eligibility and Rules

Currently employed CCI faculty and professional staff, and currently enrolled students are eligible to apply. No lobbying of ideas to CCI colleagues or peers will be permitted. This will lead to disqualification from the competition. All submissions must be original to the submitter and not defamatory or libelous. Any fraudulent submissions or activity will result in immediate disqualification. Submissions must include a title, an abstract (limit 1000 characters), to address the following categories:

  • Problem Statement (750 characters)
  • Innovative Idea (750 characters)
  • Business Plan (750 characters)
  • Outcome (750 characters)

You may also include supplemental materials along with your submission. Supplemental materials will not be available to the community during crowd voting. These materials will only be made available to the Selection Committee in the final round of voting.

Supplemental materials should be limited to two PDF pages and may include documents or visuals that help illustrate and illuminate your ideas.  Examples of supplemental materials include reference list; project diagram/photo; raw data; data sets and data tables used to support your project.

Evaluation Criteria

Winning innovations will be awarded based on their idea(s) and not the actual implementation of the innovation. Implementation of the idea(s) is at the discretion of CCI’s Senior Leadership team. Winning innovations should demonstrate a combination of the following characteristics:

  • Considered situations and problems from novel and diverse perspectives; addressed challenges in an innovative manner
  • Developed imaginative ideas to drive the organization forward; came up with creative, new ways of doing things
  • Questioned existing assumptions and beliefs; encouraged people to think or alternative ways of doing things
  • Approached innovation with a practical, task-oriented mindset

2021 Judges

We are proud to announce this year’s final judging panel. The projects with the most crowd votes will move on to the final round, in which our judges will select this year’s winning projects. The members of the judging panel represent the CCI community, including members of CCI’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council:

Widchard Faustin, BS/MS Computer Science Student & DEI Council Member
Gabrielle Salib, Doctoral Student, Information Science & DEI Council Member

Tammy Pirmann, Assistant Teaching Professor, Computer Science & DEI Council Member
Erjia Yan, Associate Professor, Information Science & DEI Council Member

Professional Staff
Karen DeVose, Director of Advising & DEI Council Member
Faith Kellermeyer, Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator
John McNamara, Director of Information Technology


  1. Who is considered a currently enrolled CCI student? A currently enrolled CCI student is defined as an Undergraduate, Graduate or Doctoral-level student actively seeking a degree offered by the College. Students with only CCI Undergraduate or Graduate minors declared as well as Certificate and Exploratory Study students are not eligible to submit proposals at this time. An enrolled student list will be pulled after the end of the add/drop period of winter term closes and will become the official email list of CCI Innovation.
  2. Can I submit supplemental materials with my application? You may submit up to two pages of a PDF file to support your proposal. The attachments are limited to a reference list, project diagram/photo, raw data, data sets, and data tables used to support your project. Attachments that do not meet these criteria will be discarded and will not be considered as part of your submission. Please note, supplemental materials will not be available to the community during crowd voting. These materials will only be made available to the Selection Committee in the final round of voting.
  3. May I discuss my award submission with others for feedback and thoughts? You can talk about your innovative idea(s) before you submit them, but not after you complete your submission.
  4. Is there a limit to the number of submissions I can make? There is no submission limit.
  5. Can I resubmit a past project? Yes, project resubmissions and revisions are encouraged. We have received many great ideas that were not initially selected but may be reconsidered in following competition rounds.
  6. How does crowd voting take place? We use a website called Election Runner to conduct crowd voting. Following the deadline for project submission, all project titles/abstracts are uploaded into Election Runner along with our official email list. An automated email (and reminders) is sent directly from Election Runner with instructions about how to vote. You will be asked to vote for your top five submissions, and the projects with the top vote totals will move forward to the Selection Committee.
  7. Who is on the Committee and will that be announced? The Selection Committee will be composed of some of the members of the College leadership team, along with faculty, students and professional staff. This Committee has not been appointed yet. The Committee will be announced once it is formed. Please note, the Dean’s Leadership Team has collectively decided not to submit for this award.
  8. Can the Selection Committee submit for this award? The Selection Committee has not been appointed yet. We ask that anyone who submits for the award and makes it past the crowd voting round recuses themselves as a judge.
  9. Is the money taxed? How will it be received? The funds will be taxed. Prizes for faculty and professional staff will be processed through Drexel University’s Payroll department and will be received in your paycheck. Non-exempt staff are required to document hours devoted to the project for compensation purposes.
  10. I’m a student. How will I receive my award? If you have been employed by Drexel University within the last calendar year, payment will go through the Payroll department and sent by direct deposit (if set up) or a check will be mailed to the home address on file. All other students will be required to fill out tax forms to process payment and a check will be mailed to your listed address.
  11. What if I’m no longer employed or enrolled at CCI at the time of the award? Only currently employed CCI faculty and professional staff and currently enrolled CCI students will be awarded.
  12. Does it cost anything to submit? No. Submissions are free.
  13. Are there limits to my submission? Yes, submissions must include an abstract (limit 1000 characters), problem statement (limit 750 characters), innovative idea (limit 750 characters), business plan (limit 750 characters), and outcome (limit 750 characters).
  14. I have a question about the award. Who should I contact? Please send an email to

View the 2020 Competition & Award Winners