Pactful Teen Innovation Challenge with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development icon appearing in the middle with four teenagers raising their hands in excitement
Teens and teachers working together to build a better world

What if you could build a better world? The Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education at the University of San Diego is calling for middle- and high-school educators to join us in our effort to make a local and global impact. Through the Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge in spring 2021, educators and teenagers will develop an innovator’s mindset and the skills to create solutions to local or global problems.

Build Solutions Aligned to the Global Goals

UN 17 Global Goals

Using Pactful, students are introduced to the innovator’s mindset, the 17 United Nations Global Goals, and design thinking. Students form teams to identify a local or global problem that feels relevant to them and then work through three phases of a design thinking curriculum to develop solutions.

What is the Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge?

The Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education logo

The Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge is a worldwide event that will support teachers and teenagers in developing social good solutions using design thinking. We begin with our kickoff event on December 3rd, 2020, and will culminate with a virtual pitch competition in May 2021 with awards supporting top ideas (see winners from our last event). The challenge is generously supported by the generosity of Dr. Irwin and Mrs. Joan Jacobs.

Photograph of Dr. Irwin and Mrs. Joan Jacobs


Several hands holding up a gold trophy

Winning teams and their solutions will be celebrated in the Pactful Community and the media. In addition, winning teams will receive certificates celebrating their success, plus:

In addition, we’re giving out $25 Storyteller Awards to teams who share their project and team progress on social media with the hashtag #JTIC21.

*Charitable donation prizes are officially provided to the educator for the student team. We encourage the winning educator and team to work together to select the charity to receive the prize.


Table with multiple people and laptops open
  • A middle- or high-school educator must sign up and coordinate the event with student teams. Non-profits and other educational organizations serving teens can also apply. If you are a student, please ask your teacher to sign up so you can participate.
  • Every student must be in middle or high school and 13 years or older. If your middle-school class has 12-year-old students, they can participate as long as they are paired with students 13 years or older.
  • Educators and students must use a Google Account—preferably G Suite for Education—to authenticate and document progress in the Pactful app.
  • Because our goal is to increase access to innovation culture with underrepresented populations, we strongly encourage diversity of race and gender in student teams.
  • Participation is limited. Applications will be accepted until January 13th, 2021.


Interested educators should submit their application to participate today.
Applications will be accepted until January 13, 2021.

  • December 3, 2020:  Kickoff event (recording and slides) from 4–5 PM PT for educators providing an overview of the event, joined by special guest speaker Dr. Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliamsEdu), author of ISTE book Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good and co-founder of #TeachSDGs.
  • January 13, 2021: Last day for teachers to apply to join us for the challenge!
  • January 14, 2021–April 30, 2021: Educators work with their students using the Pactful app through the three stages of design thinking and a classroom pitch event. Educators will be invited to virtual webinars from 4–5 PM PT to support their ongoing efforts. Webinars will be recorded and archived for later viewing if you are unable to attend.
    • January 14, 2021 (recording and slides): Understand Phase Webinar, joined by special guest speaker Connie Liu (@ckliu95), Founder and Executive Director of Project Invent.
    • February 4, 2021: (recording and slides) Ideate Phase Webinar, joined by special guest speaker Andrew Arevalo (@Gameboydrew), Educator, Speaker, Blogger, and Entrepreneur.
    • March 4, 2021 (recording and slides) Prototype Phase Webinar, joined by special guest speaker Shakiri Murrain, author and co-founder of Mississippi Cares.
    • April 1, 2021: – (recording and slides) Pitch Phase Webinar, joined by special guest teacher Eric Nielson.
  • May 1, 2021: Deadline for educators to submit recorded Pitches. Educators can submit 1 recorded pitch (no more than 5 minutes) for consideration in the final event and prizes for every 6 student teams (i.e., if the teacher has 18 teams, then they may submit 3 pitches for consideration).
    • The Jacobs Institute will evaluate the submissions using the same Pitch Rubric that is the final “Do” activity in the Pitch phase of the app.
    • Submissions will close at 11:59 PM Pacific Time on May 1st, 2021.
    • Pitch Submission Guidelines are now posted in the Pactful Community.
  • May 19, 2021: Winners announced!

Special Guest Speakers

Photograph of Jennifer Williams
Dr. Jennifer Williams
Photograph of Connie Liu
Connie Liu
Photograph of Andrew Arevalo
Andrew Arevalo
Photograph of Shakiri Murrain
Shakiri Murrain
Photograph of Eric Nielsen
Eric Nielsen


Here’s what teachers who participated in prior events said this about their experience:

“Students were able to choose which of the goals aligned with their interests and were super involved. The teams did excellent professional work, remotely. This is the kind of project that makes kids interested to come to school. Being so different and relevant, the kids bought in right away and did complex research and problem solving. This project turned into a Google Genius hour as the kids focused on what interested them and real world problems. Many elements of this project gave students hope and inspired them to feel like they have power to make change.” ~ Eric Nielsen

“It has been a great learning opportunity for both my students and myself. Their perspectives were broadened, their passions were ignited, and they showed great resiliency through it all.” ~ Daina Weber

“Many of my 8th-grade students will take this experience with them into high school indicating that this was a real opportunity for them to work hands-on building a project that they could share with their peers and community.” ~ Valerie Crawford-Meyer

Graduate Extension Credit

Educators in the challenge are eligible to apply for up to 3 graduate extension credits, if needed, for employment purposes. The University of San Diego extension charges a standard rate of $75 per credit.


Make a gift

You can help build a better world by donating to support our work. We are thankful for all contributions, no matter how small. You can make a difference!