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."
Got a solid business idea? Need funding? The Rice University Business Plan Competition -- one of the richest and largest of such contests -- is accepting applications.Feb 13, 2013 11:55 AM ET
Behind the scenes at the annual contest for budding entrepreneurs.
By David A. Kaplan and Anne VanderMey
FORTUNE -- It may not have the ubiquity of Facebook or the scale of Wal-Mart, but NuMat Technologies someday could change the world just a little bit. At least that's what the audacious student entrepreneurs behind it believe. NuMat is a university spinout that aims to revolutionize clean tech by making natural-gas vehicles more MOREMay 17, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Google's Gautam Gandhi took home the top prize at the Rice University Business Plan Competition in 2004. He talks to Fortune about the startup climate in the U.S., the value of business plan competitions, and what aspiring entrepreneurs ought to know. Interview by Anne VanderMeyApr 13, 2012 2:54 PM ET
Ultraviolet cell phone disinfectants, bloodstain testers, and a brand new use for dry ice are just a few of the pitches at this year's Rice University Business Plan Competition. By Anne VanderMeyApr 10, 2012 9:35 AM ET
By Anne VanderMey, reporter
The Rice Business Plan Competition has a reputation for being a pressure cooker. The nation's largest and richest, it's generally referred to as the Super Bowl of MBA contests. With more than a million dollars in prizes, the winning teams should have the funding to launch their businesses and a chance to quit their day jobs.
The pressure is especially great for teams like Titin. The Titin founder, MOREApr 16, 2011 1:43 PM ET
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