follow us on facebook follow us on twitter email us

FDA launches #NaloxoneApp competition

Looking to bring a technological solution to a real-world public health problem? Check out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2016 #NaloxoneApp Competition. It’s a public contest focused on developing innovative technologies to combat the rising epidemic of opioid overdose.

Participants are tasked to create a mobile phone application that can connect opioid users experiencing an overdose – or a bystander such as a friend or family member – with nearby carriers of the prescription drug naloxone.  If administered in time, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life.

Calling all innovators!

Computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators from all disciplines are invited to participate in the competition. Participants are highly encouraged to register as teams, but individual applicants will also be accepted.

Registrants will have access to background resources, including information on the opioid epidemic, the approved formulations of naloxone, the public health recommendations for the safe and appropriate use of naloxone, and FDA guidance on mobile medical applications.

The opioid epidemic

This competition builds on work announced in the FDA’s Opioids Action Plan and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Opioid Initiative to take concrete steps toward reducing the impact of opioid misuse, dependence and overdose on American families and communities by making naloxone more accessible.

According to the SAMHSA, nearly two million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine and illicit opioids, such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl, have more than tripled since 1999 – with about 28,000 people dying in 2014 alone. Many of these deaths could have been avoided if people experiencing an overdose had immediately received naloxone to stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone accessibility

Naloxone is currently only available in the U.S. by prescription, but many states have taken steps to make it more readily accessible to first responders, community-based organizations, and laypersons, including friends and family members of opioid users. In fact, the number of laypersons that were provided with naloxone nearly tripled between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, people carrying naloxone may not be present when an overdose occurs.

The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility.

Code-a-thon

On Oct. 19-20, 2016, the FDA will host a two-day code-a-thon.  Registered participants can participate virtually or in person on the FDA campus. It’s an opportunity for entrants to develop their concepts and initial prototypes. All code will be made open-source and publicly accessible, and collaboration will be encouraged. After the code-a-thon, competition participants will independently refine their concepts and then submit a video of a functional prototype along with a brief summary of their concept by Nov. 7, 2016.

Dates to remember

Mark your calendars:

  • Oct. 7, 2016: Deadline to register
  • Oct. 19-20, 2016: Two-day code-a-thon on FDA campus and virtually (for registered entrants)
  • Nov. 7, 2016: Submission deadline

Selecting a winner

A panel of judges from the FDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will evaluate submissions for innovation, usability, functionality, and adaptability. The highest-scoring entrant will receive an award of $40,000.

Following the competition, entrants also may apply for NIDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, subject to eligibility requirements set forth in the SBIR funding opportunity announcement, to further develop their concepts and to develop data to evaluate their real world impact.

The Naloxone App Competition was developed under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, which grants all federal agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.

Additional resources

Follow the Naloxone App Competition on social media using #NaloxoneApp.

For more information:

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Posted in Apps, Challenge.gov, Food and Drug Administration | Leave a comment

Q&A: Military Wants Public’s Ideas for Improved ChemBio Suit

Government agencies organize prize competitions to capture ideas from the general public on important issues. These competitions are anything but one-offs and often serve a higher calling and have impacts that last long after the submission deadline.

PROOF: The ChemBio Suit Design Challenge is a great example of a challenge that mixes ingenuity, prize money, future development and a sense of duty.

Organized by the Defense Department’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, the challenge is seeking ideas to improve the suit worn by U.S. troops to defend against chemical and biological attacks.

The organizers are interested in innovations related to textiles, design or anything else that will help increase dexterity, mobility and overall protection and functionality.

PrizeWire recently spoke with Capt. Stephen Gerry, assistant product manager for Uniformed Integrated Protective Ensemble Increment II, about the PROOF challenge and how members of the public can contribute their talents to keep our military personnel safe.

———-

PrizeWire: While this challenge has a very specific goal in mind, it has the potential to pique the interest of participants of all backgrounds. Are there certain disciplines and professions that you anticipate will have the best chance of success in this challenge?

