The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Walton Family Foundation, is excited to announce the new Visionary Interdisciplinary Teams Advancing Learning (VITAL) Prize Challenge, with the goal of catalyzing a new generation of emerging technologies and innovations for K-12 learning. The $6 million prize challenge, managed by Digital Promise, will provide funding, resources, and capacity-building support for small teams to bring new discoveries to educational and learning contexts to improve the experiences of those who have been historically and systematically excluded from learning and education systems. Sign up for the mailing list to receive key details, dates, and deadlines as they are released.
FEBRUARY 16, 2023
Early Review: Mar 12
Applications Close: Mar 19
Discovery Round Teams Announced
Semi-Final Round Teams
Final Round Teams
Applicants will submit a brief overview of their learning technology concept via a web portal to one of three technology translation tracks:
Rapid and Continuous Learning Assessment
Advancing measures and tools that dramatically increase the speed and utility of student learning information for educators, students, and families.
Mathematical Literacy to Promote a Future STEM Workforce
Advancing a student’s capacity to employ fundamental critical thinking skills and quantitative reasoning in a variety of contexts.
Other Innovations in Translational Learning Technologies
Advancing novel concepts and technologies for diverse communities of K-12 student learners and teachers, outside of assessment and mathematical literacy.
Who Should Apply
Anyone interested in taking, from the research lab to practice, an emerging technology concept that could serve learners or otherwise contribute to more equitable learning systems.
Applicants can come from any field (e.g., engineering, computer science, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, economics, etc.), and need not have existing experience in education or technology. Applicants can also be at any stage of their careers across academia, industry, or elsewhere (e.g., entrepreneurs, professors, students, researchers, teachers, computer scientists, product developers, etc.).
Teams will need at least one person to represent a concept and develop a prototype throughout the training and mentorship opportunities provided by the challenge. Teams must be made up of at least two individuals or represent a small group. Each team who passes through the initial Discovery Round will be partnered with an educator to help develop their concept for educational settings.
You should apply if you:
- Have an innovative technical idea that could support learning in the K-12 education system.
- Have a team that includes individuals from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in advancing learning.
- Are committed to Inclusive Innovation.
- Would like support designing prototypes that serve learner variability.
- Have a desire to work as equal partners with educators and other constituents in education.
- Have the capacity to use evidence-based design methods to refine an idea into a technology prototype that can equitably support learning.
- Must be based in the United States. In the case of a private entity, it must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. In the case of an individual, whether participating as a pair or in a group, must be 18 or older at time of entry into Challenge and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
- May not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.
- May not be an employee of NSF or the three partnering philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Process and Programming
Teams responding to the VITAL Prize Challenge announcement will submit the initial application via a web portal to one of three technology translation tracks, depending on the anticipated application, end user and area of impact. This initial application will provide a brief overview of the concept and describe the innovation and potential translational learning technology applicants hope to develop. Following submission of the application, selected participants will engage in a program with three competitive rounds:
A committee will convene to review the applications. Upon review, highly ranked ideas from each of the three translational learning technology tracks will be selected, and their teams will be invited to participate in a “Discovery Round”. The Discovery Round will provide training from the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program, to support teams in entrepreneurial education and mentoring, with
AUGUST 2023 - OCTOBER 2023
Teams who advance to the “Semi-Final Round” will be provided with research and development “seed” funding to further develop their ideas. Teams will also be partnered with a dedicated and compensated educator co-design mentor to provide contextual and application-driven feedback as they further assess the feasibility of their proposed translational learning technology concept. All participants will also
NOVEMBER 2023 - JANUARY 2024
Teams who advance to the “Final Round” (“finalists”) will receive additional seed funding and will continue their partnership with an educator mentor in an effort to further develop and technically validate their learning technology minimum viable prototype (MVP), and refine their prototypes for impact across the education marketplace. They will receive training and mentorship on developing
Participating teams will receive in-kind training and support during the Discovery Round, and seed funding to be used toward research & development (R&D) activities associated with the competition during the Semi-Final and Final rounds. At the conclusion of the challenge, 3 teams from each learning technology track will also receive final prize winnings.
Funding, Prizes and Mentorship Stipends
|Phase/Prize||Number of Teams||Seed Funding/Prize Per Team||Mentor Stipend Per Team|
In-kind Training and Support
|First Place Prize||3||$250,000||-|
|Second Place Prize||3||$150,000||-|
|Third Place Prize||3||$100,000||-|
Participating teams will receive in-kind training and support during the Discovery Round, and seed funding to be used towards research & development (R&D) activities associated with the competition during the Semi-Final and Final rounds. At the conclusion of the challenge, 3 teams for each track will also receive final prize winnings.
Funding, Prizes and Mentorship Stipends
|Phase/Prize Level||No of Teams||R&D Prize Per Team||Prize Total Per Team||Mentor Stipend||Mentor Stipend Total||Total|
|Discovery Round||100||In-kind Training and Support|
The VITAL Prize Challenge is supported by a partnership between the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Walton Family Foundation. Read more about the partnership
Applications are closed and the full prize challenge will run through January 2024, rules and conditions apply. Sign up for the mailing list to learn more about the challenge and receive key details, dates, and deadlines as they are released. You can also reach out to us with questions at VITALPrize@digitalpromise.org.
Are you an educator that wants to improve educational technology products for every learner, particularly those that have been historically underserved? Learn more about how you can support the VITAL Prize Challenge as an Educator Mentor here.Sign Up For Updates