Build a Better Mousetrap Competition – Iowa

People involved in the transportation industry often find better ways to do their jobs. Whether it’s through a new gadget that improves the quality and safety of a project or an innovative process that reduces costs and improves efficiency, it is often the people on the front lines who discover the latest and best practices.

Build a Better Mousetrap highlights innovative solutions to everyday challenges that local and tribal transportation professionals encounter. These solutions range from the development of tools and equipment modifications, to new processes that enhance safety, reduce cost, increase efficiency and improve the quality of transportation.

Iowa’s Build a Better Mousetrap Competition provides a great opportunity to share your new ideas with others! We are looking for submissions from employees of Iowa’s local public agencies (e.g., cities and counties) who have created different solutions to problems or found better ways of doing things.

We will gather the best ideas from around the state and judge them using a point rating system. The criteria are listed below.

Judging Criteria

  1. Recognized importance/ impact
  2. Originality
  3. Applicability to others
  4. Cost effectiveness
  5. Time savings
  6. Agency or community benefit
  7. Overall quality of the application
  8. Spotlight videos receive extra points

Guidance from FHWA on the spotlight videos and on photographs are below, as well as the required release form for any person included in the videos or photos.

Based on these criteria, a state winner will be selected from all of the local public agency entries, and that entry will be submitted to the National Local Technical Assistance Program/Tribal Technical Assistance Program (LTAP/TTAP) Build a Better Mousetrap Competition. National winners will be announced at the annual National LTAP/TTAP Conference in July 2021.

Those that place first to third in Iowa will be announced in the Iowa LTAP newsletter along with other recognition and receive free workshop registrations. The ideas submitted may also be presented to attendees at various conferences and the annual city and county research focus groups.

Contest Categories

  • Innovative Project – Any solution that addresses any or all phase(s) of the “project” life-cycle – Planning, Design/Engineering, Construction, Operations and Maintenance. This project shall introduce new ideas, is locally relevant, original, and creative in thinking.
  • Bold Steps – Any locally relevant high-risk project or process showing a break-through solution with demonstrated high-reward.
  • SMART Transformation – A locally relevant significant change in any transportation activity or process that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) in nature that results in improved efficiencies.
  • Pioneer – A locally relevant product/tool that is among the first to solve a maintenance problem with a home-grown solution.

Submission Instructions

If you have something you think would qualify for this competition, submit your entry by May 3, 2021. The competition is open to employees of any city or county agency.

Please submit entries online using the form below.

Photo and video guidance: FHWA provides some guidance for any photographs and Spotlight Videos. PDF

Release form: In addition, FHWA requests that you obtain a release form for each person you photograph, record, or video. Please include a copy of all release forms in your entry by attaching the following PDF in the “File” section of the form. PDF

Enter the Competition
    Categories described above.
  • Provide specific details on the issues you faced and why it needed to be addressed.
  • Provide details on how you developed, built, and implemented your solution to meet your objective(s). Address the originality of the solution and why you selected this solution.
  • Include design sketch, drawing, and materials list as applicable here or in the file upload section below.
  • Add supporting data such as salary time, cost of materials, equipment used, etc.
  • Include a discussion of data or evidence to support the outcome and/or the revised level of effort upon implementation to complete the job or process. Has this been shared? With whom? Results?
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png, pdf, doc, docx, jpeg, png, jpg.
    Two photographs (minimum) are required. Limited to 10 MB.
    Don't forget to include the FHWA release PDF here, if applicable.
  • Please keep in mind that photographs are required to be included; a Spotlight Video is encouraged (and gets you more points), but not mandatory.
    Include links to your videos here.
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