The XPRIZE Innovation Competitions

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

The XPRIZE Foundation is a nonprofit with the purpose of accelerating innovation to solve the world’s most difficult problems. Energy, ocean health, transportation, and space are just a few of the areas that the XPRIZE competitions intend to affect.

If you teach science, you can watch for announcements of new XPRIZEs and use the information to spark the interest of your students in various areas of science and engineering. Have them research the ideas and come up with their own plans for meeting the challenges.

Recent announcements include the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the Tricorder XPRIZE, and the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE. A quick Internet search will provide you with the details for each, including team selection for those competitions that have progressed to that stage. Millions of dollars are at stake. The Lunar prize has total awards of $30 million.

The Ocean Health XPRIZE will create pH sensor technology to measure ocean acidification across thousands of miles of ocean. You can introduce a great deal of chemical and biological science by investigating this challenge just as though your class were competing.

The Tricorder challenge seeks to make a health sensor like those in the well known Star Trek television series of the 1960s. Ten teams have been selected and are taking ten different approaches to the problem. Just having your classes evaluate each team’s ideas would be a great project. Which will win?

Of interest to those who are not science teachers is the learning category. No prizes have been officially announced yet. Unofficially, the first learning prizes will focus on literacy and will require low-cost and effectiveness to win.

Universal education made possible by technological innovation is a recurrent theme of the Educational Technology and Change Journal. Which areas of technology are already well developed, and which are far behind and must be boosted? The XPRIZE Foundation has a great number of expert advisers to help make those decisions. Will they make the right ones?

I will be following developments closely.

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