follow us on facebook follow us on twitter email us

Finalists Announced in NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge

When astronauts finally land on the surface of Mars, they may not be alone.

They may bring with them some associates who stand more than six feet tall, weigh about 300 pounds and have programmed souls.

This past summer NASA launched its Space Robotics Challenge, which seeks to equip humanoid robots with the autonomy and dexterity they need to work alongside astronauts on a Mars mission — and even do some prep work before humans arrive.

NASA just announced 20 finalists in the competition, chosen from a field of more than 90 teams with participants from 13 countries. They are now preparing their software solutions for the next phase of the virtual competition in June.

Eligible teams will receive $15,000 for their work in the qualification round. They are competing for $1 million in prize money.

You can see the names of the finalists on the main Space Robotics Challenge webpage.

The teams have developed software that will help robots like NASA’s R5 (aka Valkyrie) complete basic tasks on their own, things like deploying and preparing habitats, power systems and other infrastructure on Mars before humans arrive.

Or back home on Earth, helping out with disaster relief and maintenance at industrial plants.

For this competition, teams are writing code to a specific situation.

NASA sets the scene this way:

“In the not so distant future … R5 has arrived on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission. Overnight a dust storm damaged the habitat and solar array, and caused the primary communication antenna to become misaligned. R5 must now repair an air leak in the habitat, deploy a new solar panel, and align the communication antenna.”

R5’s new skills will come in handy soon enough.

NASA has the first manned mission to Mars penciled in for sometime in the 2030s.

For more information on challenges from NASA, check out the agency’s page here on Challenge.gov and the Centennial Challenges Program.

Posted in NASA, Technology | Leave a comment

Challenge Winners Look to Root Out Contamination at Food Processing Plants

Some prize competitions seek to solve problems to benefit the public; others may spur industry through the creation of new businesses.

And some do both.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) I-FAST competition sought to bring fundamental academic research to the marketplace through innovations in food and agricultural science and technology, or I-FAST.

Working with the National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA awarded $50,000 each to four winning teams, who are now working to bring their innovations to the marketplace.

“Innovation is an economic driver and a necessity in the agriculture industry,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). “Through this new partnership with the National Science Foundation, we are able to help move ideas from the research lab to the marketplace, where they can provide real solutions as these teams intended.”

Take food contaminations, for example. They are often the result of naturally occurring pathogens and bad for both consumers and business.

Thanks to the I-FAST competition, a new company in Missouri has formed around a device that will make it easier to detect food-borne pathogens at processing plants.

Dr. Majed Dweik, associate professor at Lincoln University, a historically black college and university in Jefferson City, Mo., teamed up with Elijah Sharpe, a student entrepreneur and already the CEO of a research company, and Mike Nichols, former University of Missouri System vice president of economic development and research to enter the I-FAST competition.

“This was the first time any of our team members had competed in an event like this,” Dweik said.

Fortunately, the teams that participated received plenty of support from both NIFA and the NSF I-Corps program, which put Dweik and company through months of business training and prepared them to make an economic impact with their innovation.

“It took me out of the academic mind to think and learn how the industry works and allow me to think how to bridge the two together,” Dweik said.

The team toured many food processing plants to learn the finer points of the process and understand the most crucial needs for more efficient and effective detection of pathogens. The team members came away knowing what they needed to do to make the best product for their target market.

Now they have a device that is faster, more precise and less expensive. And they have a new company, Smart Diagnostics Systems, for their product.

The company is currently seeking funding and partners who can help move the technology to market. The team also will be applying for more funding through small business programs at USDA and NSF.

Being one of the four winning teams in the I-FAST competition comes with a sense of pride that extends beyond Dweik’s team and new company and goes straight to the heart of the university they represent.

“This award is a great deal for our university since we are also a minority-serving institution,” Dweik said. Faculty, staff and students alike are excited to see what happens when the detection technology enters the market, he said.

That’s to say nothing of those in the food processing industry.

“They believe it will make great positive change to food safety,” Dweik said. “Applying our technology into processing plants across the country will allow us to secure the quality of our food and keep citizens safe from pathogen consumption.”