Capt. Gerry: We anticipate receiving ideas from innovators from all types of expertise, including fashion designers, researchers, students, as well as entrepreneurs in material science, textile design, material design and wearables. The inspiration for this competition is to attract new ideas to provide the best possible suits for America’s military.

PrizeWire: How does this challenge fit into other efforts across the Department of Defense to improve fabrics and materials to protect service members?

Capt. Gerry

Capt. Gerry

Capt. Gerry: Every quarter, the leads on military fabric and material meet at a central location to discuss future projects, issues, and best practices. It is no surprise that the leads, who come from all branches and subject areas of the military, are excited for the challenge briefs. Everyone is striving to provide the best possible equipment to the warfighter, and will leverage all available tools to best accomplish that goal.

PrizeWire: Judging will look at several attributes of the submissions. How will you balance the potential for improvements in specific areas, such as a reduction in weight, with an idea that may be less transformative in a certain area but whose elements are more wholly integrated into the whole?

Capt. Gerry:  For the main prize, balance is key. We judge ideas based on innovation, feasibility, functionality, reduced burden, and ease of use. The final suit can’t only be strong in one area, and neither can an idea. Rather than judging submissions on the how big the idea is, we’re looking at how helpful a particular idea is in helping us achieve our main goals.

Whether it is a specific idea, like weight reduction, or a broader idea, such as overall heat management coupled with suit integration improvements (i.e., mask-helmet interface), the winning concepts will best achieve our main goal – improve the operational capabilities of the suit, to ultimately help the Warfighter comfortably and safely do their job while in combat during chemical and biological wartime threats. There is no idea too small or technology too immature for this challenge!

PrizeWire: After the initial contest, finalists will have the option to enter into a cooperative research and development agreement with the government. How important is it for this type of challenge to continue the work accomplished by participants once the competition is over?

Capt. Gerry:  Very important. This challenge is all about collaboration — innovators collaborating with each other and us collaborating with innovators. We would like that process to continue after the challenge, to ensure the creativity of the winners is a part of our research and development process beyond the competition. That way, we continue to get the best thinking which will marry the winners’ niche expertise with our specific military expertise.

PrizeWire: In addition to the main challenge, several side contests will be held. Can you explain the purpose behind these side contests and how they contribute to the overall mission of the challenge?

Capt. Gerry: There will be some ideas that may not singularly achieve our main goals, but do lead to some improvement designs with the suit. We wanted to recognize those ideas by conducting side contests that will award creativity, collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking. We also wanted to generate the attention of a larger audience, while inspiring and rallying others through social media engagement, so each submission to the side contests will be evaluated based on their evaluation scores, the concepts’ ability to inspire the future and drawing the highest quality social engagement. This allows us to attract more participants by offering a variety of ways to win.

PrizeWire: This competition has it all — prize money, the potential to further develop an idea after the contest and the overarching theme of service to country. What does it mean to the military to be able to collaborate with the public on an issue like this?

Capt. Gerry:  The military was always meant to protect and serve the public. With power of technology and the evolution of the social media space, collaboration with the public is now easier than ever. Now, rather than just protecting the public, we can collaborate with the public through social channels to make them a part of our process. It’s taking our relationship with the public we serve to the next level. It means a lot to us that the creativity from the emerging innovators out there can contribute to protecting the men and women fighting for us. This is the definition of community and partnership with the public, which is our goal as we evolve and keep pace with the way our country’s innovation process has evolved.

———-

Submissions for the PROOF challenge are due Oct. 28. Visit the competition page on Challenge.gov or at proofchallenge.com for more information.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Creative, Department of Defense, Design, Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Viruses

Challenges often shake things up and inspire people to look at a problem from another angle. Just ask University of Arizona professors Joceline Lega and Heidi Brown.

Their prize-winning work to predict the spread of the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in the Americas could have implications that extend to other diseases, including Zika.

Lega, a mathematics professor, and Brown, an assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics, won $150,000 in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) CHIKV Challenge last year, developing a mathematical model to forecast the infection growth rate as the disease emerges in new countries.

Global health organizations provide surveillance of infectious disease outbreaks but struggle to predict with enough certainty the spread of a disease.

