NASA MSI Incubator

Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge

NASA invites students and employees of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to address the escalating challenges posed by wildfires and climate change

Up to $300,000 in Prizes

Sponsored by NASA Earth Science Technology Office
Overview

NASA's Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge, part of the MSI Incubator initiative, seeks innovative solutions for wildfire prevention and climate technology. NASA invites students and employees of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to address the escalating issues caused by wildfires exacerbated by climate change. Successful participants will have the opportunity to join a startup incubator program and compete for a prize of $100,000. Additionally, this initiative offers a platform for participants to present their ideas to venture capitalists and NASA experts, furthering the development of technology in the fields of wildfire prevention and climate change, while promoting inclusivity and diversity.

Competition LAUNCH DATE

December 11, 2023

Competition Duration - 8 Weeks

December 11, 2023 - February 16, 2024

Submission required:
  • 5-page white paper (includes cover page)
  • 2 - 3 minute video

Submissions Close: February 16, 2024 at 5 PM PST (8 PM EST)

ROUND ONE
  • 5 page white paper due: February 16, 2024
  • 2-3 minute video due: February 16, 2024
  • 6-9 semi-finalists selected: MARCH 1,2024
  • Semi-finalists pitch event: MARCH 14, 2024
  • 3 finalists selected from pitch event: MARCH 15, 2024
ROUND TWO

Up to 3 winners will be invited to participated in the incubator program

  • March 18, 2024 - May 2024
  • Attend 16 - 18 seminars on how to build a startup
  • Receive pitch coaching

Attend Wildfire Week - in person (Travel and accommodations will be provided)

  • June 3 - 7, 2024
  • Startup Pitch
  • Celebration & up to three (3) winners awarded $100K each

Semi-Finalist Pitch Event Registration

NASA MSI Incubator
Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge

NASA invites students and employees of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to tackle the increasing problems caused by wildfires linked to climate change by participating in the Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge. The initiative serves to promote students and employees of Minority-Serving Institutions with the opportunity to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists and NASA specialists, while also advancing wildfire and climate change technology for a better and more inclusive future.
The challenge encourages utilizing NASA’s tools, applications, and research (such as remote sensing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other novel approaches) and applying them to a new idea. We are looking for ideas that turn into practical solutions and startup businesses that help gain a deeper understanding of wildfires throughout their lifecycle.

Marginalized communities bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts of climate change, including wildfires, due to heightened exposure and decreased adaptive capacity. We encourage the consideration and integration of equity and environmental justice principles in your proposals, and development of tools and solutions in consultation with and made accessible to these most affected communities.

This opportunity serves to promote students and employees from Minority-Serving Institutions with the opportunity to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists and NASA specialists, while also advancing wildfire and climate change technology for a better and more inclusive future.
Image courtesy of: NASA Earth Observatory

Why does wildfire management matter?

  1. Educational and Career Opportunities: The field of wildfire management offers a range of educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. These include roles in environmental science, forestry, fire ecology, meteorology, emergency management, and more. For MSI students, this can translate into diverse career paths and opportunities for advancement in sectors critically important to public safety and environmental stewardship.
  2. Community Impact and Public Service: Studies have shown that wildfires disproportionately affect certain communities, including those often served by MSIs. Gaining expertise in wildfire management enables students to directly contribute to protecting and serving these communities, making a tangible difference in areas such as disaster preparedness, recovery, and resilience.
  3. Research and Innovation Contributions: MSIs are often at the forefront of research and innovation, particularly in addressing unique challenges faced by their communities. Students can contribute to and lead cutting-edge research in wildfire prediction, management strategies, and mitigation techniques, potentially influencing policies and practices on a national or even global scale.
  4. Environmental Stewardship: Wildfires are a natural part of many ecosystems, but their increasing frequency and intensity due to climate change pose significant environmental challenges. By studying wildfire management, MSI students can play a crucial role in environmental conservation and sustainability efforts.
  5. Interdisciplinary Learning: Wildfire management is inherently interdisciplinary, blending elements of ecology, meteorology, geography, public policy, and engineering. This offers MSI students a rich educational experience that integrates various fields of study, fostering a well-rounded academic and professional development.
  6. Personal Growth and Leadership: Engaging in wildfire management studies and related activities can foster personal growth, leadership skills, and a sense of responsibility. It encourages students to tackle complex problems, work collaboratively in diverse teams, and develop innovative solutions to pressing environmental and societal challenges.
  7. Networking and Collaboration: Participating in wildfire management initiatives often involves collaboration with government agencies like NASA, non-profit organizations, and private entities. This provides MSI students with valuable networking opportunities, access to mentorship, and potential collaborations that can enhance their educational journey and career prospects.
Registration Process
To compete in this challenge, participants must register above. Participants will be required to identify whether they are an Individual competing alone, or a Team Lead on behalf of a group of individuals (i.e., a Team), or a Point of Contact on behalf of an entity (i.e. an institution, organization, or corporation):
For Individuals:
For Students:
For Teams:
For Entities:

