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 $5500 to develop solutions to social and environmental challenges.

Applications are accepted from students of all majors from all UMN campuses and in all stages of project development. Competition finalists will receive mentorship on developing proposals and pitches, as well as support in refining their goals and creating a viable launch program.

Applications for 2021 are closed. Stay tuned for 2022 dates!

Acara Challenge Competitor Details

  • You are encouraged to register for our Spring course Knowledge to Impact, which will provide valuable background in the art of turning ideas into reality. This is not required but will provide a great foundation for your competition entry.
  • Read through the guidelines for the Acara Challenge before starting your application.

  • 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).
  • The competition is open to current degree-seeking University of Minnesota students (undergrad, grad, professional) from all UMN campuses.
  • Each team must have at least 1 currently or recently registered student (1 or more students must be registered Fall 2020 or Spring 2021). There is no restriction on the number of team members.
  • Eligible students may apply as an individual.

  • Applications are due by 10 pm on February 28, 2021.
  • Students will be notified if they are competing by March 5.
  • Orientation for Finalists is on March 12 from 3-4:30 pm.
  • Day 1 Presentations on April 19.
  • Day 2 Presentations on April 20.
  • Acara Challenge Virtual Reception on April 21 from 4:30-6 pm.

  • The Acara Innovation Fellowship provides funding for up to $5000 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.
  • The Crowd Favorite Award is a cash prize of $500. It is awarded at the Acara Challenge reception, where teams will be selected by the audience. 
  • 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

  • Application is due Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 10pm CST.

Master innovators: Announcing the 2021 Acara Challenge winners


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








View all past Fellows