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Community College Innovation Challenge

About the Challenge
Seeking STEM-based Solutions for Food, Energy and Water Systems Issues

Posted By: National Science Foundation
Category: Scientific/Engineering
Partners: American Association of Community Colleges
Submission Dates: 12 a.m. ET, Oct 15, 2015 - 12 a.m. ET, Feb 15, 2016 Judging Dates: Feb 22, 2016 - Mar 25, 2016

The National Science Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges invites you to submit your innovative STEM-based solution to a real-world problem within the nexus of food, energy and water systems. Enter the Community College Innovation Challenge for a chance to win cash prizes and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. for a week-long Innovation Boot Camp where you’ll exhibit your innovation on Capitol Hill and refine crucial communication, entrepreneurial and innovation skills from experts!

Enter now on the Challenge Website!

Who: Teams of three to five community college students, a faculty mentor, and a community or industry partner.

What: Teams proposing innovative STEM-based solutions for real-world problems they identify within the theme of Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems

When: Oct. 15, 2015, to Feb. 15, 2016

Where: The challenge’s website,, where you can learn more about the challenge, access resources, register and submit your written entry and 90-second video.

Why: To foster the development of crucial innovation skills.

Judging Criteria

Judges will equally weigh the following criteria when scoring the entries:

1. Innovation and impact. An assessment of the proposed solution’s use of science to address the problem, potential impact (potential to be transformative in the areas of national security, economy, quality of life, education, environment, etc.) and uniqueness (how the proposed solution differs from existing efforts in its use of novel concepts, methods and/or instrumentation).

2. Feasibility. An assessment of the likelihood that the solution will work as presented based on scientific laws and theories, and economic, political and social constraints. Can the innovation be replicated? Evaluation of the team’s recognition of potential barriers/challenges and suggestions for ways in which these might be surmounted.

3. Clarity of communication. An assessment of the team’s adherence to the entry guidelines (written and video entries), as well as grammar, structure, organization of the facts and data, etc. The entry should have a clear, consistent message.

How to Enter


Visit the Challenge Website to enter now!

A complete entry consists of two components, a written entry and a video entry, described below. Teams should review the entry form on the online platform for more details about the submission requirements and process.


Innovation Gold and Silver Prizes $13,500.00 Final judging will take place at the Innovation Boot Camp. A first and second place team will be determined over the course of the week during several events where an expert panel of judges will evaluate teams based on a separate rubric. • First Place Prize: $1,500 per student team member • Second Place Prize: $1,200 per student team member
Innovation Boot Camp Final teams will be invited to attend a four-day Innovation Boot Camp in Arlington, Va. – a professional development workshop on innovation, communication and entrepreneurship. The Innovation Boot Camp will provide professional development sessions on a variety of entrepreneurial skills relevant to innovation in both the private and public sectors. Sessions will include information applicable to commercializing ideas, using technology for social applications, communicating with stakeholders and refining a pitch, and creating a “next steps” strategy, among other topics. Some details about the Innovation Boot Camp are below – more detailed instructions will be provided to finalist teams: • Students, mentors and community/industry partners will have all travel, room and board costs associated with attending the Innovation Boot Camp paid on their behalf. Students and mentors are required to attend, and community/industry partners are strongly encouraged to attend. • Approx. six weeks before attending the Innovation Boot Camp, finalists will receive detailed instructions on how to prepare for the camp and will participate in a webinar to cover all logistics/expectations. • Teams will be encouraged to refine and improve upon their original entry over the course of the Boot Camp. Final judging will take place at the Innovation Boot Camp. A first and second place team will be determined over the course of the week during several events where an expert panel of judges will evaluate teams based on a separate rubric. • First Place Prize: $1,500 per student team member • Second Place Prize: $1,200 per student team member

Add to the Discussion

No solutions have been posted for this challenge yet.