HOW TO ENTER

1. Registration:
2. Understand the Competition Structure:
3. Phase One Submission:
Prepare a 5-Page White Paper:
Create a 2-to-3 Minute Video:
4. Eligibility and Participation Rules:
5. Judging Criteria:
6. Utilize Available Resources:
7. Compliance:
Note: It's essential to keep track of deadlines and adhere strictly to all guidelines and requirements.
Good luck to all participants!

COMPETITION CONSISTS OF TWO PHASES

In Phase One, participants will submit a short 5-page white paper and a 2-to-3-minute video of their idea. From the submissions, roughly 6-9 semi-finalists will be selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges who will score their presentations in a business startup pitch format. Up to three (3) winners will be chosen to proceed to Phase 2.

SUBMISSION CLOSED

Registration Process
To compete in this challenge, participants must register above. Participants will be required to identify whether they are an Individual competing alone, or a Team Lead on behalf of a group of individuals (i.e., a Team), or a Point of Contact on behalf of an entity (i.e. an institution, organization, or corporation):
For Individuals:
For Students:
For Teams:
For Entities:
In Phase Two, up to three (3) winners of Round 1 will be invited to participate in the NASA MSI Incubator, DOWNLOAD The Incubator Syllabus HERE. This multi-week program offers virtual and in-person workshops and a live demo day. Participants will gain insights into forming a startup, product market fit, raising capital, giving an engaging pitch, and more. The program culminates in an in-person Wildfire Week and Demo Day, where participants may connect with industry stakeholders and showcase their progress live at an NASA MSI Incubator Demo Day in June 2024.
Registration Process
To compete in this challenge, participants must register above. Participants will be required to identify whether they are an Individual competing alone, or a Team Lead on behalf of a group of individuals (i.e., a Team), or a Point of Contact on behalf of an entity (i.e. an institution, organization, or corporation):
For Individuals:
For Students:
For Teams:
For Entities:

BACKGROUND

NASA Background. At NASA, there is no ambiguity in our mission: we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind. Doing so however, doesn’t just require groundbreaking technologies, it requires visionary people - people who are unwilling to quit despite the most difficult of circumstances. Naturally, this environment lends itself well to collaboration with entrepreneurs and the startup companies they found.
Challenge Background. The MSI Space Incubator Competition debuted in summer 2022 as a first-of-its-kind NASA innovation program that brought together diverse scholars to advance Agency goals for improving its future science missions. This year, the program will continue to engage under-represented academic institutions that can help NASA take significant strides forward in the area of new technologies to enable operational agencies in wildland fire management. The NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge also includes advising from NASA experts as part of a multi-week program for selected awardees to help align their ideas with NASA needs and aid the selected teams on a variety of topics including business acumen, business plan development, customer discovery, investment preparation, how to write effective proposals for NASA, pitch preparation, and more.
Image courtesy of: NASA
Climate Change and Wildfires. Climate change continues to cause longer fire seasons and more severe wildfires.
The number, severity, and overall size of wildfires has increased, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through contributing factors including extended drought, the build-up of fuels, past fire management strategies, invasive species targeting specific tree species, and the spread of residential communities into formerly natural areas. The impacts of wildfires are not equally distributed. Various factors relating to structural racism and discrimination influence the severity of wildfire exposure and effects. This has caused marginalized and vulnerable communities to bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts of climate change, including wildfires. NASA researchers are finding innovative ways to use Earth data to improve the way we manage and adapt to growing wildfire threats.
NASA's Earth Science Division (ESD) is prioritizing improvements in the prediction, management, and the understanding of overall impacts of wildland fires within the United States and around the world. The Wildfires program area uses Earth observations to help communities manage the impacts of fires. The program provides applications and tools to arm decision-makers with the information they need to act.

