Acara Challenge

Have a project idea that addresses a pressing social and/or environmental challenge that you want to see come to life?

The Acara Challenge is an annual competition in which UMN students can win up to $8,000 to develop solutions to social and environmental challenges.  Competition finalists will receive mentorship on developing proposals and pitches, as well as support in refining their goals and creating a viable launch program.

Please note that only students who have taken an Acara course or have been in the Acara Changemaker Lab are eligible to apply for the Acara Challenge – It’s not too late to register for GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact (Fridays 9-12, 2 credits, last class meets April 15) so you can compete!

Acara Challenge Competitor Details

  • Only students who have taken an Acara course or have been in the Acara Changemaker Lab are eligible to apply for the Acara Challenge – It’s not too late to register for GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact (Fridays 9-12, 2 credits, last class meets April 15) so you can compete!
  • A team or individual must have an idea for a viable pilot for a solution that addresses a social or environmental issue (local or global).
  • Each individual/team must have at least 1 currently or recently registered student (1 or more students must be registered Fall 2021 or Spring 2022).  This could be full or part-time in graduate, undergraduate, or a professional school program or students from a foreign university studying at the University of Minnesota under a formal exchange program.  There is no restriction on the number of team members.

  • Initial Application:
    • Sunday, February 6, 2022, by 10pm CST: Application is due.
    • Friday, February 11, 2022: Finalists announced
    • Friday, February 18 3:00-4:00 Finalist Orientation (online)
  • Competition Details:
    • Week of April 11: Virtual presentations (each finalist presents for 10 minutes and responds to 15 minutes of questions from the judges): These will be scheduled based on your availability so you can plan accordingly. These presentations are open to the public and will be recorded.
    • Week of April 15: Acara Challenge Awards will be presented at the Institute on the Environment Student Celebration.

  • The Acara Innovation Fellowship provides funding for up to $8,000 to assist students in piloting their proposed solution. Funds can be used to fund pilot expenses or to fund an unpaid internship. Funding cannot be used for equipment.
  • Coaching from incredible mentors.

All teams will be judged by an investor-like panel. The judging criteria is:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the social impact?
  • How are you sustained?
  • How does it scale?
  • Who is the team?

Looking to be a mentor or competition judge? Contact us at acarachallenge@umn.edu

  • Spring 2022 application is available here.  Apply by February 6, 2022 by 10pm CST.

Master innovators: Announcing the 2021 Acara Challenge winners

2021

  • EcoCiclo (presentation)
  • Doktah Telemedicine
  • OUROGAMI
  • HEAL ED
  • Open Spaces Healing Initiative
  • Students for Lake Superior Sustainable Farming
  • Co-Creating Through Design
  • STEMtelling
  • Sense of Self (presentation)

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

View all past Fellows