2022 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge - 3rd Annual Now with Virtual Exchange Option - The Global Goals for Sustainable Development - Pactful
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.

Learn More at an Information Session

We are offering 30-minute information sessions to help you learn more. Advanced registration required.

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 an annual, worldwide event that supports teachers and teenagers in developing social good solutions using design thinking. Ongoing support is provided to educators through a series of webinars and the challenge culminates 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


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 #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.

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

New for 2022: Optional Virtual Exchange

During this year’s challenge, educators will 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.


  • 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.
    • January 11, 2022: Kickoff & Understand Phase Webinar
    • January 27, 2022: Ideate Phase Webinar
    • February 22, 2022:Prototype Phase Webinar
    • March 31, 2022: Pitch Phase Webinar
  • 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
  • May 19, 2022: Winners announced at a virtual awards ceremony!

Information Sessions

If you’re interested in the 2022 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge but would like to learn more first, please join us for one of our 30-minute information sessions. Each session will include a brief presentation and time for your questions. Advanced registration required.

Learn More


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
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!