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Community College Innovation Challenge

How to Enter

1. After confirming eligibility and reviewing this complete site, teams of 3-5 students join forces with a faculty mentor and industry partner to develop a breakthrough idea that addresses a real-world problem.

2. Propose the idea to CCIC panel experts.

3. Create your written entry that describes the idea. The written entry will be submitted in the three sections detailed below. Each section has a 1,600-character limit, including spaces.

In addition, each team will be asked to provide an up to 500-character layperson summary of their project. This should be succinct and say what your project is, why it matters and what impact it will have. The written entry should not be written by the faculty mentor.

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 and what would be 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? Is your solution scientifically feasible? 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 societal impact of your innovation such as bolstering the U.S. economy, aiding national security, increasing U.S. global competitiveness, improving quality of life, expanding education, etc. must be addressed.

4. Create your high-quality, single, 90-second maximum video entry. The video should be used to clearly articulate the problem and explain what could happen if the problem is not resolved, and include 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 can be shot and edited by someone not on the team; however, the subject(s) of the video and its content must be created by team members. Videos do not have to include credits but if they do, these will be included in the 90-second time limit.

You can directly upload your video file to the entry platform and in any file type (please maintain a minimum resolution of 640 x 480 and a maximum file size of 300 MB). Please keep the following in mind:

  • Keep file names under 30 characters
  • Do not include special characters in file names.
  • Once uploaded, your video will take some time to be rendered, depending on size. This can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes or longer.
  • You will see a placeholder video in this spot while the video is processed.
  • To check and see if your video is ready to be viewed, please refresh the page (you can do this by clicking the "Dashboard" icon).
  • If you are uploading a very large file or using a slow Internet connection, be aware that the system will time out after 60 minutes.
  • Your video will need to be published before you can submit your application. We strongly advise you do not try to upload your video right before the submission deadline.

5. Additional entry requirements include your college name and physical address; the title of your entry (no acronyms please) and your brief (500 characters max) layperson summary of the entry. Please also include:

  • High-resolution team "action" photo (not posed, but showing the team working on their innovation) for use in social media, promotion and press materials.
  • Suggested caption for video.
  • Suggested credit for video.
  • College Twitter account handle.
  • College public information or media officer's contact information (name, email, phone number).
  • Completed and uploaded Multimedia Permissions & Use of Copyrighted Material form (can be accessed on the entry form).
  • Signed and uploaded "Certificate of Authenticity" form, signed by the faculty mentor (can be accessed on the entry form) .

6. Proposal reviews: All entries and team members will be screened for compliance with the rules and eligibility requirements. Each entry will then be evaluated anonymously based on the judging criteria below and will be assigned a numerical score by each judge. Judges will equally weigh these criteria when scoring the Stage I entries:

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 economy, national security, global competitiveness, new knowledge, quality of life, education, etc.), and uniqueness (how the proposed solution differs from existing efforts in its use of novel concepts, methods and/or instrumentation).


An assessment of the likelihood that the solution will work as presented based on scientific laws and theories (can the innovation be replicated?) and relevant economic, political and social issues, etc. Evaluation of the team's recognition of potential barriers and suggestions for ways in which these barriers may be surmounted.

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.

7. Finalist teams selected for Stage II: Up to 10 of the highest-scoring entries will be selected for the final round. Teams will be notified if they become finalists in early April 2018.

  • Finalist teams (both students and faculty) receive full travel support to attend the Innovation Boot Camp in Alexandria, Va., from June 11-14, 2018. All student and faculty team members must attend.
  • Each finalist team will receive a small cash award of $200 to further develop their idea and create boot camp materials.
  • Approximately six weeks before attending the boot camp, finalists will receive detailed instructions on how to prepare for the camp and must participate in required webinars to cover all boot camp logistics and required preparation. Please plan to attend the following two webinars:
    1. The first webinar, "Community College Innovation Challenge: Boot Camp Orientation," will be held on Friday, April 20 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT. This webinar will highlight expectations for Boot Camp participation, provide guidance on logistical support, and offer the opportunity for attendees to ask questions of the CCIC organizers.
    2. The second webinar, "CCIC Boot Camp: Orientation to Customer Discovery" will be held on Tuesday, April 24 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT. This webinar will provide participants with an overview of the Customer Discovery process, which is a key element of Boot Camp training, as well as provide answers to the following questions relevant to developing STEM innovations: (a) What is a business model? (b) What are the 9 parts of a business model? (c) What are hypotheses? (d) What experiments are needed to test a business model hypothesis? and (e) What is "Getting Out of the Building?" In addition, CCIC finalist teams will be tasked with a Customer Discovery assignment to complete in advance of attending the Boot Camp.
    The faculty mentor and student team members are required to attend the live webinars and/or view the webinar recordings if they are unable to attend the live events. AACC and NSF strongly encourage all team members to take part in the live webinars and/or view the recorded versions to ensure that teams are oriented to the Boot Camp, understand expectations for both Boot Camp participation and activities that need to be completed prior to attending, and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Next: Tips for Submitting a Winning Video

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Community College Innovation Challenge
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22314 USA

Follow #CCIChallenge

Who: Teams of 3-5 community college students with an interest in STEM, innovation and entrepreneurism; a faculty mentor and an industry partner.

When: Submit Oct. 18, 2017 - Feb. 14, 2018 by 11:59 p.m. EST.

Required Innovation Boot Camp for finalists and their faculty mentor, Alexandria, Va., June 11-14, 2018.


Why: To foster development of crucial innovation and entrepreneurial skills, gain confidence, network, win prizes and make real-world change.