STEMUp Youth Maker Competition

Do you have a great idea to solve a problem in your community? Through STEMUp Youth Maker Prize, a live competition, we award small grants to help middle and high school aged youth who are involved in STEM programming test innovative ideas that can solve problems in their communities.

United Way of Greater Atlanta is pleased to announce the 2022 STEMUp: YOUTH MAKER COMPETITION. This live competition modeled after the television show “Shark Tank” is an opportunity for young people in our region to use their ideas, voice, and leadership to improve our communities. The prize is a micro-grant to support students who have innovative STEM-related ideas to solve problems in their communities. The competition is open to middle and high school-aged students who are involved in STEM programming. Questions? Please contact


We believe that young people’s leadership and voice are critical to addressing social and economic issues facing our communities. It is our goal to ensure both the process and the results of the STEMUp Competition will showcase young people’s ingenuity and resourcefulness.

  • The STEMUp Prize is a monetary award up to $2,500.00 to support students in the implementation of their innovative Proposals will be evaluated based on the complexity of the solution, the scores/merit of the idea, the funding request, and ability to complete in the April – June timeframe.
  • Applicants must have a “staff champion” from their school or non-profit agency that will be a primary point of contact for United Way. That staff person must be an employee of the agency who is positioned to approve and support implementation of the proposed idea.
  • Prizes must be distributed through the agency that the students are affiliated with such as schools and non-profit organizations.
  • Applicants must be current middle or high school aged students within United Way’s 13 county area (Butts, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale Counties).
  • Proposed projects must be youth-led, STEM-related and have a way to measure impact.
  • Proposals must be submitted by February 25, 2022 via an online application, including details from the selection criteria noted on page 2, funding request and budget explanation. See Appendix A for required written proposal components and scoring rubric.
  • Presentations must be prepared for those that move on to Round 2 for the live pitch scheduled for March 24, 2022. See Appendix B for required pitch presentation components and scoring scale.
  • We anticipate up to three winners depending on available funds and proposed project budgets.
  • Winners will be expected to implement their ideas between April – June 2022 and report out on the results at the STEMUp Innovation Celebration in June 2022.


Interested groups of students are asked to submit a 3-page maximum, written proposal explaining the problem they are attempting to solve, their solution, budget, and the partners who they will work with for implementation. Proposals will be submitted here:

Up to ten finalists will be invited to Round 2 where they prepare a 10-minute presentation for the live online Shark-Tank event on February 25. Both the written proposal and presentation should be focused on the same selection criteria listed in the rubric.


An area of priority for United Way includes improving engagement in STEM by underrepresented groups, social innovation, and partnerships with STEM-related businesses. It is important to remember that proposed projects must be youth-led, STEM-related and have a way to measure impact. STEMUp Competition proposals should address equity and inclusion of one of the following community issues:


The Digital Divide | COVID-19 Public Health Crisis | Academic Support for Youth (Learning Loss)
Increase Employment Rate | College Planning and Preparation | Other (community equity issue that can be solved with STEM)



Please review the selection criteria below along with descriptions and possible questions that can be answered to address each criterion. See Appendix A and B for a summary of required components and scoring rubrics.

  • Solution Oriented – clearly defined need with goals that directly address a particular community/social problem, remove barriers, or increase efficiencies.
  • Realistic – feasibility of the implementation plan (clear goals and objectives, achievable scope of work and timeline, sufficient resources)
  • Youth Leadership and Collaboration – clear evidence that the project is youth-led and utilizes partnerships to address the stated problem.
  • Creativity/Innovation – ability to demonstrate creativity, new or unconventional thinking
  • Social Responsibility – the project shows a priority placed on diversity, equity, and inclusion.



  • Phase I: Open Call: January 14 – February 25
    • Open Call for STEMUp released: January 14
    • Applicants submit a written proposal: February 25
  • Phase II: Review Process: February 25 – March 8
  • Phase III: Finalists Selected: March 8 – March 24
    • Top 10 proposals invited to Round 2: March 8
    • Pitch rehearsals with Competition Coaches: March 15-22
    • Finalists will pitch presentations live: March 24
    • Award winners announced: March 24
  • Phase IV: Launch Projects: April – June 
    • Issue Contracts, funds, implement project: Early April
    • Pitch rehearsals with Finalist Coaches: Early May
  • Phase V: Innovation Celebration: June (exact dates TBD)
    • Final report & presentation on accomplishments: mid to late June 2022

For questions, please contact



Written Proposal Overview

The STEMUp Competition is targeted to middle and high school aged students and the agencies that serve them (i.e. schools, community based non-profit organizations, clubs) through STEM programming. Interested groups of middle and high school-aged students/youth will submit a written proposal explaining the problem they are attempting to solve, their solution, budget up to $1,0000 USD, and the partners who they will work with for implementation. All proposals will be submitted online and will be screened by a diverse set of community leaders, including entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, issue experts and others based on the following and the five criteria listed on page 6:

Project Summary: Need/Problem, Solution Oriented, and Creativity/Innovation

  • Provide a brief summary of your project. Include detail on the need being addressed and how your team aims to address/solve the need(s) in the timeline required. The use of data and any research you completed is strongly recommended.
  • Describe the specific purpose for which you are asking to be awarded the STEMUp Prize – your proposed idea/solution. For example, improve engagement in STEM programming by underrepresented populations (i.e. youth of color, girls) in “X” location by implementing your project.
  • Describe any details about who will be served and/or impacted. For example, include average age, ethnicity, income, etc.
  • How will your proposed program/project help the community and address the problem? Why is this a great idea?

