2018 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition for K-12 Educators Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Updated July 23, 2018


What is Innovation in Teaching and Learning?

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. We want you to tell us, with all your passion and emotion, why you believe that your idea is truly innovative and unique. Ask yourself the following questions: Is it a breakthrough new way of STEM Teaching and Learning? Is it an improvement over current methods? Are you addressing an emerging STEM education issue or an old issue in a creative way? Will your innovation stand the test of time? Does your innovation distinguish itself from other approaches, and contribute significantly to student impact? Is it replicable and scalable?

Why do I need collaborators?

Frankly, you cannot do this alone.  Although we earlier mentioned that we do not want to define Innovation, we will make an exception here.  One of the key ingredients for innovation and critical thinking is having partners/collaborators that will help you with your idea, not only in developing your idea but also in implementing it and achieving success. These partners and collaborators are within your school, other schools, in higher education, not-for-profit communities and in businesses.  They also may provide resources for implementing your ideas such as materials and supplies.

What is a “Fast Pitch”?

A “Fast Pitch” is a high-energy, fast-moving, quick-fire presentation where entrepreneurs share the mission, vision, promise, and model of their organization – all in under three minutes! Presenters must be succinct, compelling, polished and passionate. Fast Pitch competitions have proven popular in the for-profit / start-up sector, and we have adapted this idea to support highly innovative K-12 teachers in Maine who would like to have the opportunity to test out their ideas with financial support.  However, instead of a three-minute fast pitch, we decided to go with five minutes.

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.

What will happen at the 2018 STEM Summit?

We will invite six finalists to share their vision with an audience of about 200 educators and administrators from K-12, higher education and not-for-profit organizations, businesses, and government and a panel of judges.  Each finalist will fast pitch his/her idea in eight minutes or less followed by a brief Q&As from the judges and audience.  After the pitches and judges’ feedback, the audience will vote for their favorite.  A $5,000 grant will be awarded to the most compelling presentation, and $2,000 grants will be awarded to the other five finalists.

How does the competition work?

  • All applications must be submitted to mestemchallenge@gmail.com on or before the 5 p.m., Monday, October 15, 2018 due date.
  • The Selection Committee will review all applications, and, based on the selection criteria submissions and possible fact checking or other follow-up, will invite six finalists to participate.
  • 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.
  • Finalists must attend the 2018 Maine STEM Summit on November 16, 2018 at Central Maine Community College.

How do I apply?

Application materials can be downloaded from the competition’s website at https://www.msgc.org/educators/k12/stem-education-innovation-challenge-grant-competition/

The application process follows these steps:

  1. Read the application thoroughly and familiarize yourself with the review criteria and questions and the other information requested.
  2. Submit the signed cover page, project description, and budget to mestemchallenge@gmail.com on or before the October 15, 2018 due date. Completed applications must be submitted before midnight on the due date. You are allowed and encouraged to submit your application early.
  3. We will notifyyou by email as soon as we have received your application, and we will let you know whether or not you’ve been selected into the competition around the first week of October.
  4. If you are accepted, you will be required to attend at least one, one-on-one coaching session, and the 2018 Maine STEM Summit.

What kind of training do the finalists receive?

There are three aspects to the training program:

  • Presentation Workshop (possibility): Finalists will participate in a workshop to learn about the key elements of an effective presentation.
  • Coaching Sessions: Finalists practice their pitch in front of a group of volunteer coaches who will provide immediate feedback on their presentation.
  • Mentoring & Presentation Development: Finalists will also be assigned to work with two volunteer coaches who will assist them in distilling the feedback and refining their pitch into a crisp eight-minute presentation.

In order to benefit from the competition, finalists should plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours a week working on their pitch outside the group sessions.



Do I need to match the amount of the award?

No. Matching funds are not required.  But remember what we said earlier about collaborators.  You need them and if they are truly collaborators they should pony up resources such as materials and supplies to help you out.  The amounts we are providing through both award levels are intend to contribute to your total budget need.  Your project’s budget should not reflect the award amounts but should reflect what you really need to implement your innovative idea.  What you really need is defined as the total project cost.  The award amount and whatever your school, collaborators and partners contribute allow you to cover the total project cost.  So, although matching funds are not required, the Selection Committee will look at your total project cost and your outcomes and objectives in order to determine if the project can be accomplished. Both need to tell the same story. Now, you can certainly propose a budget based only on a $2,000 or a $5,000 award with no contributions from other sources. This is ok as long as the budget and the narrative tell the same story.  Points will not be deducted as long as the Selection Committee is convinced that your collaborators/partners are really helping you out in the absence of providing additional cash and/or in-kind resources.

Why am I asked to provide budgets for $2,000 award and $5,000 award levels?

Only one of the six finalists will receive the $5,000 award, the other finalists will receive $2,000 awards.  If you receive the $2,000 award and your proposal’s outcomes and objectives are based on the $5,000 award level, we will have to ask you to re-scope your proposal for the lower award level since a budget must match a project’s outcomes and objectives.  To avoid any delay in getting you started we thought it would be best to ask you upfront and have you think about this now as opposed to later.



What is the Maine STEM Summit?

The Maine STEM Summit presents an exciting opportunity to gain an appreciation of the role STEM education plays in all careers and everyday life, as well as the challenging issues at all levels of education in these difficult times. In order to be part of the solution, we need to appreciate these challenging issues, not just the ones we are more familiar with. The summit also provides an opportunity to share STEM education success stories from K-12, public and private higher education institutions and industry including in-class and out-of-class activities, curriculum development, internships, mentoring, and teacher preparation, among others.

Who organizes the Maine STEM Summit and the STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition?

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.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways to show your support for the Maine STEM Summit and the STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition

Sponsors: The Maine STEM Summit is not possible without the financial assistance of generous supporters. Donations and grants are tax-deductible and will go toward supporting the program, event, and awards. We are open to discussing creative ways for organizations to partner with us and contribute, including in-kind contributions.  If you are interested in sponsoring the Summit and to provide financial support in order to increase the number of teachers that would be eligible for awards under the STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition, please contact us at 207-626-3230.

Attend the Maine STEM Summit: Please contact us at 207-626-3230.

Coaches: If you are interested in volunteering to coach a finalist please contact us by email at mestemchallenge@gmail.com and provide us a brief resume and let us know why you are interested in being a coach. Coaches will be required to attend the STEM Summit as well in order to provide moral support for the finalists. We will contact you as soon as we complete reviewing the information.