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 2024 to share with other students who might be interested!

The Independent Innovator Challenge (IIC) is a pathway to the U.S. 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 innovative work!

Students advanced from a qualifying partner organization can apply directly to the NIC. If you are uncertain whether your organization is an NIC partner, write to: NIC@hewittlearning.org 

If you do not have another organization that you are working with to qualify for Nationals, please apply to the Independent Innovator Challenge.

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.
  • Students who meet the above requirements, have been invited to participate by an NIC partner organization or have been selected to advance from the Independent Innovator Program are eligible to apply. 
The Oxford Dictionary defines “innovation” as the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something. At NIC, we broaden this definition to include significantly improved methods, ideas, systems, or products. This encompasses enhancements, changes, or additions to current innovations that significantly improve upon them or perform the same function in a unique way.  

At NIC, we encourage students to harness their creativity and problem-solving skills to develop a solution that addresses a real-world problem. Projects should introduce new things, ideas or ways of doing something, including significantly improved methods, ideas, systems, or products. Your innovation should be tested and refined based on feedback. 


Note: Innovators may (but do not have to) create a unique innovation for the NIC. They may show an innovation they created for another program, or an innovation they have shown before at NIC, providing there has been significant improvement to the innovation.

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.

The following are tentative dates for the IIC. 

  • Registration:
    Registration opens on March 1, 2024.
    Registration closes on April 21, 2024. Everything must be submitted by this date at midnight Pacific time.
  • Feedback to all Innovators:
    Emailed by May 5, 2024.
  • Invitations for those advancing to the Live Event:
    Emailed by May 5, 2024.
    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 Independent Innovator Challenge via Zoom: 
    May 12 – 20, 2024
  • Independent Innovator Challenge Celebration and Awards Ceremony: 
    May 26, 2024 on YouTube and Social Media.

To register for the US NIC, you will need to qualify through the Independent Innovator Challenge or another Partner Organization: 

The following are tentative dates for the NIC. 

  • Registration:
    Registration opens on April 21, 2024.
    Registration closes on June 23, 2024. Everything must be submitted by this date at midnight Pacific time.
  • Feedback to all Innovators:
    Emailed by July 7, 2024.
  • Invitations for those advancing to the Live Event:
    Emailed by July 7, 2024.
    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 13 – 22, 2024
  • National Innovator Challenge Celebration and Awards Ceremony: July 28, 2024 on YouTube and Social Media.

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 independentinnovator@hewittlearning.org. 

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 independentinnovator@hewittlearning.org 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 a 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 US National Innovator Challenge, 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.

Both of the 2024 Award Ceremonies for IIC and NIC will be held on Social Media and YouTube.

You can watch the 2023 NIC Awards Ceremony here

Previous Awards Ceremonies will be found on Hewitt Learning’s YouTube Channel