Frequently Asked Questions

The National Innovator Challenge (NIC) is an annual, K-12, innovation competition that promotes and celebrates youth innovation in the United States. It is held virtually so that any student in the US has an opportunity to enter. 

The world is constantly changing, and students may graduate to work in new job types and functions that currently don’t yet exist. Critical thinking, problem solving, and innovation are skills that are already in high demand.

The primary goal of the NIC is to give every child in the United States an opportunity to learn innovation skill through unstructured problem-solving activities that connect to core STEM standards.

Download a Flyer for NIC 2023 to share with other students who might be interested!

The Independent Innovator Challenge (IIC) is a pathway to the National Innovator Challenge (NIC) for students who do not have another qualifying organization to go through. We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to showcase their ideas, apps, and/or prototypes!

For 2023, the IIC has been put on hold so that we can make a smoother transition. This means that for 2023, students can apply directly to the NIC! In following years, students will need to qualify through either a partner program or the IIC.

Eligible participants will meet all of the criteria below:

  • Students are in grades K-12 (or the equivalent),
  • Individual students or student teams of up to 3 students may apply (all must be in an eligible grade).
  • At least one team member currently resides in the United States.
  • For 2023, all students who meet the above requirements are eligible to apply. In future years (as in past years), students will need to qualify through a partner program.

Submissions are accepted in the following categories: Idea, App and Prototype. These are defined as follows:

  • Idea – The innovation is a detailed designed of a future App, Prototype, Program or Organization, created with words, pictures, calculations, plans on paper or electronically. There may be a physical display model, but the model has no functionality. There could also be a functional project, organization or process plan. The solution may or may not be in a conceptual stage/state.
    Examples include:
    • Design of a device to feed the dog.
    • Business plan for a program to distribute unused food.
  • App – The innovation consisting of an application or software program strictly on a circuit board, computer, tablet, phone or other electronic device, that does not extend beyond the device.
    Examples include:
    • Software program to operate the device to feed the dog.
    • Software to keep track of the quality, quantity and location of unused food.
  • Prototype – The innovation is a tangible, physical item that has been constructed and has some, if not all, of the functions and capabilities that it might need to be actually used in the real world. It may not be made of the correct materials, it may not be the correct size and it may certainly not work as well as it should, but it does have or, at least, had the ability to perform at least some of the functions it is intended to do.
    Examples include:
    • “Working” model of device to feed the dog.
    • Device to transport food to the people who need it.

Our student manual is filled with the rules, to-do lists, and anything else you need to know. You can download a copy by clicking here.

As the IIC has been put on hold for 2023, you will have a bit more time than originally posted: 

The following are tentative dates for the NIC. 

  • Registration:
    Registration opens on April 21, 2023.
    Registration closes on June 17, 2023. Everything must be submitted by this date at midnight Pacific time.
  • Feedback to all Innovators:
    Emailed by July 1, 2023
  • Invitations for those advancing to the Live Event:
    Emailed by July 1, 2023.
    This email will include an invitation to a specific time slot for the live event and a date by which you will need to RSVP to ensure your slot remains available. 
  • Live National Innovator Challenge via Zoom: 
    July 12-18, 2023
  • National Innovator Challenge Celebration and Awards Ceremony: 
    Sunday, July 23, 2023 at 7:30 am Pacific Time during the Global Innovation Field Trip

If you are part of a co-op, classroom, school, or district where one person is responsible for many students wanting to enter, please contact us at 

We do not yet have an automatic “bulk upload” for student registrations on the web, but we would be happy to work with you to make your life easier. 

We believe every student can be an innovator and don’t want cost to keep any student from participating. We have scholarships and partial scholarships available. Please contact us at to start a conversation about the options. 

Each student registration costs $30. (A two person team would be $60 and a three person team $90). This fee goes entirely to cover the costs of putting together the challenge. 

If you have a co-op or classroom where a number of students would like to register, please email us about group discounts or using Purchase Orders.

For the students that advance to Nationals through the IIC, Hewitt Learning will cover the costs of your registration fees for the next round.  Likewise, for any student who advances to Globals through the NIC, Hewitt Learning will also cover the costs of your registration fees for the next round. 

Every student who participates in the Challenge will receive feedback on their submission and a certificate of participation.

Those who advance to the live Zoom circles will receive live feedback from their peers and the circle of judges as well as a certificate of excellence.

The top innovators from the live round could receive various prizes and awards such as an invitation to the Global Innovation Challenge (and from there the possibility of the International Kids Conference), an invitation to speak on podcasts or the Global Innovation Field Trip, consultations with experts in their field, or prizes like STEAM kits.

The 2023 NIC Awards Ceremony will be held during the July Global Innovation Field Trip (GIFT). While GIFT lasts for 24 hours of amazing presentations, the NIC Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 23 at 7:30 am PT (8:30 MT, 9:30 CT, 10:30 ET). 

You can watch GIFT and the NIC Awards Ceremony here

After the July GIFT has concluded, the Ceremony will be found on Hewitt Learning’s YouTube Channel