Army launches new HBCU student prize competition

By Kara Kesler, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramSeptember 27, 2022

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s latest prize competition will award students at historically black colleges and universities for their innovative ideas to address climate change, preventative care for Soldiers’ mental and physical health, and implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Hosted by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, xTechHBCU Student is the first xTech competition exclusively for HBCU students, who will have the opportunity to be selected for an accelerator boot camp to prepare them to pitch their innovative solutions to Army experts and a chance to win cash prizes.

Following the successful xTechHBCU Faculty competition in January 2022, the xTechHBCU Student competition encourages broader HBCU participation, this time from those just beginning their careers in science and technology.

“We hope that by collaborating with the Army early in their education, these students will develop lasting partnerships with the Army and continue to work with us as they progress through their education and careers,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research Program. “In today’s fight for talent, it is critical we engage with HBCUs’ talent pool at every level.”

All currently enrolled undergraduate students at recognized HBCUs are encouraged to compete.

The competition consists of two rounds: (1) a short concept submission and (2) a final pitch event. Between the two rounds, finalists from the first round will be invited to participate in the accelerator boot camp. Based on their proposals, up to 20 finalists will be selected to participate.

Following the accelerator, up to three winners will be selected from the final pitch event taking place at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Conference in Washington, D.C. Winners will be awarded either a first-place prize of $8,000, a second-place prize of $5,000 or a third-place prize of $2,000.

In addition to cash prizes, participants will have the opportunity to engage with Army and DOD stakeholders throughout the accelerator, pitches, and additional information-sharing and networking opportunities.

“The pitch preparation, entrepreneurship training and mentorship by Army experts offered through the accelerator bootcamp will provide students with a strong sense for Army career pathways while preparing them for future research endeavors,” Willis added.

The xTechHBCU Student competition is the latest in a series of outreach initiatives led by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology that are designed to engage HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. Other initiatives include a faculty immersion program and a website designed to connect HBCU-MI faculty, students and alumni with Army research opportunities.

To enter the competition, eligible students must submit their required materials by 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 31, 2022.

For all competition information, go to

Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DOD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship, and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.

The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs. For more information, go to