Submit a Challenge
Product 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
Product Challenges are expressed in the form of a “How might we…” question in order for our students to respond to the challenge. For example, Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood challenged our students, “How might we support immigrants trying to capitalize on the skills and education they brought with them to the US to achieve greater financial stability for themselves and their families?” 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
Product 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 Product 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
Product 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, Product Challenges are for educational and exploratory purposes, not work-for-hire. During the submission process, you will see an example of a Product Challenge posed to our students.
Companies select an advisor to work with the student team. The Company Advisor 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 Advisor provides support to the student team, ensuring they have whatever access or information is required to respond to the challenge.
The ownership of any intellectual property (IP) that may be created during the project is public domain. IP, 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 Product Challenges, however if the challenge requires hardware or materials, the company is responsible for purchasing those materials.
The Studio team reviews all challenges posed to the students. The team selects the most relevant challenges to be put forth to the students for selection.
A matching algorithm is used to form student teams and match those teams to challenges, optimizing for student interest. Groups of 4 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.
Q: What types of companies can submit challenges?
A: We encourage all leading startups, companies, and organizations from across the globe to submit a challenge. However, the selected Company Advisor should have enough bandwidth to engage with the students on a monthly basis.
Q: How many challenges can a company submit?
A: We generally limit submissions to one per company. Large corporations can submit one challenge per business unit. Each submission must have a distinct Company Advisor.
Q: Are challenges guaranteed to be selected?
A: No. After the submission deadline, each challenge is reviewed internally. Some challenges will not move past this review stage. Once all challenges are reviewed, a matching algorithm will connect students with challenges, optimizing for student interests. About 40% of final challenges will match with student teams.
Q: Is there any cost to participate?
A: We ask companies who match for a $5,000 donation to partially support the cost of operating Cornell Tech’s unconventional Studio, which includes professional teamwork coaching support for students, new materials for projects such as the latest digital devices, training for practitioner teachers, events such as monthly Sprints and practitioner Crits, and more. For nonprofits and early-stage startups, this fee may be waived.
Q: Are there more examples of “How might we…?” challenges that matched with student teams from previous semesters?
A: Yes! To view examples of previous challenges, take a look at our Buildboard here: http://buildboard-10044.cornelltech.io/fall-2018/
Q: What is the relationship between the companies and student teams?
A: Product Challenges are not work for hire or internships, but real-world learning opportunities for academic credit. Through iterative product development, student teams may pivot from an original idea to best address the challenge, or even reframe the challenge itself. The Company Advisors are not meant to influence product development, but rather serve as domain experts and mentors.
Q: A Note on Intellectual Property (IP)
A: The primary purpose of the project is the education of the student. Organizations and students should define projects that are learning experiences and expose students to real-world challenges and opportunities within the organization.
The ownership of any intellectual property (IP) that may be created during the project is public domain. The project is for educational purposes and any resulting intellectual property is openly shared for public benefit. IP, 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. Please review this document prior to submitting a challenge. Companies that are matched with a team agree to use the CSP without modifications or revisions.