The Equity and Environmental Justice Program supports the use of Earth data, tools, and capacity building resources to better understand the injustices and inequities of disadvantaged communities and help give decision-makers the information they need to advocate for policy change.

NASA possesses unique geospatial assets and modeling capabilities that provide partners with data, mapping, and imagery to help to provide situational awareness and inform decision-making before, during, and after a wildland fire.

How can you utilize NASA tools, applications and research to gain a deeper understanding of wildfires throughout their lifecycle and create a climate tech business that aims to mitigate impacts on human health and the environment, especially on communities who disproportionately bear these consequences?
Ideas should consider the full lifecycle stages of wildland fires:
  1. Pre-Fire (critical information on vegetative biomass and boundary layer conditions)
  2. Active Fire (critical information on vegetative biomass and boundary layer conditions)
  3. Post-Fire (identifying the overarching impact of severe wildland fires on vegetation canopy)

DISCUSSIONS & NEWS

Up to 3 Round-Two Winners

$100,000

PRIZES

NASA may award:
Up to 3 finalists will be invited to participated in the incubator program and receive $100k each, with consideration to geographic diversity and programmatic need.
NASA I-Corps Accelerator Program
Three runners-up from the Wildfire Semi-Finalists Pitch Event will be invited to the NASA I-Corps Accelerator program. The NASA I-Corps Accelerator program is a 30-day immersive learning experience starting virtually on April 1, 2024. Participants will engage in online customer discovery training, with highlights that include in-person attendance at the 2024 IDGA Wildfire Technology Management Conference in Pasadena, CA, from April 23-24. Selected applicants will receive domestic travel and accommodation support through the NASA Research and Education Support Services (NRESS).
Up to 3 Round-Two Winners

$100,000

SCHEDULE

PHASE ONE

December 2023

December 11, 2023

Competition Launch

COMPETITION 8 WEEKS

February 2024

February 16, 2024

SUBMISSIONS DUE BY: February 16, 2024 at 5 PM PST (8 PM EST)

  • 5 page white paper
  • 2 - 3 minute video

March 2024

JUDGING 2 WEEKS

March 1, 2024

Semi-Finalists Selected

  • 6 - 9 individuals, teams and organizations
PITCH COACHING

March 14, 2024

Semi-Finalists PITCH EVENT

Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters

For additional information on Mary W. Jackson, the “Hidden Figures,” and today’s Modern Figures

  • Pitch startup business
  • Network with venture capitalists

March 15, 2024

WINNERs Selected!

  • Up to 3 individuals or teams
  • Winners will be invited to participated in the incubator program
PHASE TWO
NASA MSI INCUBATOR & PITCH COACHING - 13 WEEKS
MARCH 18, 2024 - MAY 31, 2024
A series of 16 -18 online seminars.
Learn how to start and grow a business. Learn how to give an awesome pitch

March 2024

MARCH 18, 2024

Incubator Launch

June 2024

WILDFIRE WEEK
In-person event
June 3 - 7, 2024

Demo Day & PItch Event

  • Up to 3 individuals, teams or organizations
  • Network with venture capitalists
  • Pitch event

CELEBRATION!

  • Up to three (3) Winners will receive $100K each

SUBMISSION RULES

Participation is limited to students and/or employees and organizations affiliated with the Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) listed in the NASA MSI Exchange. The Exchange includes Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Predominantly Black Institutions. Both students and/or employees of MSIs are encouraged to apply. Cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional collaborations are welcome. Submissions from any institution not listed on the NASA MSI Exchange will not be accepted. NASA is committed to increasing engagement with MSIs through this competition in order to bring in more diverse perspectives and talent to help address the pressing challenges related to wildfires and climate change. Participants from all backgrounds are urged to apply their expertise to develop innovative solutions that leverage NASA capabilities in this important area. For this competition, some aspect of existing NASA capabilities, assets, or resources must be utilized within your proposal.