That truth is what prompted DARPA to hold the CHIKV Challenge.

The Defense Department itself is responsible for monitoring the health of military personnel and others around the world. If military and public health authorities could move beyond basic surveillance to accurately predict where and when a disease will appear, they could deploy supplies and launch educational campaigns well in advance.

Best-case scenario: They could get out in front of it and stop it in its tracks.

“We are on the cusp of enabling a revolutionary improvement in disease forecasting, in much the way that weather reports transitioned from surveillance to forecasting,” said Col. Matt Hepburn, DARPA program manager for the CHIKV Challenge.

A Direct Approach

In the case of an infectious disease, modeling experts must consider factors such as vectors, hosts, how the disease develops in an individual, and how it is transmitted between people.

The DARPA CHIKV Challenge sought methods to forecast outbreaks and the potential spread of CHIKV throughout the Americas.

The DARPA CHIKV Challenge sought methods to forecast outbreaks and the potential spread of CHIKV throughout the Americas.

But the CHIKV Challenge demanded something specific: Extrapolate the number of reported cases in each country. This allowed competitors to try something new.

“The data was telling us that one could predict average trends in a much simpler fashion,” Lega said. “I don’t think we would have followed this route from the start, had the challenge not put emphasis on developing a solution that addresses a specific question.”

The challenge jolted the disease forecasting community, including the Arizona team whose model was the most accurate in predicting the number of reported cases CHIKV over the course of six months.

More than that, it gave them a head start in efforts to apply what they learned to the Zika virus.

Here We Go Again

In addition to energizing citizen scientists, a good challenge has staying power and produces solutions that can be adjusted and applied again and again.

Just as DARPA announced the winners of the CHIKV Challenge, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert for the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Brazil.

Since then, the rate of infection has increased, and the CDC announced that enough evidence has accumulated to conclude that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same kind that carry CHIKV. The PAHO reports that 42 countries and territories have confirmed local, vector-borne transmission of Zika virus disease in the Americas, including the United States, where authorities have now detected locally transmitted cases of Zika virus.

The biggest obstacle to forecasting so far is a lack of data. PAHO was posting weekly counts of CHIKV cases, which helped to inform the University of Arizona researchers’ model.

“We suspect that the model should work equally well for forecasting the number of cases, the duration of the outbreak, and when the outbreak peaks for Zika as it did for chikungunya,” Brown said.

She and Lega are studying the differences between CHIKV and Zika with the piecemeal information available in an effort to better understand the Zika outbreak and any that come after it.

Thanks to the CHIKV Challenge, they have more resources to aid them in their research.

The Winning Duo

A challenge competition has a way of opening doors to new opportunities and joining people from different backgrounds to work towards a common goal. The CHIKV Challenge was the impetus for the winning partnership between Lega and Brown. They had worked together before, but the CHIKV Challenge allowed them to explore a new opportunity and led to a string of new collaborations that didn’t exist before the competition.

From left to right: DARPA Program Manager Col. Matt Hepburn, Joceline Lega, Heidi Brown and DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar.

From left to right: DARPA Program Manager Col. Matt Hepburn, winners Joceline Lega and Heidi Brown, and DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar.

“As an epidemiologist working with a mathematician, this challenge has led me into a more quantitative direction,” Brown said. “Working with Joceline has helped me to see my own research area from different perspectives.”

As for Lega, she just finished spending part of a sabbatical in Brown’s department to learn more about epidemiology and public health.

“This is a new research direction for me, and I hope this is just the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration,” Lega said.

The two now are expanding their research team to include other faculty and students at the University of Arizona.

But the real team created by DARPA’s challenge goes well beyond the work at any one university.

In addition to Lega and Brown, 10 other teams won cash prizes for their models in the CHIKV Challenge. Participants spanned a range of disciplines and included specialists in public health and infectious disease, as well as mathematics, ecology, computer science and bioinformatics.

None of them had worked with DARPA before, which highlights one of the agency’s goals in launching the CHIKV Challenge — to tap the knowledge-base of thinkers previously unknown to the agency.

