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Frequently Asked Questions
ELIGIBILITY | DEADLINES | REQUIREMENTS | JUDGING & DEVELOPMENT FUNDING | THE FINALIST EVALUATION | Prize Awards
I am a high school (or college) student creating an EdTech company. Am I eligible to compete?
Yes. As long as everyone on your team is 18 years of age or older, you will be eligible to submit an entry to this competition. Part of the judging process will involve evaluation of the qualifications of your team to see if you can really produce the technology you’re saying you will. So be sure to note details on how your relatively young team will produce your solution. What skills do you have that will be critical to seeing this through to the end?
I am an entrepreneur interested in the prize, but I don’t yet have a product/solution. Am I eligible to compete?
Yes. The key thing for you/your team will be to show that you have an innovative idea and the skills needed to bring it to life in time for the randomized, controlled trial (RCT) in September 2015. All Semi-Finalists and Finalists will receive development funding, behavioral advising, and time to create and/or refine their proposed solution.
I work for an existing company, and we have an EdTech solution we would like to submit for this competition. Are we eligible to compete?
Yes. Corporate teams are absolutely allowed to compete. As long as your solution meets the criteria outlined in the Prize rules, we would love to receive your application. Are there specific modifications you will need to make to adapt your technology for the community college student population? Does your team have any skills or qualifications that make you uniquely suited for this challenge? Tell us in your application!
Can my submission use existing technology we have already built?
Yes. You are allowed to use existing technology, as long as it is fully in compliance with the rules and requirements of the competition.
I would like to submit a joint entry with another entrepreneur or company. Is this allowed?
Yes. We welcome collaborations, as long as your groups register as one team, subject to the rules outlined in the Master Team Agreement
My technology currently involves staff that I hire as mentors or life coaches to help students, am I eligible for the competition?
No. To meet the competitions’ goals of identifying scalable, cost-effective interventions, teams cannot staff personnel that will interact with students. Technologies can, however, encourage students to seek supportive services already offered at the City University of New York or elsewhere.
We encourage companies that employ life coaches and/or mentors to consider submitting other components of their technology or developing the technology in a way that doesn’t involve human interaction. The prize’s development funding can be used to achieve this end.
My solution does not hire staff to interact with the student but does involve volunteers. Am I eligible for the competition?
No. While the proposed technology can connect students to other students, third parties, existing resources, and the like, it cannot connect them to humans employed by the applicant, even if they are unpaid.
My solution operates at the student level but also requires interaction with faculty or administrators. Am I eligible for the competition?
No. The technology can be used directly only by the student, meaning that a faculty member or administrator cannot use the tool directly, even for data entry. The tool could, however, prompt a student to contact an administrator or teacher and complete the planned activities.
When do we need to submit our application to the competition?
June 30, 2014
When will we be notified if we were selected as a Semi-Finalist?
Early August 2014
When will we be notified if we were selected as a Finalist?
As currently planned, Finalist selection will be made at a Showcase Day in January 2015, when all Semi-Finalist teams will pitch their solution to the Judging Panel and the public.
When will we be notified if our application is eligible for the competition?
We will be reviewing each application for eligibility upon submission to ensure that any issues with entries can be addressed before the final deadline,. If any portion of your entry is deemed ineligible in this review, we will notify you of the requirements not met and give you the opportunity to make revisions and re-submit by June 30th.
The sooner an application is submitted, the sooner we can verify its eligibility, but the final deadline for this preliminary review will be June 25th. Any submissions made past that date will not be notified of their eligibility status before the final deadline.
I just have a concept or idea about the technology that I want to build. At what point do I need to have a product for the competition?
If you are selected as a Semi-Finalist, you will be required to produce a prototype of your product by the day of the Finalist Showcase in January 2015. You will also need a fully-functioning product at the Finalist Stage, when the RCT is initiated in September 2015.
Note that you do not need to create a product or even a prototype to enter the competition. You only need to submit an application that details what your proposed concept or product is, how it works, and what skills and expertise your team has. Describe your idea in as much detail as possible to ensure that the judges can evaluate the viability of your concept.
Can we change our technology after submitting?
Yes. If your team is selected as a Semi-Finalist, you may refine your solution throughout the development phase; however, the core concept must remain intact.
During the RCT (September 2015 onward), Any updates to the product will be limited to technical fixes, such as bug fixes or firmware updates, or improvements in the functionality of the product as it was introduced at the start of the control trial.
Is attendance at the behavioral economics workshop and advising from ideas42 mandatory?
No. ideas42 is providing these services to help applicants make their technologies more effective. Teams are encouraged, not required, to utilize these resources.
Does my technology need to employ behavioral design or behavioral economics?
No. This is not a requirement, nor will teams be penalized for not employing behavioral economics in their designs.
Will we be able to work with clients or users outside the CUNY system during the RCT?
Yes. Finalists are welcome to pursue opportunities outside the competition, so long as this work does not interfere with participation in the RCT.
Can we submit our team for the competition before having a concept in place?
No. Although we are sure that your team members are well-qualified to develop a solution, you must at least be able to describe the concept for the solution you will create for this competition. Your team will not be able to move forward to the Semi-Finalist round based on your personal qualifications alone.
· What do we need to show in our submission to the competition if we don’t have a product to demo?
Your submission will be evaluated by a panel of judges based upon criteria listed in the Competition Rules. Be sure to review each of these criteria prior to submitting, and to thoroughly explain your concept with an eye to those criteria.
What do we win if selected as a Semi-Finalist?
Each Semi-Finalist team will be awarded a $40,000 development grant to help produce or refine your concept and product. Additionally, you will be invited to a workshop led by ideas42 on behavioral economics and higher education.
