Ed Dept. Launches $680,000 Augmented and Virtual Reality Challenge

The United States Department of Education (ED) has formally kicked off a new competition designed to encourage the development of virtual and augmented reality concepts for education.

Dubbed the EdSim Challenge, the competition is aimed squarely at developing students' career and technical skills — it's funded through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 — and calls on developers and ed tech organizations to develop concepts for "computer-generated virtual and augmented reality educational experiences that combine existing and future technologies with skill-building content and assessment. Collaboration is encouraged among the developer community to make aspects of simulations available through open source licenses and low-cost shareable components. ED is most interested in simulations that pair the engagement of commercial games with educational content that transfers academic, technical, and employability skills."

The competition seeks concepts from individuals and teams and will award all five finalists prizes of $50,000 to help them further develop their concepts. Finalists will also receive access to expert mentors to help with the process, along with gear and development tools, including Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge,  Galaxy Tab S2 9.7″,  Gear S3 watch and Gear VR headset, as well as an Oculus Mobile software developer kit. ED noted that other prizes may also be added later.

The submission deadline will be Jan. 17, and finalists will be announced during the winter of 2017. A "demo day" will be held in the summer, showcasing progress on the work, and a single grand prize winner will be announced soon after.

The grand prize winning project will receive $430,000.

Criteria for finalists include:

  • Learning outcomes, including clearly stated outcomes for academic or career/technical training objectives, among other things;
  • Engaging learning experience;
  • Commitment (the ability of the participant to develop the concept in the timeframe of the competition);
  • Implementation strategy for schools, taking into account challenges schools might face in implementing the concept; and
  • Scalability and expansion.

All participants must be at least 18 years old, and at least one member of each team must be a U.S. citizen. Participants must also register on the Luminary Lightbox platform. (Registration is free.)

Complete rules can be found at

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .