Ed Prizes Back to School Update

The end of summer is fast approaching, and it’s been a jam-packed season for Ed Prizes. From advancing career exploration tech to bringing makerspaces to schools, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with innovators from across the nation.

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

First Lady Announces Reach Higher Winner
This week First Lady Michelle Obama announced ThinkZone Games as the grand prize winner of the Reach Higher Career App Challenge! ThinkZone will receive $100,000 and additional sponsor prizes valued at $300,000 for their winning career planning mobile app, Hats & Ladders.

Hats & Ladders engages students from middle to high school with swipe-to-choose self-assessments, connected activities, and mini-challenges. By providing repeat exposure to a broad spectrum of careers, it enables students to draw connections between their personal attributes and multiple pathways to career success, including career and technical education.

ThinkZone Games recently presented their Hats & Ladders app prototype at Demo Day on July 7th at the White House, alongside the four other finalists teams. Government leaders including Megan Smith, CTO of the United States, and Eric Waldo, Executive Director of the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative also spoke, offering insights into how new tech solutions can transform students’ lives.

With their prize money, ThinkZone Games will continue development of Hats & Ladders in preparation for a pilot with 50 middle schools in early 2017. Congratulations to ThinkZone Games!

CTE Makeover Prize Winners Build Out Their Makerspaces
In June we announced the 10 CTE Makeover Challenge prize winners at the White House Champions of Change event during the National Week of Making. Each winning school received $20,000 and a share of in-kind prizes from a sponsor prize pool valued at $375,000. The prize winners are currently hard at work putting their plans into action by remodeling or building their new spaces. From mobile makerlabs to autoshops in libraries to entrepreneurship hubs, these 10 makerspaces will serve as exceptional models for other schools working on their own making programs.

You can follow their progress on the Challenge website and stay tuned for more details about a showcase at the World Maker Faire this October in New York City.

Need Your Help – Bring Ed Prizes to SXSWedu!
Interested in hearing the CTE Makeover Challenge experts discuss their learnings at SXSWedu 2017? Head over to PanelPicker to cast your vote. During our proposed session, the following experts will explore what it really takes to design and deploy a successful makerspace:

  • Albert Palacios, Education Program Specialist, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Rafranz Davis, Executive Director of Professional and Digital Learning, Lufkin ISD
  • Stephanie Santoso, Program Fellow, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Former White House OSTP
  • Kate Machtiger, Senior Analyst, Luminary Labs

Our Latest: Reach Higher, CTE Makeover, and Nation of Makers

We are thrilled to share the latest on our live prize competitions. You can follow our recently launched @EdPrizes Twitter handle for all Challenge updates!

Reach Higher Career App Challenge Announces Finalists

This week, the U.S. Department of Education and First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative announced five finalists in the Reach Higher Career App Challenge. Each finalist will receive $25,000 and advance to the Virtual Accelerator to refine their education and career guidance apps.

We look forward to working with the finalists during this next phase as they compete for the $100,000 grand prize. Stay tuned for Demo Day and the winner announcement this summer.

CTE Makeover Challenge Bootcamp Draws to a Close

In March, the Department launched the CTE Makeover Challenge, calling on high schools to submit makerspace designs that strengthen next-generation career and technical skills. Over 600 schools from all 50 states and Washington D.C. entered, and are participating in the Bootcamp phase to finalize their makerspace plans.

Participating schools will submit their final plans next week, and the Challenge will select up to 10 honorees to receive $20,000 each and additional sponsor awards. The enthusiasm and love for making has been inspiring throughout the Challenge, and we can’t wait to see what schools are planning!

Support the President’s Nation of Makers Initiative

In other making news, the White House is hosting the 2016 National Week of Making June 17-23, and the National Maker Faire June 18-19 as part of President Obama’s Nation of Makers initiative. We are excited to attend, and encourage you to spread the word about how to get involved in the following ways:

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change by Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The White House is looking for people who are working to make advances in technology, platforms, educational opportunities, or spaces that empower even more Americans to become tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.
  • Share your role in the Maker Movement, using #NationOfMakers and #WeekofMaking on Twitter and Facebook.



EdSim Challenge Calls for Public Feedback on Simulated Learning Environments

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will launch the EdSim Challenge, which will call upon the gaming, developer, and edtech communities to design simulated environments that prepare America’s students for a more competitive world through high-quality career and technical education.

Today, ED has launched a call for public feedback, which will help shape the Challenge design. You can submit your feedback through December 6, 2015 about simulated learning subject areas, skill sets, technical considerations, and more.

What’s the goal of the Challenge?

Simulated learning experiences, such as immersive gaming environments, virtual reality, and training simulations, represent an emerging class of instructional content delivery in education. Research indicates that simulation-based learning holds advantages for students in terms of information retention, engagement, skills training, and learning outcomes.

The Challenge will seek engaging simulated learning experiences that will help define the next generation of applied learning and pair immersive technologies with rigorous educational content and integrated assessment. Specifically, solutions should demonstrate the transfer of academic, technical, and employability skills.

What’s next in the Challenge?

Following the call for public feedback, ED will finalize the Challenge design. In Spring 2016, the Challenge will open for submissions.

Help us spread the word about the call for public feedback using #EdSimChallenge. We look forward to hearing from you!

Three Challenge Announcements from Ed Prizes

We are excited to announce three big updates from Ed Prizes today:

Now Live: Reach Higher Career App Challenge

Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Reach Higher Career App Challenge with a cash prize pool of $225,000, as well as over $240,000 in additional prizes. The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady’s effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by pursuing their education beyond high school. The Challenge seeks mobile solutions that will help students learn about all career options, including career and technical education (CTE) pathways, while increasing the capacity of career counselors to assist students in planning for their futures. The submissions should include integrated tools to assess student skills and interests, and offer information on occupations, education options, credentials, and career-seeking skills. To learn more visit the Challenge website:

Coming Soon: EdSim Challenge and CTE Makeover Challenge

Stay tuned for the launch of the EdSim Challenge’s Call for Public Feedback. The Challenge will call upon the gaming, developer, and ed tech communities to design simulations that prepare America’s students for a more competitive world through high-quality career and technical education. The EdSim Challenge will commence with a public feedback period that will help shape submission specifications. Once specifications are determined, the Challenge will officially open for submissions.

Over the summer, the White House announced an upcoming CTE Makeover Challenge to help transform and create new 21st century maker spaces in conjunction with career and technical education programs. ED recently attended the Make: Education Forum to share the exciting news and hear from the leading voices in the Maker movement. While the details are taking shape in expectation of an early 2016 launch, we would love to hear what you would like to see included in the challenge – tweet your suggestions using the hashtag #edprizes.

We are thrilled to see these competitions come to life, and are excited to work with innovators to serve our nation’s students.