Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education

Partnering for Excellence

Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education

Competition Information

Competition News

The Changemakers global community, our expert panel of judges, and the competition sponsors have selected the following eight winners for the quality of their innovation, impact, and potential to sustain and scale-up efforts.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Judges’ Awards:

People’s Choice Award:

ExxonMobil Foundation Prize:

Jhumki Basu Foundation Prize:

Amgen Foundation Prize:

Innovations in Life Sciences Prize (sponsored by Howard Hughes Medical Institute):

You may continue to read and comment on all entries.  As always, we welcome your feedback.

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Welcome Letter

Dear Changemakers Community,

Solving the world’s most pressing challenges will require innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also called STEM). From climate change to fiscal meltdowns, renewable energy to eradicating diseases, from food security to global and local health, the STEM disciplines are at the very center of our quest to improve our lives and the condition of our world.

If we are to bring new ideas to long-standing problems and new talent to emerging opportunities, we need to educate all of our young people to higher levels of understanding in the STEM fields. Despite the heroic efforts of our nation’s best teachers and principals, our schools are ill-equipped to do that: According to international comparisons, U.S. students ranked below 22 countries in science and below 30 countries in math. And yet our communities are filled with many of the world’s most talented professionals in these fields. They work in hospitals, universities, and museums; biotech, engineering, and architecture firms; graphic-design and urban-planning studios; hedge funds, banks, and computer-software, gaming, and pharmaceutical companies. They just rarely directly impact our public schools.

In partnership with Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation, Ashoka’s Changemakers is hosting a competition to unleash that talent to engage students, particularly our highest-need students, in rich STEM learning.

Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math Education, an online collaborative competition, will spur creative ways for companies, universities, and other organizations with expertise in the STEM fields to partner with the public schools that need their talent. We are looking for models that bring STEM expertise into public schools, thereby using resources from the private and not-for-profit sectors in new ways to further student learning designed with a “long term, part time” approach (see visual above). Compelling entries will embed shared accountability for student achievement for both the partner organization and the school in their design. Winners are eligible for more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. We are honored to partner with distinguished leaders — the Jhumki Basu Foundation, Alcoa Foundation, Amgen Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, Google, The Mind Trust, Noyce Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and AFT Innovation Fund —in our quest to bring great STEM talent to our schools.

Do you have an exciting partnership that brings STEM talent to students and teachers in schools during the school day? Do you know of new, innovative programs that could contribute to this movement? Can your skills and experience help share STEM content while showing students the exciting opportunities that STEM learning enables? Do you work outside of a STEM field but have expertise and a passion to harness the innate curiosity of students? Submit your innovative solutions by 5PM EDT on August 3, 2011.

Share that passion and expertise, and join us to create new opportunities for students and schools. Take hold, with teachers and parents, of the reins of our students’ academic achievement, and help engage them in analyzing today’s problems, imagining tomorrow’s solutions, and bringing productive ideas into being.

Guidelines and Criteria

Who Should Enter (U.S. Entries Only)

If you are a changemaker with STEM expertise and the desire to realize bold, imaginative ideas for educating young people in the United States—especially in our highest-need schools—we want to hear from you! We are seeking creative approaches to solving the country’s STEM challenge by bringing the passion and real-life skills of STEM experts to advance STEM learning in public schools. The competition is open to innovations in the United States.

Why you should enter:

  • Connect to a global online community that supports the impact you are making, or seeking to make, on the ground.
  • Gain visibility with our community, our competition sponsors, Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation, and our competition partners, including Alcoa Foundation, Amgen Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, Google, Jhumki Basu Foundation, The Mind Trust, Noyce Foundation, and more.
  • Encourage students, contribute to your community, and join a movement to inspire education in STEM.
  • A chance to win!

What you can win:

  • More than $150,000 in cash and in-kind prizes from Ashoka’s Changemakers, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and our prize sponsors. For more information, visit the Prizes page.
  • One of five consulting sessions with experts from Ashoka’s Changemakers, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and The Opportunity Equation (if you enter before June 22, 2011).

How to enter:

Read all the fine print below to learn more about how you can win.

