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 All contestants (including individual entrants and all team members) must be at least 14 years of age on September 1, 2018, and be:
  • U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or
  • Residing legally in the U.S. on September 1, 2018.
 Only one entry per individual or team is permitted.
  • A contestant may submit an entry as an individual or as a member of a team, but not both.
  • A contestant may only be on at most one team.
 Entries are welcomed from amateurs and professionals alike.
 High-school teachers are encouraged to enter on behalf of their classes.
 Entries may be submitted by individuals or by teams comprised of up to five individuals, one of whom must be designated as the team leader.

The following individuals are not eligible to participate in this contest:

  • Employees of NSF, including but not limited to those with career, temporary, term, or VSEE (Visiting Scientist, Engineer, and Educator) appointments;
  • NSF contractors;
  • Fellowship holders working at NSF, e.g., NSF/American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellows and Einstein Fellows;
  • Others working at NSF, e.g., Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignees;
  • Idea Machine judges;
  • Family members of, persons living in the same household as, and anyone who has a financial relationship with: employees of NSF (including but not limited to those with career, temporary, term, or VSEE appointments), NSF contractors, Fellowship holders working at NSF, others working at NSF (e.g. IPAs), and Idea Machine judges; and
  • Federal employees working within the scope of their employment.

Federal grantees and contractors may not use federal funds to develop entries for this contest.


  • All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 26, 2018.
  • An Idea Machine entry constitutes an agreement to adhere to the rules and stipulations set forth by the contest sponsor, NSF.
  • Entrants must meet the eligibility requirements described in the Eligibility section.
  • Any entrant or entry found in violation of any rule will be disqualified.
  • Entries must not advertise or promote a commercial product visually or orally.
  • Each individual or team entrant certifies, through submission to the contest, that the entry is his / her own original, creative work and does not violate or infringe upon the creative work of others, as protected under applicable intellectual property law.
  • By entering the contest, the entrants agree to hold NSF harmless from all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their submission or its use.
  • All Idea Machine judges' and NSF's 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 their submission 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, images, or videos included in entries or public comments.
  • Winners are responsible for all taxes or other fees connected with the prize received and/or travel paid for by the sponsoring organization.
  • NSF reserves the right for any reason, including but not limited to an insufficient number of qualified entries, 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, including 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.
  • NSF, at its sole discretion, shall determine eligibility of any contestant or team, and may disqualify anyone at any time for any reason.


The NSF 2026 Idea Machine
National Science Foundation
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22314 USA