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Education Applications (EA)
SBIR Proposal Due Date: June 11th
STTR Proposal Due Date: June 13th

Program Director:
Glenn Larsen (

Administrative Information

Internal Review Board (IRB) approval or an exemption is needed for proposals that involve human subjects; only an IRB can provide a letter of exemption if humans are involved as test subjects or are being used to validate the research. Education Application (EA) projects that are not using human subjects must address how they plan to assure customer acceptance or accuracy. Project proposals must describe their plans as applicable as to how they will obtain IRB approval, the organization that is being planned to provide it, and how long it is expected to take once NSF notifies the potential awardees that IRB documentation is needed. Know that the EA program CANNOT make a positive award recommendation without documentation (approval or exemption) from an accredited IRB when human subjects are involved.

Innovative projects are essential for favorable funding recommendations. It may be helpful to know that the EA program does not fund projects that are incremental or evolutionary with respect to technology and applications. This would include projects that primarily port existing knowledge and processes to electronic media.
Proposals must address the potential for commercialization of the innovation and how it would lead ultimately to revenue generation. It is important that the proposed technology increase the competitive capability of industry, be responsive to societal needs, and is sensitive to solving "real" problems driven by critical market requirements. There is considerable overlap between the subtopics and proposers should pay attention to the areas indicated under each subtopic to assist the program in placing these proposals on review panels.
Letters of Support for the Technology

Inclusion of letters of support for the technology within the proposal is strongly encouraged for proposals being submitted to this solicitation. Letters of support act as an indication of market validation for the proposed innovation and add significant credibility to the proposed effort. Letters of support should demonstrate that the company has initiated dialog with relevant stakeholders (potential customers, strategic partners, or investors) for the proposed innovation and that a real business opportunity may exist should the technology prove feasible. The letter(s) must contain affiliation and contact information for the signatory stakeholder.

Importance of Communication with Program Director

A company considering a proposal submission is encouraged to communicate (via email) with the Program Director to help gauge the responsiveness to the solicitation (the Program Director is indicated at the end of each subtopic). When contacting the Program Director please provide a brief executive summary, not to exceed two pages, with background on: 1) company/team including experience with previous SBIR awards, 2) market opportunity, 3) technology/innovation, and 4) competition. You may contact the Program Director via email at any time before the submission deadline. Note, however, that communication with the Program Director will become increasingly difficult as the deadline nears.

Education Applications

The Education Application (EA) topic addresses the challenges of advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for all American students, to nurture innovation, and to ensure the long-term economic prosperity of the Nation. The urgency of this task is underscored by the need to ensure that the United States continues to excel in science, technology, and innovation in the 21st century. Proposed applications should provide storyboards, sketches, or descriptions of how the proposed application will work and provide examples of how users would interact with the application. Projects that propose technologies or products similar to those in the marketplace must make the case that their efforts are not incremental and that they will lead to sufficient revenues that justify an NSF SBIR investment. Projects that can be easily replicated by potential competitors are not responsive to the Educational Application (EA) topic.

Proposals must address one of the subtopics that are outlined below. When submitting a proposal to the EA Topic, you must indicate the corresponding subtopic under which you are submitting the proposal, e.g., EA1 for proposals in the area of "Pre-college Education Applications” or EA5 for proposals in the area of "Tools for Learning". In addition, use the code as the first item in the key words/phrases portion of the Project Summary of your proposal.

EA Topics

  • EA1 - General Education Applications
  • EA2 - Global, Distance, and Cyberlearning Applications
  • EA3 - STEM Educational Gaming Applications
  • EA4 - Entrepreneurial Education Applications
  • EA5 - Tools for Learning and Assessment

EA1 - General Education Applications

  • Solutions are encouraged that address the needs of a variety of learners including K-12 students, college students, families, particular types of community members, teachers, and the general public
  • Innovative applications that better enable classroom management, recordkeeping, and standards-aligned planning that permits more effective use of educational resources.
  • Curricula on STEM content (science, technology, engineering, and math) that aligns with voluntary national education standards, state standards, or standards recognized by national accreditation associations and can compete with educational programs offered for free or low cost.
  • Innovative applications that provide practical solutions to combined knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving, or the development, administration, scoring, reporting of tests, and balanced assessment across the classroom, district, state, and national levels.
  • Personal learning environments that allow students to control their environment in relationship to their personal learning style to acquire knowledge with consideration of their teacher’s expectations.
  • Applications that better enable informal and traditional learning or applications that help bridge formal and informal learning environments or effectively promote positive behavior changes.

EA2 - Global, Distance, and Cyberlearning Education Applications

  • Innovative applications are encouraged that use online learning, hybrid learning, collaborative models, and new tools which when combined, will have the potential to deliver new and powerful educational opportunities in STEM disciplines.
  • Educational applications that build upon information, communication technologies, immersive interfaces, and open educational resources.
  • Content-specific projects that can effectively compete with free and open content offered by universities and institutions.
  • Learning environments that allow students to control and experiment with educational situations in relationship to their personal learning style to acquire knowledge anytime, anywhere.
  • Collecting, analyzing, sharing, and managing data that promotes learning or leads to designed learning environments.
  • Technologies that enable new forms of educational collaboration across national boundaries. 
  • Learning applications that provide for better decision making and informed judgments about problems and situations affecting global issues related to education, science, and technology.
  • Projects in which technology allows the tailoring of learning experiences to special needs and interests of groups or individuals or allows expanding formal education beyond classroom settings.
  • Applications that support and promote cultural diversity, awareness, and understanding.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE:  All NSF funding must be used within the United States.

EA3 - STEM and Entrepreneurial Gaming Applications

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related innovative educational gaming applications that enable engaging learning experiences, digital literacy, collaboration, problem solving, communications, critical thinking, and skill improvement.
  • Proposed projects that include single-player, small-groups, or massively multiplayer online gaming applications that foster cooperation and can include card, board, or digital games.
  • Serious games, simulation based games, and entrepreneurial type games with substantial innovations that go beyond porting current knowledge, processes, and applications towards existing technologies and delivery platforms.
  • Games that target the assessment of student knowledge while providing intrinsic motivation for student participation.

EA4 - Entrepreneurship Education Applications

  • Entrepreneurship education and training should integrate diverse topics as strategic planning, business model development, opportunity recognition, product entry, intellectual property, project management, legal requirements, and business constraints in innovative ways for success in the contemporary global economy.
  • Personal learning environments that allow students to control and experiment with entrepreneurial situations in relationship to their personal learning style to acquire knowledge.
  • Applications that transcend simple porting of existing knowledge using current delivery platforms such as seminars, lectures, and individual consulting that are considered non-responsive to this subtopic.
  • Games that better enable entrepreneurs to effectively compete in a global economy.

EA5 - Tools for Learning and Assessment

  • Tools and kits that empower students to become scientists, engineers, and educators; tools that allow them to design and build things, and increase participation or demonstration in hands-on learning related to science, technology, engineering, math, and entrepreneurship of technical products and services.
  • Adaptive learning environments combined with assessments.
  • Learning analytics that improve the understanding of teaching and learning to improve student performance.
  • Tools that build real-time information from data-mining on complexity, diversity, and similar types of information to generate knowledge that can be used to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment such as in learning analytics.
  • Gesture-based computing applications that enable collaborative work with multiple students interacting on content simultaneously.
  • Education tools that benefit from objects having their own IP address or location based services for new types of communications, assistive technologies, and new applications of benefit primarily to education.

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