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2022 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge - 3rd Annual Now with Virtual Exchange Option - The Global Goals for Sustainable Development - Pactful - University of San Diego
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. In the 2022 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge, educators and teenagers will develop an innovator’s mindset and the skills to create solutions to local and global problems.

Build Solutions Aligned to the 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.

UN 17 Global Goals

What is the Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge?

The Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education logo

The Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge is an annual, worldwide event that supports teachers and teenagers in developing social good solutions using design thinking. There is no cost to participate and ongoing support is provided to educators through a series of webinars. The challenge culminates in May with a virtual pitch competition. Awards to charity are provided on behalf of winning teams (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


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 #JTIC22.

*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.

Several hands holding up a gold trophy

Photonics Innovation Award sponsored by DRS Daylight Solutions

female scientist doing research in a quantum optics lab
DRS Daylight Solutions

We are excited to offer an additional, sponsored prize to this year’s challenge from DRS Daylight Solutions. Student teams who create a solution in the field of photonics are eligible to receive:

  • An award of $1000 for a charity* of their choice
  • Recognition from DRS Daylight Solutions who will share the news via their marketing channels
  • Certificates of their achievement
  • Mentoring from DRS Daylight Solutions to help take their solution to the next level upon request

To qualify for this award:

  • The solution must relate to the field of photonics, the physical science of light waves. Photonics deals with the science behind the generation, detection, and manipulation of light and plays an important role in many technologies that we use every day in our lives. Examples include:
    • Lasers
    • Light
    • Fiber optics
    • Infrared
  • Submissions must include an additional writeup as to how their solution aligns to and furthers the field of photonics.
  • Award consideration will only be provided for solutions that meet the general submission requirements for the challenge event as well as being substantially complete solutions. 


  • 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 Google Workspace 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 10th, 2022.

Table with multiple people and laptops open


  • January 10, 2022: Last day for educators to apply!
  • January 11, 2022–April 30, 2022: Educators work with their students using Pactful through the three stages of design thinking and a classroom pitch event. Educators will be invited to virtual webinars to support their ongoing efforts. Webinars will be recorded and archived for later viewing if you are unable to attend.
  • April 30, 2022 Deadline for educators to submit recorded Pitches. Educators may submit 1 recorded pitch (no more than 5 minutes) for consideration in the final event and prizes for every 6 student teams. The Pactful Pitch Rubric will be used to evaluate the submitted pitch videos.
  • May 19, 2022: Winners announced!

New for 2022: Virtual Exchange Pilot

During this year’s challenge, educators who opt in to the virtual exchange program will be paired with an educator from another country who is also working with student teams to create solutions to global problems. We will also provide additional communication and training support for these educators.

Teachers and students who participate in the virtual exchange option will:

  • Have an opportunity to virtually meet and communicate with a teacher and their students from another country.
  • Define together how and to what degree they will work together. For example, they could decide to work on the same project while also sharing how that particular issue uniquely impacts their local community.
  • Develop global competence.

We will provide several guiding activities to complete within a specific time frame during the program. A guiding activity facilitates discussion between educators by providing a relationship-building prompt to an enriching activity. Below are some of the activities we are designing for your virtual experience. You are free to modify and even reach out to your educator collaborator more than the suggested amount of times. Keep in mind that educator workloads might differ across countries and subjects, so make sure that you check with your partner before planning any other activities. We will add and update guiding activities as we move forward through the virtual experience. An email reminder will be sent a few days before the guiding activity to remind you of the time frame and activity implementation. 

Guiding Activities

January 11th – January 27th

Guiding Activity #1: Get to know your virtual exchange teaching partner. Use the template prompt guide provided below to plan your first connection. We suggest scheduling a 30-minute initial meeting with your partner to get to know each other. Use the following prompts to guide your initial meeting discussion (this guiding activity has been modified from the STEAMuseum project):  

Your  first meeting should address these 3 areas:

  • Personal Connection (10 minutes, 5 minutes per teacher)
    • Introduce yourself and share a little about who you are (e.g., your background, where you grew up, how long you have been teaching, subject, hobbies, family).
    • Describe the community where your school is located including the city, state, and country. 
    • Share what communication platforms you prefer to use going forward, how often would you like to connect, and what is an alternative communication channel for connecting offline such as email or WhatsApp.
  • Your Classroom (10 minutes)
    • Share about your school and classroom.
    • How many students will be in the program?
    • Why did you choose this particular class or group of students? 
  • Your Goals for Virtual Exchange (5-10 minutes)
    • Why are you personally interested in incorporating virtual exchange?
    • What do you hope your students will learn from this experience with 21st century skills (e.g., teamwork, empathy, communication)?
    • Please share important information about how you’re framing the 2022 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge with your students. 
    • Some educators focus their efforts on a single Global Goal, others pick a specific local program, and many others leave it open for student teams to decide. Share information about how you are working with students to decide.