Posted in Challenge.gov, Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, Prize Competitions, Success Stories, Technology, Winner Stories | 2 Comments

FTC Announces Internet of Things Challenge to Combat Security Vulnerabilities in Home Devices

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is challenging the public to create an innovative tool that will help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities in the software of home devices connected to the Internet of Things. The agency is offering a cash prize of up to $25,000 for the best technical solution, with up to $3,000 available for up to three honorable mention winner(s).

The FTC is asking contestants to develop a tool that would address security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices as part of the IoT Home Inspector Challenge. An ideal tool might be a physical device that the consumer can add to his or her home network that would check and install updates for other IoT devices on that home network, or it might be an app or cloud-based service, or a dashboard or other user interface.  Contestants also have the option of adding features such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default or easy-to-guess passwords.

“Every day American consumers are offered innovative new products and services to make their homes smarter,” said Jessica Rich.  “Consumers want these devices to be secure, so we’re asking for creativity from the public – the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs – to help them keep device software up-to-date.”

The Internet of Things, an array of billions of everyday objects sending and receiving data over the internet, is expanding rapidly with the adoption of applications such as health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected cars and household appliances. It holds many potential benefits for consumers, but also raises numerous privacy and security concerns that could undermine consumer confidence.

Submissions will be accepted as early as March 1, 2017 and are due May 22, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Winners will be announced on or about July 27, 2017.

Up to 20 contestants will be selected in the first round, where judges will only assess the contestants’ videos and abstracts without the detailed explanation. Qualifying contestants will then move on to the next and final round where the detailed explanations will be considered for a chance to win the top prize of $25,000 or $3,000 for honorable mention.

An expert panel of five judges will judge the contest.

This the FTC’s fourth government contest under the America COMPETES Act, and the first one addressing IoT issues. In 2015, the FTC hosted robocall contests in partnership with Pindrop Security and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Complete rules for the current contest are published in the Federal Register and available at: ftc.gov/IoTHomeInspector where you can find instructions and requirements regarding the registration and submission process. Contest information will also be posted on Challenge.gov, an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration.

This post originally appeared on the FTC website.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Federal Trade Commission, Prize Competitions, Technology | 1 Comment

Help Shape New Directions in Open Science: Vote for your favorite Innovation!

In the spirit of open science – a movement to make data and other information from scientific research available to everyone — the National Institutes of Health invites you to cast your vote and help us decide which of the projects competing for the Open Science Prize are the most innovative and most likely to have the greatest impact. Your vote plays a critical role in determining the three finalists for the ultimate selection of a grand prize winner of $230,000.00

In this competition, six finalist teams, composed of at least one U.S.-based and one international researcher, are using open data to improve human health. Open data refers to publicly-accessible data that is available for re-use by anyone.

While science is truly a global endeavor, often involving teams of scientists at institutions in different nations, funding for scientific research is typically tied to the country of origin. To overcome this, the National Institutes of Health and the UK-based Wellcome Trust, with additional funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, have jointly created the Open Science Prize, an innovative effort showing how funding agencies can collaborate internationally.

The goal of this Prize is to stimulate the development of novel and ground-breaking tools and platforms to enable the reuse and repurposing of open digital research objects relevant to biomedical or health applications.  A Prize model is necessary to help accelerate the field of open biomedical research beyond what current funding mechanisms can achieve.  We also hope to demonstrate the huge potential value of Open Science approaches, and to generate excitement, momentum and further investment in the field.

The prize was first announced in 2015 and we invited solvers around the world to submit their ideas.  Out of a pool of 96 applicant teams, six finalists were selected and provided $80,000 to develop their ideas into prototypes.

Here’s a bit of background on each of the six finalist projects (listed in no particular order) on which we are asking you to vote.

Open Neuroimaging Laboratory: Advancing brain research by enabling collaborative annotation, discovery and analysis of brain imaging data

There is a massive volume of brain imaging data available on the internet, capturing different types of information such as brain anatomy, connectivity and function. This data represents an incredible effort of funding, data collection, processing and the goodwill of thousands of participants.  The development of a web-based application called BrainBox enables distributed collaboration around annotation, discovery and analysis of publicly available brain imaging data, generating insight on critical societal challenges such as mental disorders, but also on the structure of our cognition.  Collaborators can send information, make comments, and highlight particular locations on the images, and access can be restricted to allow collaborators to view the images without modifying them – using a functionality similar to Google Docs.