“This forward-thinking collaboration is exactly what it will take to stay ahead of the global threat that emerging diseases pose,” Hepburn said.

In May 2015, the winning teams all came together with DARPA and officials from other government agencies and public health organizations. Representatives from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), who helped evaluate challenge submissions, also attended.

“It was a fruitful experience to see a room full of academics interacting with representatives from the Defense Department, and the government, more broadly on a very real health problem,” Brown said.

The assembled crowd talked about the competition, what they learned from it and what their now-expanded community could do next to push the boundaries of infectious disease forecasting.

What now?

Prize competition experts like to say that the end of a challenge is really just the beginning. The real work begins after winners are announced.

This certainly applies to the CHIKV Challenge, especially as another mosquito-borne disease is on the rise.

DARPA has continued to collaborate with winning teams since the conclusion of the competition as the new partners work to update CHIKV and Zika projections.

The challenge also has led to an ongoing dialogue between DARPA and public health experts on how forecasting infectious disease can improve public health decision-making in the Americas, Hepburn said.

“The challenge showed that models are more accurate when they incorporate key data streams, such as meteorological, geographic, human, and vector parameters,” he said.

With that in mind, DARPA has worked with LANL and the top six winners of the challenge to write a report looking at existing methods, technological gaps and other critical factors for making successful predictions. The report has been submitted for publication in an academic journal.

In another effort to share knowledge about the problem and potential solutions, DARPA has addressed how case reporting stats are compiled and communicated in an effort to improve modelers’ access to data.

The team from the University of Arizona also continues to adjust its model, share it with others and make it as useful as possible for different scenarios and changing conditions.

Lega has been working on automating the way the model estimates numerical inputs, to make it easier for others to use. She also designed a more theoretical version of the model using information from previous flu seasons and current flu data. The latter effort will help determine how much the CHIKV approach can be extended to other infectious diseases.

There are still many unknowns, and the answers won’t come easy, but the knowledge gained through the experience of the CHIKV Challenge has put researchers on solid footing as they move forward.

Like any tough problem, there probably won’t be a silver bullet.

“I don’t believe there will be one model,” Brown said. “Rather, there will need to be a suite of models, each addressing a piece of the puzzle. As with any good research question, this challenge has generated many more avenues for research.”

And the prize money certainly helps explore those new avenues, Lega said, “including more unconventional ways of thinking, which would not normally be funded by standard grants.”

Posted in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Success Stories, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

First Lady Announces Winner in Reach Higher Career App Challenge

Today the First Lady Michelle Obama announced ThinkZone Games as the grand prize winner in the Reach Higher Career App Challenge! ThinkZone Games will receive $100,000 and additional sponsor prizes valued at $300,000 for their career exploration mobile app Hats & Ladders.

Hats & Ladders engages students from middle to high school with swipe-to-choose self-assessments, connected activities, and mini-challenges. By providing repeat exposure to a broad spectrum of careers, it enables students to draw connections between their personal attributes and multiple pathways to career success.

After their selection as a Challenge finalist, ThinkZone Games and the other 4 finalists participated in an intensive 6-week Virtual Accelerator phase to refine their business model and develop a working prototype. During this phase, they were supported by mentors with expertise in mobile design, business modeling, civic tech, and career counseling.

The accelerator phase culminated with Demo Day on July 7 in Washington D.C., where ThinkZone Games presented Hats & Ladders to the challenge judges and leaders from the private and public sector, including Megan Smith, CTO of the United States, and Eric Waldo, Executive Director of the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative. With their prize money, ThinkZone Games will complete development in preparation for a pilot with 50 middle schools in early 2017.

“The challenge inspired us to create a new app that helps students begin figuring out who they are and what they want to be, in a way that’s connected to their everyday lives and takes advantage of opportunities and information already out there,” said Leah Potter, Director for Instructional Design for ThinkZone Games. “It provided us with just the assistance we needed to strengthen virtually every aspect of Hats & Ladders.”

The tools that emerged from this challenge demonstrate the exciting potential for new technologies to help students map pathways to promising careers. All finalists will be invited to the Code for America Summit this November where they will join government innovators, civic-minded technologists, and entrepreneurs with a passion for building 21st century government.

