Published: Feb. 2, 2018 By

Max Armstrong fits an individual with a prosthetic leg National Geographic just launched its 2018 Chasing Genius challenge, a competition offering $25,000 to turn an innovative idea into reality.

Participants submit a one-minute video describing their idea, the problem it addresses and the solution it provides. The videos are evaluated on innovation, creativity, viability and inspiration, and the finalists join an online competition where votes from supporters help decide the winner.

CU Engineering junior Max Armstrong became a finalist in the inaugural competition last year with a project on affordable prosthetics, showcasing CU students’ strengths in innovative problem-solving for humanity.

Read our Q&A with Max for tips and tricks to jump-start your submission. Submissions close March 5.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the Chasing Genius competition last year?

A: Since the end of middle school, beginning of high school, I’ve been trying to create lower-cost prosthetics. It actually came out of a middle school robotics project where I basically drew the short straw and had to come up with a solution to a problem in the field of medicine. I met with a prosthetist who’s a family friend and a double amputee, and he described to me the lack of access to affordable prosthetics around the world, as well as here in the U.S.

It’s been something that I’ve been doing out of my garage with very little funding, just kind of tinkering around, working with amputees that I know and prosthetists that I know. It’s kind of been this push of trying to move it forward while simultaneously being in school and all of that, so progress is slow but still steady. When I saw the competition come around, it was a nice opportunity to see possibility of getting funding and keeping things moving ahead.

Q: You did become a finalist and got a ton of great feedback on your idea. Although you didn’t win the cash prize, did this contest help advance your idea in any way?

A: I went out and tried to talk to some news outlets about the project and getting people to go and vote. A group in Colombia that’s doing prosthetics actually saw one of the news articles and contacted me from that, and so if everything works out, I should be going there in March over spring break to do fitting with between five and 10 amputees.

Q: If you entered the competition again, would you do anything differently?

A: I think a lot of the competition was based on production quality and really getting the message across better. I’m not the most enthralling personality or the best film producer, so I would probably spend a lot more time actually making something that’s a little bit more interesting to watch.

Q: Any other words of wisdom for students considering entering the competition?

A: Use your networks as well as possible. It really is just about getting as many people to vote early on as you can.

The interview has been edited and condensed. If you have other questions for Max, email And let us know via email if you plan to enter the contest.