The Design Contest seems to be the new weapon of choice for microcontroller manufacturers to get attention for their products. NXP is currently running the mbed Design Challenge and two weeks ago Renesas announced their RX Design Contest. Over $110,000 worth of prizes will be distributed amongst the participants.
The Design Contest is also a good way for electronics enthusiasts to get a nice piece of hardware for free. NXP is handing out LPC1768 Cortex-M3 mbed modules for free and the first 1,000 participants of the Renesas contest get a complimentary RX62NRDK development board.
This board supports most flavors of USB, has a color graphics display, LEDs, buttons, SD-card connector and whatever you may need in a project. Random particpants will also get a full licence for Micrium uC/Probe together with the book uC/OS-III RTOS for the Renesas RX.
The contest finalists will be announced on March 13, 2011. The final judging will be at the ESC in San Jose, California on May 3, 2011.
(See also here and here for other contests.)