We look forward to following ThinkZone Games and the other challenge finalists over the next year as they finish developing their technologies.

Congratulations to all!

This article was originally posted on the Reach Higher Career Apps Challenge website.

Posted in Apps, Challenge.gov, Uncategorized, White House, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

​Iowa innovator wins agency’s $10K Challenge.gov competition

The winner of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s first Challenge.gov competition never thought he “would in any way be involved with an intelligence agency.”

Nicholas Starke, a penetration tester and computer software evaluator in Iowa, spotted an advertisement for the agency’s living stories challenge on Twitter and “decided to take a swing at it.”

His idea took the challenge in a different direction than originally anticipated, said Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s GEOINT Pathfinder project program manager and one of the Challenge.gov judges.

“Mr. Starke’s idea helps reduce complexity tracking changes to a living story by navigating revisions with simple color-coded and clickable boxes of inserted and removed text,” said Rasmussen. “Our team then turned this concept into a very simple ‘VCR button’-like navigation system to track changes.”

GEOINT Pathfinder developers implemented the code developed by Starke into an unclassified and mobile geospatial intelligence product line prototype.

“Our goal is to deliver high-quality, unclassified GEOINT to a customer’s mobile device or desktop hours before they come into a secret environment, while drinking their morning coffee,” said Rasmussen.

Ultimately, Rasmussen hopes this “coffee strategy” will spur institutionalizing unclassified GEOINT production within NGA and the intelligence community.

“As GEOINT becomes commercialized and pushes further into the unclassified space, we need to write more content within secured, unclassified channels,” he said.

According to Rasmussen, hosting NGA’s first challenge on Challenge.gov yields several exciting benefits, such as demonstrating that the agency is serious about paid crowdsourcing and embracing outside perspectives.

“One of our goals is to help IC employees and the public understand when we need to be open and when we need to be closed,” said Rasmussen.

That message has at least reached one person in Iowa.

“I think intelligence agencies in this country sometimes get a bad rap for not being transparent,” said Starke. “I think this was an excellent step in the right direction.”

—–

This article originally appeared on NGA.mil. It has been posted here with permission from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Creative, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Success Stories, Uncategorized, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Challenge Win Advances Quest for Clean Water in Rural India

Challenges are just not competitions for cash.

They often act as catalysts to new businesses, research findings and technologies that make an impact in everyday lives.

Prize money can provide crucial funding on the way to more ambitious goals.

MIT researchers Amos Winter and Natasha Wright found that out when they won the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Desal Prize in 2014.

They won the competition by developing a solar-powered system that uses electricity to remove salt from water and relies on ultraviolet rays to disinfect the water.

Winning the challenge led to a partnership with a company in India, where Winter and Wright are working to provide clean, affordable water in communities where residents have been drinking contaminated water.

MIT News has a detailed article about how these challenge winners are making a difference in the developing world.

It’s a great example of how ideas generated through a challenge have a lasting influence that goes beyond the prize.

In this case, it’s a matter of life and death.

Posted in U.S. Agency for International Development, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Where Are They Now?

James McBride has written numerous rap songs, but it was his lyrics on hitting the fruit and vegetable stand that won him a cash prize from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

McBride, also known as Mr. Deep Positivity, won first place in USDA’s MyPlate Fruits & Veggies Video Challenge in 2011 with his “Wrap Rap,” which lent rhyme to healthy food prep practices.

By eating healthy wraps like the one described in his winning song, McBride had lost 18 pounds heading into the competition.

“I wrote the song in about a half hour because I just told the truth of what I actually did,” says McBride, whose winning video received more than 20,000 views on YouTube.

He used the cash prize from the My Plate challenge to record an album’s worth of material devoted to healthy life lessons modeled after FIrst Lady Michelle Obama’s campaigns to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.

McBride began writing and performing positive songs in 2002 when he became a Big Brother volunteer. Since then, he has written more than 700 songs and recorded a string of CDs with songs that tackle everything from nonviolence to safety lessons.

