Challenges and Prizes in CTE

To accelerate and advance the development of technological solutions in Career and Technical Education, OCTAE embarked on a series of open innovation prize competitions or "challenges," collectively known as EdPrizes. To date, three challenges have been conducted as national activities under Section 114 of the Perkins Act. Cash prizes are awarded to finalists and winners from the prize pool and additional in-kind gifts have been provided by private sector companies and organizations totaling more than $1,000,000.

The Reach Higher Career App Challenge was launched October 7, 2015 in coordination with the Office of the First Lady, Michelle Obama. The purpose of the Challenge was to spur the development of mobile apps that help students navigate their educational and career options while strengthening the relationship between students and counselors. The entry period closed on December 7, 2015 and 67 entries were received from developers across the country. Entries were judged by a panel of five judges with expertise in counseling, app development, education, and venture funding. Five finalists were announced on May 11, 2016. The five finalists each received cash prizes of $25,000 and participated in a two- month rigorous accelerator program. On July 7, 2016 the finalists demonstrated their prototypes at the White House to the panel of judges. Based on the judges' recommendations, OCTAE awarded the grand prize of $100,000 to "Hats and Ladders." OCTAE continues to engage with all of the finalists and the winner to enable the developers to continue enhancing their products.

The CTE Makeover Challenge was launched on March 9, 2016 in coordination with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The CTE Makeover Challenge inspired schools to design makerspaces that strengthen career and technical skills through making. The entry period closed on April 1, 2016 and 643 entries were received from schools in all 50 states and D.C. All schools entering the challenge were invited to participate in a Makeover Bootcamp where they received guidance from experts on creating and maintaining makerspaces in their schools. The Bootcamp ended on May 22, 2016 at which time schools could choose to enter a second round "blueprint" to compete for a share of the cash prize pool.

A panel of educators and makerspace experts evaluated almost 300 blueprints and the 30 highest scoring entries were provided to a panel of seven expert judges with backgrounds in education, technology, and makerspaces. Based on the judges’ recommendations, OCTAE announced ten winners on June 17, 2016 during the Nation of Makers event at the White House. Each of the ten winners received $20,000 and a share of the $375,000 in prizes donated to the Department which included software, equipment, tools, and materials. OCTAE has continued to engage with all of the entrants and winners to enable the schools to continue to establish and expand the use of making in CTE.

The EdSim Challenge was launched on November 2, 2016 to accelerate development and stabilize the market for immersive simulations that transfer academic, technical, and employability skills that pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content to prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The Challenge had a cash prize pool of $680,000 and more than $300,000 in in-kind contributions donated to the Department. The open submission period ended on January 17, 2017. A panel of developers and educators with expertise in technology and education evaluated the entries and the top scoring entries were evaluated by a panel of judges who recommended five finalists to receive $50,000 each from the cash prize pool and participated in the Virtual Accelerator product incubation program. Following the Virtual Accelerator, finalists demonstrated their prototypes to a panel of judges who provided their recommendation for the grand prize winner.

The five finalists were:

The surgical training simulator, Osso VR, was selected as the grand prize winner and received $430,000 as well as in-kind prizes donated to the Department with a value of approximately $300,000.

Federal Register Notice (PDF, 224 KB)

Press Release announcing EdSim Challenge Finalists

Press Release announcing EdSim Challenge Winner

EdSim Challenge Website


ED Prizes Website


Albert Palacios
(202) 245-7772

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