FORTUNE -- In front of a standing-room-only crowd at a Rice University auditorium Thursday night, business plan contestants set the scene: A would-be student entrepreneur walks into an elevator with Warren Buffett. They have 30 floors -- or 60 seconds -- to get him to invest in their company.
More than 40 student teams delivered elevator pitches to an imaginary Oracle of Omaha. But the crowd was real: Nearly 500 students, investors, and Texas business leaders crowded into the Houston business school auditorium. This micro-spiel showdown is a high-drama event at the university's annual business plan competition, which draws teams from all over the country to compete for $1.6 million over the course of three PowerPoint-filled days. Some stumbled -- a few presenters went cold in front of the crowd. And some succeeded, you can see all the pitches here.
The judges will hand out prizes to the winning teams at a gala on Saturday night, including $1,000 for the best elevator pitch and $450,000 for the top team. But for now, Fortune has picked a few of its favorites.
Best appeal to the hypochondriac in all of us: NanDio, University of Notre Dame
The plan: The team says it has a simple diagnostic test for the human papillomavirus, which it says is causing epidemic levels of oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The pitch: "Do you know what's in your mouth? It could be HPV."
Most likely to further depress manufacturing workers: NVBOTS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The plan: With 3-D printers already increasing the amount of automation in manufacturing, this team has developed one that can run all day and night.
The pitch: "We've eliminated the human from every step of the 3-D printing process. You can run our machines 24/7 without any human interaction."
Most likely to spark a sequel to The Graduate: PolyDrop, University of Washington
The plan: The company wants to make durable plastic materials that can conduct electricity. The team thinks its semiconducting polymers could take over the electrostatic charge dissipation market (yes, it's a mouthful), which it says is worth $2.3 billion.
The pitch: "We are PolyDrop, and we are completing the plastics revolution."
Most likely to purge Britney Spears songs from your bar night: CrowdTunes, Duke University
The plan: Create a digital jukebox marketplace where bar-goers can use their phones to control the sound system, paying per play, and paying more to play a song immediately.
The pitch: "Patrons can bid on their songs, and then outbid their friends with terrible taste. We've created a music marketplace where I've seen songs sold for $20 in bars."
Best reason to ditch that arts career and get an MBA: FilmShaker, London Business School
The plan: FilmShaker promises to be the "Netflix of independent films." With even the best indie films getting little distribution, the business would give those movies a platform, and a business model.
The pitch: "A few years ago, I met a producer whose movie won the Cannes Film Festival. He told me his movie hadn't made any money."
More than 500 teams applied to the richest business plan competition in the world, Rice University's event in Houston. The 42 still standing will compete this weekend for $1.6 million in prizes.
FORTUNE -- Want to start a business? So does everyone else.
More than 500 teams applied to participate in the richest business plan competition in the world, Rice University's Business Plan Competition in Houston. The 42 still standing will compete this MOREAnne VanderMey - Apr 11, 2014 9:56 AM ET
Bill Clinton's old fixers have a new paperback on handling PR emergencies. Here's a shameless summary of the key points.
By Anne VanderMey
Crisis is everywhere. There are the national public relations fiascos: General Motors, Chris Christie, the NSA. And then there are the countless human missteps that plague companies every day: The reply-all email gaffe, the product defect, the affair. Be your crises big or small, these authors think they can help. Christopher Lehane and Mark Fabiani MOREMar 28, 2014 11:58 AM ET
Just a few months after replacing its admissions chief, the elite school names an Australian native for the top job.
FORTUNE -- The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School has a new dean. On Monday, the school announced that Geoffrey Garrett, current head of the Australian School of Business at Sydney's University of New South Wales, would replace Wharton's current Dean Thomas Robertson, effective July 1.
Garrett, an Australian native, will leave Sydney MOREAnne VanderMey - Mar 17, 2014 2:18 PM ET
Why HR departments should take a cue from extreme adventure sports to help employees become more productive.
FORTUNE -- Know that sensation when you're working out or cranking on a project, and time starts to pass quickly, distractions melt away, and you feel like you're in the zone?
It's a real biological process, with a large and growing body of research dedicated to figuring it out what makes it work.
The concept is MOREAnne VanderMey - Mar 17, 2014 10:39 AM ET
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