Winning the USDA challenge brought tremendous exposure to McBride, and his Mr. Deep Positivity alter ego began to catch on at schools and in community performances throughout New England. Former Miss Rhode Island, Deborah Saint-Vil, began traveling to McBride’s events and even performed on some of his tracks.

The mayor of Providence, R.I., where McBride was born, soon heard about him and named him the city’s first Healthy Ambassador, a title he retains to this day. The designation meant a lot to McBride, who grew up in one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods where he faced guns, drugs and the violent deaths of two cousins.

He even knows the exact number of days he spent in a notorious housing project — 7,665.

“It was in that horrible environment where I birthed the faith in myself that I could make a better world using my gifts and talents,” McBride says. “Becoming the Healthy Ambassador of Providence and working with the mayor’s Healthy Communities Office was a dream come true.”

But McBride still has higher goals.

Two years ago, more than 1,000 students sent letters to President Obama asking him to make McBride AKA Mr. Deep Positivity, the first Healthy Ambassador of the United States.

“I’m in the process of trying to raise $1.1 million so I can reach and inspire over 1 million youth in the country to be healthy and positive,” he says.

McBride envisions a national contest where kids create poems, songs, stories and skits. Hundreds of winners would receive free downloads of his healthy songs, as well as in-person performances by Mr. Deep Positivity at their schools.

He hopes the money he raises will help him tour the country in an RV-turned music mobile with a soundstage, studio and movie screen.

“My goal will be to create 1 million youth leaders who will become an army of Healthy Ambassadors promoting health and positive choices to their peers and families all across the country,” McBride says.

Until then, he will continue performing as many as 150 shows a year and recording new music to inspire kids to better living, a calling buoyed by the USDA My Plate challenge in 2011.

“I hope the federal government will host more of these types of contests where the average Joe can win money and have a chance to become a positive role model in the process,” McBride says. “What I loved about the contest was that everyone could enter, even my 8-year-old son, and we all contributed to making great tips for eating healthy at home, at restaurants and on the go.”

Posted in Department of Agriculture, Success Stories, Video contest, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Challenge Winners Have Success Stories of All Kinds

Some come from the private sector, others come from universities and high schools.

Some develop a new technology, others end up starting a business.

Some come from big cities, others come from out of nowhere.

The best thing about a challenge is that anyone can participate and anyone can win.

Check out some past winners and see what they have to say about how the challenges they won allowed them to improve their lives and the lives of others.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Success Stories, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Global Challenge Battles Forced Labor

When you sign on to help with a challenge, you open yourself up to a variety of people, opportunities and interest areas.

Sometimes, you may be asked to develop a fun, educational app or design a multimedia project. Other times, you may be asked to join the fight against modern-day slavery.

The Partnership for Freedom Rethink Supply Chains Challenge called on citizens to do the latter.

A public-private partnership featuring several federal agencies and industry players, the Partnership for Freedom sought technological solutions that could help identify and address labor trafficking in global supply chains.

The winners were announced in May.

The winning team received $250,000 to put toward its solution, a digital risk assessment tool that will help seafood suppliers and major retailers better identify areas within a supply chain at risk for forced labor.

The second-place team came up with a mobile phone-based system that improves visibility of trafficked workers by collecting and analyzing feedback received by workers on an anonymous two-way communication channel. The runner-up received a $50,000 grant — no small potatoes there.

In addition to the very real and widespread problem it addresses and the sizeable prize purse, this competition showed what can happen when participants with good ideas go beyond competition and work together.

The winning team was a partnership between two organizations — they saw the problem, determined how each could contribute and decided to join forces to propose their solution.

Posted in Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Partnering, Prize Competitions, Public-Private Partnership, State Department, Technology, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Q&A: Prize Money Expected to Grow for Great Lakes Data Challenge

The Great Lakes ecosystem is an all-important national asset that contains 84 percent of the fresh surface water in North America and 18 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water.

More than a million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in wages are directly tied to the Great Lakes, making restoration efforts all the more critical.