Competition Guidelines

The competition is open to all types of individuals, organizations, companies, institutions, and partnerships in the United States. We will consider entries that:

  • Reflect the theme of the competition: Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education.
  • Identify solutions to address the STEM deficit and advance STEM learning in public schools by building new kinds of partnerships or rethinking existing partnerships.
  • Are at any stage of development, from the design phase, to prototype, to proven success at a school, district, regional, or national level.
  • Are submitted in English.

Please complete the entry form in its entirety and submit by August 3, 2011.

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Assessment Criteria

Winners of the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education competition will be those that best meet the following criteria:


  • This is the knock-out test. The entrant(s) must describe a systemic or disruptive innovation with the potential to develop lasting partnerships for the advancement of education in math, science, and related fields.
  • Judges will be looking for solutions that significantly re-envision how schools teach students STEM subjects and utilize outside STEM resources or expertise. They are also looking for entries that include partnerships that bring STEM talent into public schools and classrooms through a “long term, part time” approach (see welcome letter). Innovations at any stage of development are welcome. Some will be in the design phase, others will have proven success at a single school or district level, and yet others may have already engaged schools across a state or region.
  • It is important that solutions provide a systems-changing approach.

Social Impact

  • Judges will be looking for solutions in which the STEM provider shares responsibility for student outcomes with the teacher/school and will design structures to support that level of mutual accountability.
  • Priority will be placed on solutions that focus on high-need schools or students.
  • Priority will be placed on solutions that have already established a partnership between the STEM provider and a school, district, or other network of schools (charter management organization or other). A statement of collaboration from the school partner is recommended.
  • The best innovations will be those that embed scale and replication in the design, even if at this stage they are only in the design or prototype phase.
  • Solutions should have clear metrics for social impact.


  • Solutions must have a clear plan for reaching long-term goals.
  • Solutions must have a plan for securing financial backing—entries should describe not only how they currently finance their work, but also how they plan to finance it in the future.
  • Solutions should highlight the support they have received from both the public and private sectors, if applicable.
  • Solutions should lay out a time frame for implementation and/or growth.
  • Solutions should have clear metrics for sustainability.

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Competition Deadlines, Procedures, and Rules

Online competition submissions are accepted until August 3, 2011. At any time before this deadline, competition participants are encouraged to revise their entries based on questions and insights that they receive in the Changemakers discussion. Participation in the discussion enhances an entrant’s prospects in the competition and provides the Changemakers community and the judges with an opportunity to understand the entrant’s project more completely.

There are four main phases in the competition:

  • Entry Stage, May 18 - August 3, 2011: Entries can be submitted until 5PM EDT on August 3, 2011, and throughout this stage anyone can participate in an online review discussion with the entrants.
    • Early Entry Deadline, June 22, 2011: Entries received by 5PM EDT on June 22, 2011, are eligible for the Early Entry prize.
    • Early Entry Prize Announced, July 7, 2011.
    • Entry Deadline, August 3, 2011, 5PM EDT.
  • Online Review and Finalist Selection, August 4 – September 27, 2011: Online review and discussion continues. Simultaneously, a team of Ashoka staff and evaluators nominate the eight best and most innovative entries as finalists.
  • Voting and Winners Selection, September 28 – October 26, 2011: The Changemakers community votes online to select one People's Choice winner from the pool of finalists. The judges will select two Judges' Award winners from the pool of finalists.
  • Winners Announced, November 16, 2011: The competition winners—the People's Choice winner selected by the Changemakers online community, the two Judges' Awards selected by the panel of judges, and the winners of the "special focus" prizes--will be announced on this day. For more information, please see the Prizes page.

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Disclaimer—Compliance with Legal Restrictions

Ashoka complies fully with all U.S. laws and regulations, including Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations, export control, and anti-money laundering laws. Any grants will be awarded subject to compliance with such laws. Ashoka will not make any grant if it finds that to do so would be unlawful. This may prohibit awards in certain countries and/or to certain individuals or entities. All recipients will comply with these laws to the extent they are applicable to such recipients. No recipient will take any action that would cause Ashoka to violate any laws. Additionally, Ashoka will not make any grant to a company involved in the promotion of tobacco use.

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Judges Panel

Dr. Bruce Alberts

Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine

Caroline Kennedy

Vice Chair, Fund for Public Schools

Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis

President and Director, Museum of Science, Boston

Michele Cahill

Vice President, National Programs, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Dr. Robert Moses

President, The Algebra Project

Tim Brown

CEO and President, IDEO