Collaboration: Youth Leadership and Social Responsibility

  • Describe the roles and responsibilities that your team and any relevant additional youth will play in this project.
  • Outline any partnerships you have established for successful implementation of this project including your host organization’s staff, etc. (i.e. teachers, youth development staff) and their specific roles.
  • Outline any efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion within your project.

Realistic Implementation Plan

  • If you are awarded the grant, describe the specific steps you will take between April – June 2022 to implement the proposed project.
  • If you are not awarded the grant, outline any plans for the project if relevant.

Anticipated Outcomes

  • What specific outcomes do you expect to achieve by June 2022? Describe what will be different as a result of this project. Be as specific as possible.
  • Consider noting any relevant longer-term outcomes expected if relevant.


  • What is the total amount you are requesting for the STEMUp Award (request must be between $1,000 and $2,500)
  • Outline any other resources that will be utilized for this project (financial or in-kind)
  • Provide an estimated line-item budget for the full project.
  • **Note: Staff time from the participating school or non-profit organization cannot be funded through this prize.


Additional relevant information:

  • Estimated time to complete a written proposal is 1.5 hours.
  • Written proposals must be completed in one sitting (the application portal does not have a save feature to return later).
  • Prepare a proposal in a word document, then copy and paste into the online form. To access a PDF copy of the application, click here.
  • Information on funding request and budget explanation should be included in the proposal. To access a simple budget template, click here.
  • Make sure the project idea can be implemented between April – June 2022.
  • Proposals must be submitted by the due date – February 25, 2022. No exceptions.
  • Submit written proposals here.



The judges rate each proposal/presentation in each of the 10 criteria using a scale of 1 to 5. (1= Poor, 2=Fair, 3=Average, 4=Good, 5=Excellent)

Solution Oriented

  1. A specific community need or problem is clearly defined.
  2. The proposal/presentation describes how funding from the STEMUp Prize would be used and how this funding would help to improve or solve the community problem.


  1. The proposed program/project is feasible and realistic as described; projected success is reasonably achievable in the April – June implementation period.
  2. The proposal/presentation outlines SMART goals to measure success/impact (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).

Youth Leadership & Collaboration

  1. The proposal/presentation clearly shows the project is and will be youth-led, from ideation to implementation.
  2. The youth have clear enthusiasm for the problem and project.
  3. The proposal/presentation indicates the ability of the project to optimize available resources (skills, expertise, human capital, partnerships, funding, etc.) to ensure the project’s success (e.g. engage 100 community volunteers, 25 hours of in-kind web development expertise, matching funds).


  1. The proposed program/project is a creative approach to addressing the problem/issue presented and would be considered a new approach for the community.

Social Responsibility

  1. The proposed program/project effectively outlines a genuine focus on diversity, equity and inclusion within the project plan and/or the project team.


  1. The proposed budget did not exceed $2,500 USD and included an estimated line-item budget for the full project.


11. I would recommend that this program/project be one of the top 3 finalists.



Pitch Presentation Overview

Finalists will present a 10-minute slide deck to community stakeholders on March 24, 2022. The presentation should cover the same content in the written proposal including:

  • An overview of the project
  • What problem in the community is the project intending to solve?
  • How are youth leadership, collaboration and equity incorporated into the project?
  • What are the expected outcomes of the project?
  • How will the project specifically utilize STEMUp funds?

Scoring Scale:

5 – Excellent: All elements are present. There is a clear picture of the idea, purpose and impact of their project. The project is realistic, innovative and can be done within the allotted time and budget. The presentation provides plans to continue and increase resources for the project. Presentation provides details addressing the written proposal.


4 – Good: All or most elements are present. There is a clear picture of their idea, purpose and impact of the project.  The project is realistic and can be done within the allotted time and budget. Presentation provides details addressing the written proposal and the six areas.


3 – Average: Some elements are clearly missing. Presentation was inconsistently organized and provided few details addressing the six areas.  There is not a clear picture of their idea, purpose and impact of the project.


2 – Fair: Most elements are clearly missing. Presentation was disorganized with few or no supporting details addressing the six areas. A clear picture was not provided of their idea, purpose and impact.


1 – Poor:  Most elements are missing. Presentation was very disorganized.


Additional relevant information:

  • Due to the short window of time between submitting your proposal to the notification of advancement to round 2, it is recommended to prepare pitch presentation slides along with the written proposal. Note: DO NOT submit the pitch presentation slides with the written proposal on Feb 25th. Additionally, preparing pitch slides do not guarantee advancement to round 2.
  • The live pitch event will take place online. Details will be shared with finalists.
  • Judges are allowed up to 5 minutes total to ask questions based on the content of the presentation and the written proposal.