​Company Challenges require a thought provoking idea or challenge posed by the company that gives students the freedom to explore different paths toward breakthrough ideas and prototypes.

How Organizations Submit a Challenge

Company Challenges are expressed in the form of a “How might we…” question in order for our students to respond to the challenge. For example, Weight Watchers challenged our students, “How might we tackle teenage weight loss in a manner that makes teenagers feel good about themselves and not like they are on a program?” Our students responded to the challenge with inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Companies should ask questions interesting to them, relevant to their businesses, worthy of exploration, and challenging to our students.

How Students Respond to a Challenge

Company Challenges give students the opportunity to uncover unexpected areas of exploration, ideating in order to transition from identifying problems into exploring solutions. Harnessing the collective perspectives and strengths of a cross-campus team, students step beyond obvious solutions, increasing the innovation potential for their Company Challenge.

Students use prototyping, user testing, and business planning to answer their “How might we…” question and integrate it back into the business. The final presentation is a demo by the team to the challenger company, educating key stakeholders on their findings.


  • Learn product design, prototyping, and business planning.
  • Collaborate directly with large tech firms or high-growth startups to help tackle complex challenges and ideas.
  • Build upon and advance an idea drawn from a diverse set of real-world challenges and opportunities for technology-based disruption.
  • Work in cross-campus teams, gaining experience communicating project plans, timelines, status, and results in a learning environment that mirrors the real-world.
  • Gain exposure to business and societal drivers of technological advancement.

How it Works

Company Challenges go beyond a problem to solve or work to be done—they require a thought provoking idea or challenge posed by the company that gives students the freedom to explore different paths toward breakthrough ideas and prototypes. Unlike an internship, Company Challenges are for educational and exploratory purposes, not work-for-hire. During the submission process, you will see an example of a Company Challenge posed to our students.

Companies select a champion to work with the student team. The Company Champion meets with the student team at least four to five times during the semester which includes a kickoff meeting, a few check-ins, and final presentation with company stakeholders. In addition, the Company Champion provides support to the student team, ensuring they have whatever access or information is required to respond to the challenge.

The organization chooses one of three options for the ownership of any intellectual property (IP) that may be created during the project: organization-owned IP, student-owned IP, or placing all IP into the public domain. Choosing IP ownership, along with other legal matters, including confidentiality, pertaining to the project, are agreed upon at the outset of the project using the Cornell Standard Project (CSP) agreement. Companies that are matched with a team agree to use the CSP without modifications or revisions.

There are no financial obligations to participate in Company Challenges, however if the challenge requires hardware or materials, the company is responsible for purchasing those materials.


A matching algorithm is used to form student teams and match those teams to challenges, optimizing for student interest. Groups of 3 to 5 students participate on a cross-campus team, with each student devoting about 10 hours a week on the challenge. Multiple teams can match to the same challenge. Companies and students will be notified via email of the match. Please note that the program is highly competitive and we receive more submissions than we have student teams so not all submissions will match.