Open AQ: Providing real-time information on poor air quality by combining data from across the globe

Poor air quality is responsible for one out of eight deaths across the world, but the most polluted places in the world are not well-researched, hindering scientific progress. Accessible and timely air quality data is critical to advancing the scientific fight against air pollution and is essential for health research.  The OpenAQ platform collects data every 10 minutes and allows users to view stored data and compare locations.  To date, the OpenAQ community has collected 32,929,735 air quality measurements from 4,569 locations in 41 countries.  Data are aggregated from 55 government level and research-grade sources.

Real-Time Evolutionary Tracking for Pathogen Surveillance and Epidemiological Investigation:  Permitting analysis of emerging epidemics such as Ebola, MERS-CoV and Zika

The Nextstrain project is an app for tracking pathogen evolution in real time, critical in this era of high mobility. Contact tracing is the main way to fight a virus without a vaccine; sequencing the genomes of viruses such as Ebola can determine the shared mutations and phylogeny of each strain, allowing field epidemiologists a more nuanced way to trace contact. To facilitate treatment of active outbreaks of pathogens such as Zika, Nextstrain is able to show molecular epidemiology within days. It also is intended to be scalable and easy to interpret for teams on the ground. The project uses an online visualization platform where the outputs of statistical analyses can be used by public health officials for epidemiological insights within days of samples being taken from patients.

OpenTrialsFDA: Enabling better access to drug approval packages submitted to and made available by the Food and Drug Administration

The OpenTrialsFDA app makes clinical trials data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) easier to find by making the contents of the drug approval packages publically available.  These review packages often contain information on clinical trials that have never been published in academic journals.  OpenTrialsFDA allows users to see the raw results of a study, such as unpublished data or data that seem more significant than they really are, in a way that is much more user-friendly and easier to navigate than the Drugs@FDA database of publicly available documents.

Fruit Fly Brain Observatory: Allowing researchers to better conduct modeling of mental and neurological diseases by connecting data related to the fly brain

Understanding human brain function and disease is arguably the biggest challenge in neuroscience. To help address this challenge, researchers turn to smaller but sufficiently complex brains from other organisms. The Fruit Fly Brain Observatory allows data from fruit fly brain scans to be used as models for investigating human neurological and psychological disorders. The Fruit Fly Brain Observatory also has integrated healthy and diseased models of the human brain for study. Using computational disease models, researchers can make targeted modifications that are difficult to perform in vivo with current genetic techniques. The platform is modular, so it will be extendable to mice, zebrafish, and other experimental animals. These capabilities have the potential to significantly accelerate the development of powerful new ways to predict the effects of pharmaceuticals upon neural circuit functions.

MyGene2: Accelerating Gene Discovery with Radically Open Data Sharing

Approximately 350 million people worldwide and over 30 million Americans have a rare disease. Most of these rare diseases are so-called Mendelian conditions, which means that mutation(s) in a single gene can cause disease.  Examples of such diseases are include sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and xeroderma pigmentosa. Over 7,000 Mendelian conditions have been described, but to date, scientists have only linked half of those conditions to a specific gene. Consequently, close to 70 percent of families who undergo clinical testing lack a diagnosis.  MyGene2 is a website that makes it easy and free for families with Mendelian conditions to share health and genetic information with other families, clinicians and researchers worldwide in order to make a match.

You can play a part in shaping the future of biomedical research by going to www.OpenSciencePrize.org, reviewing the projects listed there, and voting for the three you would like to see advance to the final round of competition. Voting is open from December 1, 2016 until January 6, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. PST.  The 3 prototypes receiving the highest number of public votes will advance to a final round of review by a panel of science experts and judges from the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust  A single, grand prize winning team will receive an award of $230,000 jointly funded by the collaborators will be announced in March 2017.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Data, National Institutes of Health, Open Innovation, Prize Competitions | Leave a comment

Q&A: Company Finds Validation, New Partners in Hearing Loss Challenge

Noise-induced hearing loss is prevelant among workers in industries from manufacturing to the military, where it is the most common disability among veterans.

