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The Nittany AI Challenge offers Penn State undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to address pressing global issues and build solutions using AI and machine learning. Through a team-based, eight-month-long competition, students develop and apply diverse skill sets toward a solution that improves the world while competing for up to $50,000 in prizes, extending their networks, and building critical leadership experience. Technical expertise is not required, and we encourage students from all campuses and colleges to apply. Follow the steps outlined below to get started with the Challenge and submit your official entry to compete by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on January 25, 2023.

Logging In to the Team Tool and Creating Your Profile

Whether you are interested in participating on a team or as a mentor, begin your entry into the Challenge by creating a profile in the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool. You can create a profile even if you do not have a team, team members, or an idea — the Team Tool is designed to connect individuals to one another based on interests, skills, and availability. Once you have created a profile, review the next four steps on this page to learn how to complete your official entry into the Challenge.

Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool

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By using the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool you agree to the terms and conditions of the Challenge.

Building Your Team

While there are several roles necessary for a successful team, there are no requirements regarding your team’s size. Successful teams to date have most often had four or six members with varied experience, backgrounds, and academic affiliations.

Roles include:

  • Team Lead — helps guide the team, ensuring everyone is working together to achieve the desired results. The team lead also provides project management to bring the team to a successful and timely submission. 
  • Subject Matter Expert — provides the focus and the expertise to make certain the proposed solution is valuable, feasible, and aligned with an actual problem.
  • Presentation/Marketing Lead — concentrates on conveying the work of the other team members through documentation, videos, and pitches.
  • Technical Lead(s) — leads the project from a technical perspective, helping the team understand the tradeoffs of the technical decisions and leading the actual programming of the solution. This could include separate individuals focused on front-end development, back-end development, and data science.
  • Design Lead — leads the team in user experience/user interface design decisions and development. The importance of someone in this role for later stages of the Challenge cannot be overemphasized.

Use the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool to start and build your team. You can use the Team Tool to add members, or find any missing talent to fulfill the roles above.  

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Validating Your Idea

Validating your idea is a critical step in your success of the Nittany AI Challenge. As an often skipped step, without validation, ideas that are submitted into the Challenge may have already been done before, aren’t necessary, or simply won’t work. Complete the validation process to steer clear of those unfortunate possibilities.   

Validation process:

  • Talk to the potential end users of your solution
    • Leverage social media and your personal networks to gather feedback on your idea
  • Talk to experts
    • You have a phenomenal network of experts across Penn State faculty and staff — they would love to talk with you. Do a bit of creative web-searching and reach out to them via email, LinkedIn, Microsoft Teams, etc.!
  • Get letters of support
    • You can use this template as a basic structure for letters.
    • Letters of support are very effective in convincing reviewers you have validated your idea and are communicating with experts.
    • Letters from experts in both the subject matter and technical sides of your project are encouraged.

This step takes place outside of the Team Tool.

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Writing Your Proposal

You can find the full details for the proposal, including required content and review criteria, on the Idea Phase page.

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Submitting Your Proposal

Prior to submitting a proposal, please ensure that all team members create a profile in the Team Tool and belong to your team. Within the Team Tool, navigate to your team and select “Submit Proposal” to begin the idea submission process. You may save and continue your work later; however, you may NOT edit your proposal once submitted.  

Submit your proposal through the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool

To compete in the 2023 Nittany AI Challenge, you must create a profile, build your team, and submit an idea no later than 11:59 p.m. (ET) on January 25.


By using the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool you agree to the terms and conditions of the Challenge.