2018 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition for K-12 Educators

This program is currently closed



The Maine STEM Collaborative, with financial support from the Maine Space Grant Consortium, is pleased to announce the 2018 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition. STEMCollab The goal of this competition is to provide K-12 educators the opportunity to try out highly innovative ideas in STEM teaching and learning.  Although we hope all funded ideas will be successful, we are more interested in stimulating an innovation culture within Maine’s K-12 community that “does not think out of the box, but thinks there is no box”, and empowers educators to “try fast, learn quickly, fail small, and evolve rapidly.”  In keeping with these principles, we also encourage ideas that combine the arts, humanities, and/or social sciences with STEM, as long as the outcomes focus on enhancing STEM teaching and learning.

The 2018 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition culminates in a “Fast Pitch” presentation – a high energy, rapid-fire presentation event during which finalists share their vision and impact of their ideas with the audience and judges – in just five minutes! – at the 2018 STEM Summit on Friday, November 16, 2018 at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. After the presentations, we will announce grant awards ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to the finalists to support implementation of their ideas.

Innovation means different things to different people, and comes in all shapes and sizes so we really do not want to get into this discussion because the mere attempt of defining innovation puts us in the “there is a box” realm which this competition is trying to avoid. Both in the applications and “Fast Pitch” presentations, applicants should tell us, with all their passions and emotions, why they believe that their ideas are truly innovative and unique. Applicants should ask themselves the following questions: Is the idea a breakthrough new way of STEM Teaching and Learning? Is the idea an improvement over current methods? Is the idea addressing an emerging STEM education issue or an old issue in a creative way? Will the innovation stand the test of time? Can the innovation distinguish itself from other approaches, and contribute significantly to student impact? Is the innovation replicable and scalable? There are many other questions that applicants should ask themselves about whether their ideas are innovative as long as the critical thinking process assumes “there is no box.”


All K-12 teachers in STEM, arts, humanities, and social sciences are eligible to apply.  The application must be submitted by the school which employs the teacher since the award will be made directly to the school.  Informal educators, higher education faculty and staff, not-for-profit organizations and businesses are not eligible to apply but may participate as collaborators in the proposed activities.


In class and out-of-class teaching and learning STEM activities are eligible.  Activities that combine the arts, humanities, and/or social sciences with STEM are also eligible as long as the outcomes focus on enhancing STEM teaching and learning.


K-12 teachers are strongly encouraged to collaborate with informal educators, higher education faculty and staff, not-for-profit organizations and businesses to strengthen their applications and to maximize opportunities for success. There is no limit on the number of applications a collaborator may participate in.  Applicants may include funding for collaborators in their budgets but we prefer, however, that collaborators donate their time and perhaps materials and supplies in order to maximize the use of the award to support student activities.


After reviewing all applications, the Selection Committee will select six finalists, two from each of the following grade categories: K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  All six finalists will be invited to the 2018 STEM Summit on November 16, 2018 at Central Maine Community College to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and to the audience.  The winner, who will be chosen by the judges, will receive a $5,000 grant to support his/her project.  The other five finalists will each receive $2,000 to support their projects.  All funded projects must be completed within two years of the award.


To prepare the finalists for their “Fast Pitch” presentations, members of the Maine STEM Collaborative will be available between November 5 and November 13 to provide one-on-one coaching to prepare them for their five-minute elevator pitches and one-page executive summaries.  Coaching could be face-to-face, by phone, online resources, and/or by video calls (Skype, Facetime, etc.).  The mode of coaching and schedule will be mutually determined by the individual finalist and coach. Finalists will complete their pitches live with the use of slides and/or other props (recorded videos are not appropriate). Although projects are encouraged to be student-focused, the pitch is done by the individual teacher finalist.

Examples of “Fast Pitch” presentations can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/SIFastPitch. These presentations were made by entrepreneurs at the Social Venture Partners’ Annual Fast Pitch Competition. Very few of the presentations were by K-12 educators but they did it. We may not be that sophisticated but we will make every effort to make all finalists feel comfortable during their presentations.


Application Due Date:                                   5 p.m., Monday, October 15, 2018

Notification of Finalists:                                Week of October 22, 2018

Availability for Fast Pitch Coaching:             November 5, 2018 to November 13, 2018

Fast Pitch Presentation:                               Friday, November 16, 2018 at CMCC


The award may be used for travel, stipends for teachers and substitute teachers, small equipment, consultants, and materials and supplies.  Indirect costs are not allowed.


The application package includes the cover sheet, the project description and budget, which are attached to this announcement.  The word version for application package can be downloaded from 2018 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition and Application Package

The cover sheet must be completed and signed by the applicant and the school’s principal.  The project description should not exceed 2 pages of single spaced description of your project. All margins must be 1” inch all around, and the font size must not be smaller than 10.  You may use smaller fonts for images and tables as long as they are readable.

Email your signed cover sheet, project description, and budget as a single pdf document to mestemchallenge@gmail.com no later than 5 p.m., Monday, October 15, 2018.  Please use the following electronic file naming convention when emailing your complete application:

Last Name of Teacher_School Name


The Selection Committee will review all applications and apply the criteria below to select the six finalists.  Each criterion will be scored as follows: 1=Low; 3=Medium, 5=High.

  1. The extent to which the idea represents “does not think out of the box, but thinks there is no box” innovation, and aligns with one or more of the STEM standards.
  2. The adequacy of the applicant’s discussion of what students will learn or benefit from the project, of student engagement, relevance and rigor, and of the anticipated benefits to the teacher and to the school.
  3. The extent to which collaborators, teachers, parents, community persons and others in developing and carrying out the proposed project.
  4. The extent to which the proposed project’s key milestones and measurable objectives are appropriate and realistic, and in alignment with the proposed budget.
  5. The adequacy of the applicant’s discussion on how they will know their project is successful, how the results will be documented, and the extent to which the project is replicable and scalable.
  6. The extent to which the applicant intends to continue his/her idea beyond project completion.


Much of the “Fast Pitch” presentations depend on what the applicants can present in a short pitch. Strong pitches will tell a story that connects emotionally as well as rationally, and be presented with energy and conviction. Presentations should make good tradeoffs regarding what can be presented in the allotted time. Each presentation will be scored as follows:

1 (Low)              Weak Presentation with weak content

3 (Medium)        Good presentation with good coverage of key topics

5 (High)             Exceptional presentation with coherent story, depth beyond criteria, and that leaves a lasting impression.


Each awardee will be expected to make a presentation on their progress next summer at a Maine STEM Collaborative event (time and location to TBD).  A one-page summary should accompany the presentation that discusses the project’s progress, lessons learned, and potential improvements to enhance success.


Please do not hesitate to send your inquiries to mestemchallenge@gmail.com.   All Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and responses will be posted on the competition’s website and routinely updated.


Click here to view brief descriptions of our 2016 Awards


The Maine STEM Collaborative is a statewide unincorporated partnership of over 60 individuals from education, research, business, government, and nonprofit sectors that was formed by the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance in 2007 to help increase the quality of STEM education, student aspirations, and public awareness of STEM education.  We work closely with the Maine STEM Council on outreach to promote STEM educational initiatives, and particularly, the Collaborative’s signature statewide event – the Maine STEM Summit – to bring together those involved in these efforts.