STEM Innovators Competition Names Finalists. Online voting for Cash Prizes Begins Today

Competition by Carnegie Corporation, Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka Changemakers recognizes and rewards entries from innovators across the nation.

The 34 strongest innovations generated through the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education competition were announced today. Of these, 24 are eligible for cash prizes, and the top 10 finalists are in the running for two Judges’ Awards of $30,000 each. In addition, public voting begins today at to choose one People’s Choice winner of $20,000 from the 10 finalists.

The U.S.-based competition—hosted by Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka Changemakers®—is sourcing innovative solutions for bringing STEM professionals into schools to offer their talent, knowledge, and real-world skills to students, in partnership with their teachers and schools.  

The vision behind the competition is that STEM professionals can capture students’ imagination, catalyze their interest, and help them connect STEM subjects with the most interesting and challenging areas in need of innovation, from climate change solutions to cures for tenacious diseases. STEM subjects are critical to addressing these and other challenges—through the development of clean energy solutions, breakthroughs in healthcare, higher-yielding food crops, and the development of many other new, beneficial technologies. By bringing STEM professionals—who are passionate experts in these fields—into schools and in direct contact with students, we can deepen students’ knowledge and spark their curiosity.

“Our communities are filled with an enormous wealth of STEM talent, from our labs and museums to universities and corporations,” said Michele Cahill, vice president for National Programs, Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-chair of the Opportunity Equation. “But that talent rarely becomes a resource for learning. This competition is unleashing and bringing to light designs that connect STEM professionals to students in innovative ways to help them develop the skills necessary to excel in a society—and a workplace—that is more complex, technologically advanced, and competitive than ever before.”

The Partnering for Excellence competition is designed to spur new, long-term/part-time models for companies, universities, and other organizations with expertise in the STEM fields so that they partner with public schools in order to bring STEM professionals—nurses, museum staff, engineers, hedge fund managers, graphic designers, and others—into classrooms. These programs are rare, and designing and implementing them well is challenging, but if such programs can be identified, adapted, and expanded, the potential upside is clear: students will have the content, skills, and motivation to tackle the world’s greatest challenges, from global warming to fiscal crises.

The single competition entry that receives the most votes will be recognized as the People’s Choice winner and receive a $20,000 prize, sponsored by the Noyce Foundation, in addition to Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation.

Two entries will win Judges’ Award prizes of $30,000 each. The judging panel includes Dr. Bruce AlbertsTim BrownMichele CahillCaroline KennedyDr. Ioannis Miaoulis, and Dr. Robert Moses. Judges’ Award prizes are sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation, the American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund, Google, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and The Opportunity Equation.

Five special-focus awards will also be awarded:

  • ExxonMobil Foundation Prize: One $10,000 prize for an innovation that focuses on students in middle school (grades 5-8).
  • Jhumki Basu Prize: Two $10,000 prizes for democratizing science education in the United States.
  • The Mind Trust Prize: One $10,000 prize for an innovation focused on improving STEM education in the state of Indiana.
  • Amgen Foundation Prize: One $10,000 prize for an innovation that demonstrates an effective partnership model that enhances STEM learning through inquiry-based methods.
  • Innovations in Life Sciences Prize: Two $10,000 prizes for innovations that promote partnerships between scientists and science educators at middle/high schools in the life sciences, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The 24 prize-eligible submissions (including the 10 finalists) in the Partnering for Excellence competition emerged from a pool of 265 nationwide entries, after careful deliberation by a team of Ashoka staff and evaluators who selected a slate of the most innovative, scalable strategies for boosting STEM-rich learning in schools. The 34 most innovative entries, of which the 24 submissions are a part, will be invited to join and create a community of practice, including opportunities to learn from each other, build the field, engage media, and access possible new sources of funding.

“We are excited to announce the finalists in the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education competition,” said Diana Wells, president of Ashoka. “These innovative and influential solutions will equip students, especially in our nation’s highest-need schools, to be leaders as they solve problems and build the systems that keep our society vital.”

The finalists are:

Voting ends at 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 26, 2011; prize winners will be announced on Tuesday, November 15, 2011.


About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do "real and permanent good in this world." To promote and preserve a robust American democracy, the Corporation supports expanded opportunity through education. The foundation’s work enables many more students, including historically underserved populations and immigrants, to achieve academic success and perform at the highest levels of creative, scientific and technical knowledge and skill.

About Opportunity Equation

The Opportunity Equation initiative promotes equity and excellence in mathematics and science education. The initiative is a partnership between the Institute for Advanced Study and Carnegie Corporation of New York, and it was created to carry out the recommendations of the Carnegie-IAS Commission on Mathematics and Science Education in its 2009 report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy.

About Ashoka Changemakers®

Ashoka Changemakers is a community of action that connects social entrepreneurs around the globe to share ideas, inspire, and mentor each other. Through its online collaborative competitions and open-source process, is one of the world’s most robust spaces for launching, discussing, and funding ideas to solve the world’s most pressing social problems. Changemakers builds on Ashoka's three-decade history and belief that we all have the ability to be a Changemaker