• All entries must be received during the competition submission window, from Oct. 15, 2015, to Feb. 15, 2016.
• Each team must have three to five student members, a faculty member who will function as a mentor to the team and a community/industry partner. If the team is chosen to participate in the Innovation Boot Camp, the mentor must accompany the team to the Boot Camp and the partner will be strongly encouraged to attend.
• All student team members must be enrolled in a two-year, associate degree-granting institution in the U.S., its territories or its possessions at the time of entry (e.g., the fall 2015 semester or the spring 2016 semester).
• Student team members must be in good standing with their academic institution.
• Teams may not consist of members from multiple institutions.
• Student team members are limited to participating in one team project for this challenge.
• Student and faculty mentor team members must be U.S. citizens, nationals or permanent residents.
• All team members must be at least 18 years of age by Feb. 15, 2016.
• A faculty member may not serve as a mentor more than one team.
• Faculty mentors will be required to sign a certificate stating that the entry is original and has been independently developed by the student members of the team.
• Teams may not have submitted their innovation to any other competitions.
• Students who attended the Innovation Boot Camp as a finalist/winning team in 2015, may not participate again.
• Students who submitted an entry last year but did not progress to the final round may submit an entry in the 2016 CCIC.


A complete entry consists of two components, a written entry and a video entry, described below. Teams should review the entry form on the online platform for more details about the submission requirements and process.
Written Entry
The written entry will be submitted on the challenge platform in the three sections detailed below. Each section has a 1,600-character limit, including spaces.

The Problem. Clearly and succinctly define the problem of interest. Provide relevant background information and identify the context of the problem (i.e., who is affected, how long has the problem existed). Indicate why it is important that this problem be solved, as well as the impact if the problem were to continue without intervention.
The Solution. Describe your team’s innovative solution. What science and/or technology underlie the solution? What challenges or barriers must be overcome to make the solution a reality?
Impacts and Benefits. Describe how your team would measure the impact and benefits of your solution, if implemented. The benefits for science, industry, society, the economy, national security and/or other applicable areas must be addressed.
Role of the Community/Industry Partner. Briefly describe how your community/industry partner has been involved in your project. How have they assisted your team in identifying potential opportunities and challenges?

Video Entry
The video entry should consist of a single, 90-second video.

• The video should be used to clearly articulate the problem, what could happen if the problem is not resolved and your team’s proposed solution. The video entry should have a unified voice, vitality and energy, and should emphasize new methods and insights not provided in the written entry to create a novel presentation while telling a compelling story. A successful entry will be visually striking and will be captured and edited to a high standard. The video entry should also deliver clear and understandable messages using non-technical language.
• Videos do not have to include credits, but if they do, these will be included in the 90-second time limit.
• Teams must upload video submissions to YouTube and provide a link to the video on the entry form AND submit their video file (an MOV file recorded in HD at a minimum resolution of 1280×720) via the entry form.


• A contest entry constitutes an agreement to adhere to the rules and stipulations set forth by the contest sponsors.
• Any entrant or entry found in violation of any rule will be disqualified.
• Each team entrant certifies, through submission to the contest, that the entry is their own original creative work and does not violate or infringe the creative work of others, as protected under U.S. copyright law or patent law.
• By entering the contest, the entrants agree to hold harmless, NSF for all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their submission or its use.
• All judges’ decisions are final and may not be appealed.
• Entrants retain all copyright and equivalent rights but give NSF nonexclusive rights to use their names, likenesses, quotes, submissions or any part of the submissions for educational publicity and/or promotional purposes. This includes, but is not limited to, website display, print materials and exhibits.
• NSF will not be responsible for any claims or complaints from third parties about any disputes of ownership regarding the ideas, solutions, images or video.
• Winners are responsible for all taxes or other fees connected with the prize received and/or travel paid for by the sponsoring organization.
• Employees, contractors, officers or judges of the sponsoring organizations are not eligible to enter the competition.
• If for any reason, including but not limited to an insufficient number of qualified entries is received, NSF reserves the right to modify or cancel the competition at any time during the duration of the competition.
• Should NSF decide to bring winning contestants to the Washington, D.C. area, or to any other location for promotional and other purposes, expenses paid by NSF will be within the limits set forth in law according to federal travel regulations.
• All contestants agree that they, their heirs and estates shall hold harmless the United States, the employees of the federal government, and all employees of NSF for any and all injuries and/or claims arising from participation in this contest, to include that which may occur while traveling to or participating in contest activities.
• NSF has the final say on any point not outlined in the entry rules.

Submit Solution
Submissions for this competition are being accepted on a third-party site. Please visit the external site for instructions on submitting:
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