Each year, more than 20 million workers are exposed to noise levels that can cause irreparable damage to the inner ear and lead to hearing loss and tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears. These conditions cost employers millions of dollars each year and cannot be reversed through medicine or surgery.

The U.S. Department of Labor this year ran the Hear & Now Noise Safety Challenge to look for technological solutions to help reduce hearing loss on the job.

PrizeWire recently spoke with Nick Laperle, president and chief hearing evangelist of EERS, the company that won the first-place prize in the competition with a system that provides hearing protection, monitoring and the ability to communicate in high-noise environments.

In the aftermath of winning, EERS is continuing to work closely with the government and even other competitors from the challenge to work toward the common goal of eliminating noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace.

—–

PrizeWire: Tell me a little about EERS – how and when did it get started?

Nick Laperle: I have 20 years of experience in hearing health, following in the footsteps of my family who established several clinics in Quebec. Founded in 2015, EERS Inc. is a spin-off of Sonomax, a cutting edge hearing protection company whose technological building blocks helped create this new product called EERS.

Nick Laperle

Nick Laperle

EERS also has a unique relationship with École de technologie supérieure (ETS) de Montréal, one of the largest engineering schools in Canada and our sponsored chair in auditory research. Through the iterative work of the post graduates and the core technology, EERS has created a very scalable, affordable, easily adoptable solution that we feel will effectively help eliminate noise-induced hearing loss in the work place.

Standard hearing protection forces noise-exposed workers to make an unsafe choice: stay protected and isolated, or be unprotected to communicate. No one should have to choose between safety and doing their job. EERS plans to end hearing loss with three steps. First, protection: A worker’s hearing is always protected. Second, communication: A worker stays protected and can communicate at all times. Third, monitoring: Management can take corrective action prior to potential damage. Comparative products can’t do all three or are too costly for mass adoption. We change the game by providing all three steps for a little more than the cost of disposable plugs.

PW: How did you hear about the Hear & Now Noise Safety Challenge?

NL: A contact at the American Industrial Hygiene Association, an organization devoted to protecting the health and safety of workers, forwarded the announcement of the competition as she thought it was a perfect fit for our company.

PW: Was this your first prize competition?

NL: No, with our other products we won a number of awards, including the Edison Award, CES Innovation Awards, Product of the Year, as well as Product of the Future. For this new product, this is our first win, but it won’t be our last.

PW: How did your experience in this competition differ from your usual interactions with government agencies?

NL: In the past, trying to get exposure with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was very challenging. This was an excellent initiative by Kelly Schnapp, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Assessment at OSHA. We are most grateful to her as she has done a phenomenal job in putting this together.

PW: There were other groups who also were invited to pitch their solutions to the investor/judging panel. What was the interaction like between all the different entrepreneurs there?

NL: There was a definite feeling of camaraderie from the other entrepreneurs. All of us are working towards the same goal of eliminating noise-induced hearing loss. We are, in fact, in discussions with one of the other finalists, and looking to collaborate with at least two other contestants.

PW: What has winning the Noise Safety Challenge meant to EERS?

NL: Along with great exposure from the competition, winning the challenge meant validation that we are on the right track and boosted confidence from our distribution and financial partners. Since winning the challenge we’ve been contacted by several end users as well as the Mine Safety and Health Administration to look at how we can help in the mining industry. What we are most excited about is the Research to Practice portion where actual National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health scientists would go in the field and document the claims we are making and the end user experience. We believe this will be of huge value to scale the business in 2018 and beyond.

PW: What does the future hold for EERS?

NL: In the coming months, we will put the final touches on the product and begin the roll out to actual users in the field. We are currently working on our alpha testing. We will do beta testing in the first quarter of 2017 and have a release date in late 2017. We continue to work on research as hearing evangelists and let the world hear that is it possible to eliminate noise-induced hearing loss from the workplace.

—–

For more on the Noise Safety Challenge and the other winners, visit the Department of Labor’s main challenge website.

Posted in Department of Labor, Success Stories, Technology, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Open for Business: Public Competitions Advance the Work of Citizen Entrepreneurs

Elizabeth Caven had just turned an idea into a startup venture last year when she entered the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER challenge, a competition organized to unearth inventive products and services that empower women and families.