You are free to extend the time of your virtual meeting with your teacher partner. We look forward to learning about your experience. Feel free to share your experience in our Community Building portal under the virtual exchange thread.

January 27th- February 22nd 

Guiding Activity #2:  Create a discussion board with your partner educator, you can use tools such as, Jamboard, and Miro. In this discussion board be sure to share any of the following:  

  • Describe your SDG goal and social impact ideas 
  • Add questions and experiences about what you’re learning.  
  • Provide feedback and recommendations. 

Make sure you ask students to add their ideas too.   

Guiding Activity #3: Partner students with another student from the other teacher’s classroom and ask them to interview each other using email, Google chats, or any other medium of communication. If communication is hard to establish, ask students to create a digital greeting card or short letter in an email.  They can use the following question prompts: 

  • What is your name? What is something that you like about where you live?
  • What is your favorite subject? What is an interesting or fun project that you have worked on?
  •  What is a social cause that you are passionate about and why? 
  • What is a topic that you would like to learn more about and why?

If time permits, ask them about their experiences connecting with another student from a different location.


February 22nd- March 31st  Prototype 

Guiding Activity #4: Partner students up in pairs according to a social issue, topic, or goal that they care about and have them brainstorm ideas around how they could solve this social issue. A great alternative to this, if you are not able to meet online, is to have students create a digital board that they share with their partners.  


  1. Use any of the digital tools below to create an open board to share with your students and students from the other class 
  2. Ask students to add their ideas to the board with questions, comments, or ideas that relate to a social cause they care about. Then ask students from the other class to add their comments and suggestions on the board. Some additional features to help students is to color code sticky notes using Miro to represent each class or you can ask students to add their nickname or first name to their comments. 
  3. Reflect with students on the final comments from all their contributions 

Talk to students about providing feedback and comments related to their local experiences so students from different locations can get insight into their world. 

Tools and resources: 

Guiding Activity #5: As a group,  pre-record a video or audio that is between 3-5 minutes long about a tradition, landmark, and/or historical event in your community that highlights your community’s culture, city location, or people. You can use Flipgrid to record your videos and share them with your team. You may modify this activity as needed if there is no time to pre-record a video using Flipgrid by having students share a place they like to visit from their community through a digital board. 


  1. Create a group on Flipgrid for you and your virtual exchange partner to use together and/or use the invite link to invite the other teacher and students. You have to create a topic first before creating a space for students to share. 
  2. As a group or individually, have your students select something about their community, school, or city that they would like shared with students from the other class.
  3. Have them record a video sharing why they like this space and what is something they want to share about this place. 
  4. Have students post on Flipgrid and share with the students 
  5. Have students watch and comment on each other’s videos. 


March 31st – April 30th Pitch Webinar
Guiding Activity #6:
Share your progress and work on the project you are working on. Gather feedback and new ideas, as well as discuss how local community issues affect each other.
Have students practice presenting their Pitch. You may use Flipgrid or connect with your partner educator online so students can practice presenting their Pitch presentation and gather feedback. Encourage students to write questions they can ask the other team once their presentation is completed. If they are using Flipgrid they can leave comments on the video.

Additionally, you may ask the partner teacher and students to be the judges and have them grade your Pitch using the grading rubric provided in the curriculum.


April 30th – May 19th Submission Deadline, gather feedback & Stay connected
Guiding Activity #7: If possible, set a time to connect virtually with your partner teacher to celebrate students’ work. Decide if you are going to stay in contact or if you want to facilitate helping students stay in contact. Plan to have time to answer some of the provided reflective questions below with your all students. If you face any time constraints with schedules, modify this activity to implement it using a digital board instead to answer the questions.
Tools and resources:

As a class, you can also create a digital postcard as a thank you for the other class. You may use Canva to design a digital postcard, you can design one as a class or have each student create one!

We hope that you are able to stay connected with your virtual exchange partner. Finally, please share with us your experience with this program using our Community Building!


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.


DRS Daylight Solutions
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