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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 2024 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge, educators and teenagers will develop an innovator’s mindset and the skills to create solutions to local and global problems.

Application deadline extended to January 20th, 2024!

Information Sessions

Optional Information Sessions: You are invited to attend one of our 30-minute information sessions to help you learn more about the 2024 Jacobs Teen Innovation Challenge.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Check your Spam Folder if you don’t see the confirmation email in your Inbox.

November 16, 2023 at 4:00 PM Pacific Time: (Watch Replay)

December 7, 2023 at 11:00 AM Pacific Time: (Watch Replay)

The recorded version will be shared with those that are not able to attend the live version, but you must still register to receive the recorded video. Participation is limited. Application deadline extended to January 20th, 2024!

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.


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:

  • The winning team of the ‘Best Overall Social Innovation’ will receive an award of $2,000. 
  • The winning team of the ‘Most Local Impact Award’ will receive an award of $500. 
  • The winning team of the ‘Most Global Impact Award’ will receive an award of $500. 
  • The winning team of the ‘Most Creative Innovation Award’ will receive an award of $500. 
  • The winning team of the ‘Advances Social Justice and Equity Award’ will receive an award of $500. 

In addition, we’re giving out $25 Storyteller Awards to teams who share their project and team progress on social media with the hashtag #JTIC24.

Several hands holding up a gold trophy

*Depending on the country of residence, the winning teams’ award can be distributed in one of the following ways: designate a charity to receive the award in the team’s name, donate the award to your non-profit school, or select an Amazon gift of your preference for your classroom.

Photonics Innovation Award sponsored by DRS Daylight Solutions

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 $500 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. Application deadline extended to January 20th, 2024!

Table with multiple people and laptops open


  • November 16, 2023 (Watch Replay)/ December 7, 2023 (Watch Replay)
  • January 20, 2024: Application deadline extended to January 20th, 2024!
  • January 10, 2024–April 30, 2024: 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 25, 2024: Kickoff & Understand Phase Webinar: Watch recording here, see slide here!
  • February 22, 2024:Ideate Phase Webinar: Watch recording here, see slide here!
  • March 19, 2024: Prototype Phase Webinar : Watch recording here, See slide here!
  • April 11, 2024: Pitch Phase Webinar: Watch recording here. See slide here!
  • April 30, 2024 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 24, 2024: Winners announced!


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
Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge Logo
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!