Caven won the agency’s top prize and now is revolutionizing the sewing industry from her home in Des Moines, Iowa. There, she’s bringing an age-old craft into the computer age through UpCraftClub, an online emporium of digital sewing patterns.

The InnovateHER competition gave the young company the momentum and cash it needed to make a genuine industry breakthrough. After winning, UpCraftClub developed a new way of sewing that allows pattern pieces to be projected onto fabric, eliminating the need for paper. The technology will be commercially available early in 2017 and is sure to cause a sea-change in an industry that has relied on paper patterns for nearly two centuries.

Caven’s story is unique, but she is far from the only entrepreneur who has benefitted from the spirit of open competition.

The White House this week released a report that details the federal government’s efforts to spur entrepreneurship and aid in the development of startup businesses.

The report is filled with examples of how open competitions on Challenge.gov have helped citizens develop products and create new businesses.

Competitions like InnovateHER and the National Institutes of Health’s Breast Cancer Startup Challenge have made more than $220 million available to entrepreneurs and led to the creation of over 300 new companies, according to the report.

In addition to InnovateHER, SBA also runs the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, which has funded over 200 startup accelerator programs in every part of the country. These programs have served thousands of startups that have raised $1.5 billion in capital.

The people participating in these competitions come from every spectrum of the American demographic. They are young and old, white collar and blue collar. They live in small towns, big cities and on farms and reservations.

And many of them, like Caven, hope to turn their ideas into successful businesses.

They are Andrew Brimer and Abby Cohen, of St. Louis, who won a challenge as undergraduate students and formed a new company around an affordable, pocket-sized sensor that measures lung function and helps patients control asthma and other respiratory conditions.

They are Sourav Sinha, of Boston, a winner in the aforementioned Breast Cancer Startup Challenge, which allowed him and his team to meet investors and start a business aimed at delivering novel therapies to cancer patients.

They are Laquitta DeMerchant, of Sugar Land, Texas, whose company inked its first big deal after winning a White House and Department of Labor competition to develop an app that illuminates the wage gap and promotes equal pay.

They are Courtney Gras, of Akron, Ohio, who won the National Clean Energy Business Plan competition, allowing her startup company to conduct its first large-scale technology demonstration and complete filings for international patents.

They are Elena Lucas, of Oakland, Calif., who won $30,000 and validation from the Department of Energy for a product that automates utility data for companies to help them tailor solar energy systems based on specific customer needs.

And they are many, many more.

The InnovateHER challenge alone reached over 2,000 women entrepreneurs, several of which Caven met when they made their final pitches for the competition in Washington, D.C.

Many of us have kept in touch and are cheering each other on through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” Caven says.

And that is the point of prize competitions — to build communities of citizens and promote the exchange of ideas in the name of pioneering new possibilities.

It matters not where someone is from or what they do for a living. Challenges do not discriminate, and solutions can come from anywhere.

Likewise, the next breakthrough could come from anyone.

Check back often at Challenge.gov for new competitions and opportunities to share your ideas and improve the future.

Posted in Business Plan, Challenge.gov, Entrepreneurship, Small Business Administration, Success Stories, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Q&A: Challenge Winner Searches Disparate Data for Meaning

The U.S. intelligence community does much of its work out of the public eye for obvious reasons, but sharing certain challenges with everyone can benefit both a federal agency and members of the public eager to help.

One of these problems involves creating a unified picture from data in various forms, schemas, interfaces and locations. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo called it creating “coherence from chaos.”

NGA just completed its Disparate Data Challenge, the agency’s second competition on Challenge.gov, to find easier ways to access and make sense of pictures, video, social media, documents and other forms of data.

Diffeo, a small company in Cambridge, Mass., ultimately won the grand prize of $25,000. This was the company’s first prize competition.

PrizeWire spoke to Diffeo CEO John Frank about the company’s work and the rewards of participating in NGA’s challenge.

———-

PrizeWire: First thing’s first — what is Diffeo and how is it unique?

John Frank: Diffeo’s knowledge discovery software changes how people access and interact with information in the deep Web and private archives. It is an autonomous research assistant that presents you with new content that is highly relevant to your work and that you might miss or not have time to dig out using traditional manual search tools.