Reports indicate that these remedial environmental efforts are paying off, but the ecosystem still faces threats from climate change, water quality issues and invasive species.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and other partners want your help. They are offering $9,500 in prizes to those who can come up with the best apps, mash-ups, visualizations, and other solutions that can make the most of data in efforts to improve the health of the Great Lakes and help ensure the vitality of this ecosystem for future generations.

PrizeWire recently sat down with Kelli Paige, executive director of GLOS, to learn more about the GLOS Data Challenge  and how you, the solver, can help address these critical issues.


PrizeWire: NOAA, GLOS and many other organizations work constantly to monitor and ensure the health and vibrancy of precious natural assets like the Great Lakes. What led to the decision to host a challenge, and what are your goals in taking these issues directly to the public?

Kelli Paige

Kelli Paige

Kelli Paige: Bringing new perspectives and innovative ideas to Great Lakes problems is what the challenge is all about. The environmental field is typically dominated by researchers, regulators and other science practitioners. Collecting and using data about the natural environment is so integral to the nature of our work, it’s easy to look within our own community for expertise in analyzing the information. We thought this challenge would be a good opportunity to engage others with experience working with big data, like the tech sector, and encourage folks to think outside of the box. The region faces many different management issues and we hope the data challenge inspires solutions that help ensure the Great Lakes continue to be a safe and valuable resource.

PW: You’re looking for solutions that can help all users of the Great Lakes, from natural resource managers to vacationers. How might a solution that targets a specific type of user be judged differently than one intended for a more general audience?

KP: The exciting thing about our challenge is that we are open to any creative and innovative approach. If the proposed solution helps the user find or understand information in a way they couldn’t before, I would say that is a success. We have examples of data tools that provide specific information to a user group like public health experts in one area on the Great Lakes, but we also have information that can be quite widely consumed through our data portal. For this particular challenge, no one user is more valuable than another as long as the solution demonstrates it is useful.

PW: What kinds of existing data will participants have to work with? Are there additional data types that you hope to develop through this challenge?

KP: GLOS primarily provides access to real-time or near real-time data on the physical, meteorological, and biological conditions of the lakes themselves. We are requiring that at least one data set accessible through GLOS is used. However, there are a variety of other data types available through our website, and even more that can be found elsewhere. That includes GIS data layers, socio-economic information, and databases on different types of infrastructure in the region. We’ve got a nice list to get folks started in the guideline details on our website.

A metal drum lays on the sand besides Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

PW: The focus of this challenge is on the Great Lakes and likely will generate a lot of interest among those with connections to the Great Lakes region. But what might someone from another part of the country bring to the challenge?

KP: The Great Lakes are a massive and complex ecosystem and there are an endless number of topics to interest anyone on a salty coast or in a land-locked state. Our coastline totals nearly 11,000 miles, water levels and shipping traffic are regulated by a complex system of locks and dams, and commercial and sports fisheries support a multi-billion dollar fishing industry. Bi-nationally, the Great Lakes region is the third largest economy in the world and the resource is a direct source of drinking water for millions of people. We have “issue experts” available to answer any questions for those who might not be as familiar with the region and we’re excited to see how a different regional perspective could inspire a new way of working with the data.

PW: More than 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, and the crisis in Flint is fresh in people’s minds. How important is public data when it comes to addressing water quality issues at the source and throughout the process of delivering it to people’s homes?

KP: One of the lessons from Flint and also from the Toledo algal bloom crisis in 2014 is that we need to be more pro-active about anticipating and communicating potential impacts to our drinking water. More monitoring alone is not enough, we need to be able to share the information with other drinking water managers and government officials so they can feel confident about the decisions they make and communicating those decisions with the public. Making meaningful connections between relevant but disparate data sets for the resource managers would be a great first step towards addressing this problem.

PW: Is there anything else you’d like to say to those considering registering for this challenge?

KP: We are still getting interest from groups that want to sponsor the challenge so we expect the prize money to continue to grow. Be creative and be inspired by the Great Lakes. We look forward to the submittals!


Be sure to visit the GLOS Data Challenge on Challenge.gov and on the GLOS website for more details.

The deadline for submissions is Aug. 10.

Posted in Apps, Data, Environment, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Visualization | Leave a comment