By Anne VanderMey and Nicolas Rapp
April 12, 2013

FORTUNE — The elevator pitch contest is a time-honored tradition of the MBA business plan competition. At Wake Forest University, it even takes place in an actual moving elevator.

The Rice Business Plan Competition has its own take on the ritual. The premise: You walk into an elevator with Warren Buffett and you have 33 floors (60 seconds) to convince him to invest in your startup idea. This year at Rice, 42 teams delivered that hypothetical minute-long speech to a standing-room only crowd in the business school’s 460-seat auditorium in Houston. The judges will dole out awards on Saturday, and the winning team will take home $1,000. But for now, Fortune picked a few its own champions.

Best MacGyver impression

“What if I told you I could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?” –Disease Diagnostic Group at Case Western Reserve University

The team plans to use the magnetic charge of malaria parasites to develop a new, cheaper, way to detect the disease in developing countries.

Best dressed

“As a future physician, I’m excited to share how BriteSeed can save tens of thousand of lives and billions in wasteful spending.” –BriteSeed, Northwestern University, delivered while wearing scrubs

Briteseed has developed a technology called SafeSnips, which will alert surgeons performing robotic procedures when they are about to cut a blood vessel at risk of uncontrolled bleeding.

Biggest potential to make money while ruining your morning commute

“1.6 billion people ride the New York subway every year and virtually all of them are cut off from cell phone coverage, costing millions per week to advertisers and service providers.” –EnKinta Energy, University of Southern California

The team wants to use the kinetic energy created by moving trains to generate power and bring Wi-Fi and cell phone service to straphangers. That morning subway ride could get more profitable — and louder.

Most terrifying

“Ladies and gentlemen, passwords can’t protect us anymore.” –Excalibur, Harvard University and Technical University Kosice, Slovakia

Excalibur’s technology would effectively turn your cell phone into a secureID. They estimate that it takes $130 to hack a Facebook (FB) or Twitter account, $160 for a Gmail account, and $500 for a corporate mailbox.


“Forget the lows, it’s time to get high.” –Kaffeination, University of Manchester, England

Taking aim at the booming energy drink market, this team has already sold more than 5,000 bags of caffeine-infused gummy bears to students in the UK looking for a boost.

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