John Frank

John Frank

Diffeo is a new kind of knowledge discovery tool for understanding networks of entities, such as people, ships, malware, etc. By observing what you gather into your notes, Diffeo anticipates queries that you might eventually conceive and runs them proactively to find answers now.

Diffeo runs text analytics on in-progress documents, and the results are transformational. It allows our system to join the user in looking across the full corpus of data, including the user’s current notes. Instead of manually entering queries for words you already know, you can simply write notes in familiar tools like Word and Outlook, and Diffeo recommends content to expand your understanding.

This doesn’t require users to learn how to create queries on their own. Users do their usual work, and Diffeo uncovers information they might not even know they needed. Diffeo can do this because it has developed machine learning algorithms that continuously disambiguate entities and creates a graph of their relationships.

PW: How long have has the Diffeo team been at this?

JF: The content recommender paradigm is a new approach to exploring and querying the knowledge graph. Our team has been researching content recommender engines since 2011.  Our history in search began with my previous company, MetaCarta, which was acquired by Nokia in 2010. While I was Chief Architect for Search at Nokia, we helped the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) run an algorithm evaluation of content recommenders for Wikipedia. Diffeo grew out of this research in NIST’s Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) and on-going work in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Memex program.

PW: Has your company ever participated in an open prize competition before?

JF: We have experience organizing and participating in open evaluations of information retrieval and human language algorithms.This was our first open competition for a prize.

PW: What was the experience like and how did it differ from the usual way you do work with the government?

JF: We love it! It accelerates the exchange of ideas. It helps the participants understand problems faced by users faster and earlier, and it allows the customer’s to see and react to new ideas and new paradigms as they emerge.

Unlike traditional software procurements, the challenge laid out a problem area without specifying requirements or defining solution areas — it simply invited innovative solutions. Unlike a Broad Area Announcement, the hackathon approach allowed the evaluators to see real software in action on relevant data much faster.

PW: How did you find out about the challenge?

JF: A friend pointed us to the challenge.gov website and the Disparate Data Challenge sounded like a good fit for Diffeo. It’s a network effect. In fact, I just recommended to a colleague that he look at the recently launched EdSim Challenge.

PW: What about the subject matter attracted your team to the challenge?

JF: Two factors attracted us to the Disparate Data Challenge.

First, our team has a deep background in applying collaborative machine intelligence algorithms to integrating complex data sources.

And second, the user-facing nature of the challenge is exciting –– it resonates with our focus on user experience and interactive recommendations.

PW: What was your solution? What does it do and how does it help NGA?

JF: Diffeo has two products.

Cloud Search is a single search box for all of your cloud drives, collaboration tools, email, desktop, and other content stores.  The experience is fast and enriched by “Smart Tags” that help you see the key concepts in documents before you open them.

Advanced Discovery Toolbox is a recommender engine that applies text analytics to your in-progress documents, such as an email composed in Outlook or notes that you take during a meeting. The system automatically formulates queries to pull data from your disparate data stores, and ranks documents by similarity and difference. Our system finds information nuggets — sometimes crucial — that are missing from your working notes and ranks each nugget by the likelihood that you will choose to incorporate it into your document. It provides an easy user interface for exploring this information out into the deep Web and your organization’s private archive.

PW: In addition to helping with NGA’s problem, how else is your software useful?

JF: Our software is useful to anyone who thrives on digital content, and we are particularly focused on research analysts. This includes business consultants, investment analysts, and intelligence analysts such as those at NGA.

Here’s a neat example: Supply chain risk management (SCRM) is a complex challenge. Who made the keyboard that you are using right now? Who handled the microchips in this airplane?  Is this broker going to sell us recycled parts with new part numbers silkscreened over the old?

Diffeo’s software helps SCRM researchers uncover the connections between vendors and networks of shippers and dealers. This involves a combination of research on the open Web as well as internal data. Our system builds knowledge graphs that span across the two content domains, so you can see the full story.

PW: Is it common to fuse public data with internal data holdings?

JF: Yes, this also helps with cyber threat analysis, geopolitical analysis, counter-party analysis and more.

PW: How will your company use the prize money?

JF: We’re rapidly expanding our team and technology to support more users and customers.

We recently launched diffeo.com as a tool for open source researchers. Contact us for a demo!