Each submittal to the Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge will have two components, a 5-page white paper (includes cover page), and a 2-to-3-minute video. Submittals that do not contain both components will be disqualified.
Click here for eligibility rules and participant agreement for the challenge.
Questions? Post them in Slack (#main channel) or email info@nasa-climate-tech.org
Outline for 5-Page White Paper Submissions
Formatting the 5-page White Papers:
Video Submissions

JUDGING CRITERIA

Each criterion is evaluated based on five possible responses:
Strongly Disagree (1 pts), Disagree (2 pts), Neither Agree Nor Disagree (3 pts), Agree (4 pts), and Strongly Agree (5 pts)
Creativity
Technical Design
Impact
Commercialization
Team Strength
Presentation

FAQS

Q: Are teams also expected to create ML models?
Q: Where can I find data and ML models on which to test my bias detection tool?
Q: Does my bias detection tool need to work on various types of healthcare data or is it acceptable to limit it to certain types of data?
Q: How do qualify for the student prize?
Q: Do I need to submit the ML models and data we used?
Q: Can I compete if I'm not a U. S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident?
Can state and local government employees compete?
Who is eligible to participate in the competition?
How do I register for the competition?
What is the submission deadline?
Can I submit more than one entry?
How are entries judged?
When and how will the winners be announced?
What are the prizes for the winners?
Is there a registration fee?
Can I edit my submission after I've submitted it?
Can I apply by myself or do I need to apply with a team?
When will I know if my proposal has been accepted to the competition?
How can I get in touch for further inquiries?
What is Slack? Do I have to join it? 
How will this challenge support the participants' ideas and protect their solutions as they form companies?
How will this challenge support the participants' ideas and protect their solutions as they form companies?
1. Suppose I plan to submit a white-paper and video for this competition as an "individual person" or an "individual team". How can I submit these items? In this case, will the $100K be transferred to my personal account?

2. Now, let us suppose the University wants to submit the white-paper and video for this competition on behalf of me. How can the University do it? In this case, will the $100K be transferred to an account that belongs to the University, and will it be subject to indirect costs?

POINT OF CONTACT

If you have any inquiries about participating in this competition, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@nasa-climate-tech.org.

NASA RESOURCES

NASA tools, applications and research can help organizations better manage fires before, during, and after they occur. Whether you’re a researcher, concerned citizen or decision maker, our resources can help you gain a deeper understanding of wildfires throughout their lifecycle. The tools, resources and data available below are valuable aids for managing fire in all its stages. For this competition, some aspect of existing NASA capabilities, assets, or resources must be utilized within your proposal.
  1. Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) Program
    Description:
    ARSET offers online and in-person training, beginners and advanced practitioners alike that cover a range of datasets, web portals, and analysis tools and their application for multiple thematic areas.
  1. Program Websites:
  1. NASA Technology Transfer Program:
    Description:
    The NASA Technology Transfer program ensures that innovations developed for exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public, maximizing the benefit to the Nation. Browse through thousands of technologies that can give your business that competitive edge everyone is looking for!

INCLUSIVE INNOVATION

At NASA, diversity and inclusion are central to mission success. By fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for all, we value strengths afforded by both our commonalities and differences with an aim to fully engage and utilize talents, ideas, and perspectives. Projects that offer an opportunity to tap the nation’s diverse talent pool and broaden participation in Earth science remote sensing technology development are strongly encouraged. This year, in an effort to promote equity, the NASA MSI Incubator is specifically designated for Minority-Serving Institutions.

What is a Minority Serving Institution? (MSI) A Minority-Serving Institution includes Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), and other demographic- based institutions, that have consistently demonstrated excellence in academia and innovation. Their unique perspectives and diverse talent pool make them invaluable partners in this endeavor.

A full list of MSIs can be found at the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Exchange: https://msiexchange.nasa.gov/institutions.

WEBINARS

NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Challenge Webinar 01/12/2024
NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Challenge Resources Webinar 01/19/2024
NASA MSI Incubator Webinar - Mapping Vulnerable Populations to Climate-Related Hazards 01/23/2024
NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Webinar - Understanding the Problem Space 01/30/2024
NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Webinar - Who's who in the wildfire ecosystem? Choosing your end user.
NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Webinar - Pitch Event 101
NASA MSI Incubator Wildfire Webinar - Technology in the Wildfire Space