What do we win if selected as a Finalist?
Each Finalist team will receive a $60,000 development grant and the opportunity to receive behavioral design advising services provided by ideas42.
What can I use development funding for?
Development funding can be used for anything that will improve the technology product, including, but not limited to, new iterations of an existing product, developing technology infrastructure, salary of team members or team leader, and transitioning a technology with a human component to a pure technology product, as long as the usage is justifiable within the goals of the competition.
What will I be required to do in order to access the full amount of development funding?
Development funding can be used for anything that will improve the technology product. In order to access the funding, contestants will be required to submit bi-monthly progress reports briefly detailing their development milestones.
What end-goal must our product achieve?
To win the Grand Prize for this competition, your technology must be able to increase 3-year associate degree completion rates among CUNY students enrolled in one or more remedial courses by at least 15 percentage points. See the Competition Rules for information about intermediate prizes that will be awarded for year-over-year full-time persistence and 2-year degree completion rates.
What is a randomized, controlled trial, and why does it last three years?
A randomized, controlled trial, or RCT, is the “gold standard” of social science research, and a study design in which participants are randomly assigned to a treatment or control group, with only the former receiving the intervention. In order to observe the effects of Finalist interventions on persistence and degree completion rates of students who place into remedial education, the evaluation must last 3 years.
Does my team have to participate in the RCT?
Yes. If your entry is selected to proceed to the final round, your continued consideration as a Finalist is contingent upon your agreement to full participation in the RCT.
Can we update our technology during the RCT?
During the RCT (September 2015 onward), any updates to the product will be limited to technical fixes, such as bug fixes or firmware updates, or improvements in the functionality of the product as it was introduced at the start of the control trial.
How will students be randomized into each group?
Students from selected CUNY community college campuses will be assigned to treatment groups or the control group by the evaluation team. Randomization will be stratified by campus, meaning that interventions will be delivered to some students at each participating campus, and within any given campus a roughly even number of students will receive each intervention.
What am I required to do as an applicant to prevent RCT contamination?
In the context of an RCT, contamination occurs when students are affected by or have access to interventions other than those to which they are randomly assigned. When contamination occurs, it is harder to detect the impact of the interventions. For this reason, the Rules state that “measures must be built into each intervention to mitigate the potential for RCT contamination.” In practical terms, this means that teams are required to issue activation keys to the students receiving the technology and/or some other measure to prevent other students from using the technology, depending on the technology intervention.
Will we be able to interact with the students participating in the RCT?
No. You will not be able to interact with the students participating in the RCT, except to provide technical support for your product. The technology itself will not be allowed to provide a service that introduces the students to in-person support provided by your team or others hired by your team.
Will we have access to CUNY’s data system for information such as student schedules, grades, and attendance?
At this time, we do not yet know what administrative data will be available for the evaluation. We are working to answer this question and will notify all applicants as soon as more detail is available.
Will we be able to integrate with CUNY’s existing learning management system (LMS)?
At this time, we do not yet know whether LMS integration will be possible. We are working to answer this question and will notify all applicants as soon as more detail is available.
How much will solutions be scaled during the RCT?
Applicants should plan to scale their technology to a group of 500 students for the RCT.
Will data regarding the solution’s efficacy within the RCT be provided?
While we cannot provide the raw and unprocessed data to protect students and the integrity of the competition, we will share the results of the RCT to contestants so they know how their technology performed. Teams can collect their own data, as well, so long as it conforms to any applicable regulations and restrictions.
What can we win through the RCT?
There are $5 million in prizes available over the course of the RCT. The one-year intermediate prize is for $500,000, the two-year intermediate prize is for $1,000,000, and the final prize after three years is for $3.5 million. Intermediate awards will roll over into the Grand Prize if no one wins them. See the Competition Rules and the Design Report for complete details on how these prizes will be awarded during the RCT.
What happens when no one wins the intermediate prizes?
The money rolls over into the Grand Prize, which may end up being $5 million in total.
How can a tie happen? How is the prize money distributed in the case of a tie?
If more than one team achieves the target for full-time year-over-year persistence improvement of at least 10 percentage points (compared to the control group), the impacts of those interventions will be compared to one another. If the difference between those interventions can be established with statistical significance at conventional levels, the first-place intervention will take the prize. If the difference between interventions is not statistically significant, the $500,000 will be divided into two awards of $250,000 or three of $166,666, accordingly. If no team achieves this impact, the $500,000 rolls over into the purse for the three-year Grand Prize.
If more than one team surpasses the target increase for 5 percentage points (compared to the control group) on 2-year degree completion rates, the impacts of those interventions will be compared to one another. If the difference between those interventions can be established with statistical significance at conventional levels, the first-place intervention will take the prize. If the difference between interventions is not statistically significant, the $1 million will be divided into two awards of $500,000 or three of $333,333, accordingly. If no team achieves this impact, the $1 million rolls over into the purse for the three-year Grand Prize.
If more than one intervention achieves the 3-year degree completion rate threshold of 15 percentage points improvement (compared to the control group), the impacts of those interventions will be compared to one another. If the difference between the interventions can be established with statistical significance at conventional levels, the first-place intervention will win the prize. If the difference between interventions is not statistically significant, the purse will be split equally among those interventions. In the event that no intervention demonstrates an impact of 15 percentage points or more, no winner will be declared, and the remaining prize money will remain with Robin Hood for future prize competitions.
What can we use the prize money for?
Because this is a prize competition, not a grant, winning teams(s) may use the money as they see fit. It is the Robin Hood’s hope that a significant portion of the money will be used to scale your technology to other community colleges.