PW: What is your advice to other citizens or small businesses considering getting involved in a challenge?

JF: Do it! These challenges are high-paced and have tremendous return on investment for everyone involved.  

The challenge paradigm helps you focus on end users by showing you details of their real problem set.

———-

For more information on NGA and to keep an eye out for future challenges, visit the agency’s page on Challenge.gov.

Posted in Data, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Uncategorized, Winner Stories | Leave a comment

Education Dept Launches EdSim Challenge

Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched the EdSim Challenge with a cash prize pool of $680,000 and additional sponsor prizes from IBM, Microsoft, Oculus, and Samsung. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.

Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.

Simulated environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multiplayer video games, are emerging approaches to deliver educational content. Research indicates that simulation-based learning provides students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes.

“This initiative is an exciting example of how virtual reality and game technologies can be applied to give students everywhere the tools to prepare for future success,” said Johan Uvin, acting assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education. “We encourage developers from all disciplines to answer our call and help define the future of applied learning.”

Those interested in entering the Challenge should submit their simulation concepts here by Jan. 17, 2017. Following close of submissions, a multidisciplinary panel of judges will evaluate the entries and select up five finalists to advance to the Virtual Accelerator phase. Each finalist will be awarded $50,000 and gain access to expert mentorship as they refine their concept and build a simulation prototype.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the informational webinar on Nov. 16, 2016 from 3 – 4 pm EST to hear an overview of the Challenge and ask questions. Also, see the selection criteria and rules, terms, and conditions.

Join us in creating the future of educational simulations in the classroom!

This article was originally posted on the EdSim Challenge blog.

Posted in Creative, Department of Education | 1 Comment

Code-A-Thon Targets Opioid Epidemic

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently hosted a two-day in-person and virtual Code-A-Thon on FDA’s main campus as one component of the Naloxone App Competition. Over 30 teams participated Oct. 19 and 20 with representation from a variety of small and large businesses, academic institutions and other entrepreneurs and innovators.

FDA’s Chief Information Officer Todd Simpson kicked off the event by discussing FDA’s efforts to promote innovation through various initiatives such as PrecisionFDA and OpenFDA. Following his talk, participants heard presentations from FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on topics ranging from the opioid epidemic, the Emergency Medical System and 911 to a discussion of mobile health IT. The day concluded with FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf expressing his appreciation for a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing the growing opioid epidemic and reflecting on his recent visits to places in Appalachia that have been hard hit by this problem.

Day 2 began with a presentation from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program, which is designed to support small businesses in developing and bringing their ideas to market. At the close of the Code-A-Thon, many teams pitched their ideas to receive feedback from other participants. Twenty teams, both in-person and virtual, provided a 2-3 minute overview of their team and app prototype. Participants either have provided or will provide their code developed during the Code-A-Thon on FDA’s Naloxone App Competition GitHub repository. All presentations and materials from the Code-A-Thon are also available on the Naloxone App Competition Challenge website.

The competition closes on Nov. 7 (entries are comprised of a three-page description of the app and a video on YouTube), and we plan to announce the winner by the end of the year. We look forward to receiving submissions!

Selecting a winner

A panel of judges from FDA, NIDA and SAMHSA will evaluate submissions for innovation, usability, functionality and adaptability. The highest-performing entrant will receive an award of $40,000.

Following the competition, entrants also may apply for NIDA 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 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, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health | Leave a comment

The Government’s Innovation Network Is Growing, Thanks to You

Good news, solvers.

The federal government’s use of challenges is catching on. And your ideas and solutions are helping agencies address some pretty big issues, whether it’s hunting for asteroids, reducing water pollution or finding ways to block phone spam.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which regularly studies government programs to analyze their impact and effectiveness, just released a report on open innovation in the federal government.

The report goes into detail about how federal agencies can and should turn to methods like challenges in looking for solutions to problems. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, the GAO report states.

Challenges help build communities of innovators that grow stronger with each competition.

You, the citizen solvers, are the backbone of those communities. So keep up the good work and the solutions coming.

If you’re interested in reading more about how agencies decide to open up their problem-solving processes, you can check out the entire GAO report.

Posted in Challenge.gov, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, NASA | Leave a comment