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2023-24 Tools Competition

Building an Adaptive and Competitive Workforce

Sponsored by DARPA
The Phase II submission deadline was April 22, 2024. Applicants who are invited to Phase III will be notified in late May.
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Learn About the Track

Track Description

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Building an Adaptive & Competitive Workforce track seeks tools that support adult learners in developing critical skills necessary for the current and future national security workforce. Participants in this track should propose solutions that leverage artificial intelligence and advanced computational methods to help adults upskill and reskill in the complex subjects required for the continuously advancing 21st-century economy.

The 2023 National Defense Science & Technology Strategy states that the United States cannot create 21st-century capabilities using 20th-century education practices. Technological advances and changes in economic conditions will continue to shift the skills needed to build an adaptive and successful workforce. The World Economic Forum (WEF) further predicts that, by 2025, 50% of all workers worldwide will need reskilling to compete in the market. Further, the new reliance on technology in jobs has created another obstacle for workers, particularly from low-income and historically marginalized populations. More attention and resources are needed to ensure that pathways to well-paying jobs are accessible.

Addressing the need for reskilling and upskilling will have the potential to dramatically strengthen the United States’ economy far into the future. Worldwide, the WEF projects that investments in upskilling could increase global GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030.

Innovative, self-directed tools are vital to ensuring all workers master the skills needed to obtain jobs for today’s and tomorrow’s economy. Recent advances in artificial intelligence have made way for computer-based systems to personalize instruction in real-time based on learner responses. These systems have the potential to drastically improve quality and reduce costs, therefore increasing access for all learners to career pathways and closing skills gaps that limit economic growth.

Target Audience

Tools should target adult learners at the workforce level as their primary user group.

Who Should Submit?

Only United States entities, citizens, or permanent residents are eligible to submit a proposal. Other participants can join as part of a team, but are not eligible to directly receive any portion of the award. For more information on eligibility, please see the Official Rules.  We welcome proposals from teams or individuals from all backgrounds, including researchers/universities, edtech companies, educators, or students (undergraduate or graduate). Applicants at all stages of development are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Competitive Priorities & Interest Areas

Competitive priorities: Based on the most pressing needs in learning and learning technologies, a subset of awards will be reserved for tools that: 

Interest areas: Based on needs and opportunities in this field, we are especially interested in surfacing ideas related to the following areas:

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About DARPA

For sixty years, DARPA has held to a singular and enduring mission: to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies. Its innovations over the years include the Internet, automated voice recognition and language translation, and Global Positioning System receivers small enough to embed in myriad consumer devices.
DARPA reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances, working within an innovation ecosystem that includes academic, corporate and governmental partners. DARPA addresses challenges broadly, spanning the spectrum from deep science to systems to capabilities, but is ultimately driven by the desire to make a difference.

Winner Examples

To learn more about previous winners in this track, please explore the profiles below and read more from DARPA here. While Tools Competition has different tracks and competitive priorities from year to year, these winning tools are examples of what would be considered compelling.

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Judges

Tools Competition judges play a critical role in selecting winners and bring expertise spanning philanthropy, research, industry, and education. Judges will hear virtual pitches from finalists in Phase III of the track.

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Wil Corvey

Program Manager
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
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Scott Crossley

Professor
Vanderbilt University
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Jon Furr

SVP & Chief Data Ecosystem Officer
Strada Education Foundation
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Allison Gerber

Director, Education, Employment and Training
Annie E. Casey Foundation
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Chris Kingsley

Director, Data Tools and Measurement
Annie E. Casey Foundation
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Chauncy Lennon

Vice President for Learning and Work and Senior Strategy Advisor
Lumina Foundation
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Lydia Logan

VP, Global Education and Workforce Development
IBM
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Calandra Moore

Deputy Technical Director, Human Language Technology Research
Department of Defense
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Pedja Neskovic

Program Manager
Office of Naval Research
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Philipp Schmidt

VP Technology Innovation
Axim Collaborative
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Kristen Titus

Founder & CEO
Titus Group
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Joachim Vaturi

Chief of Staff
America's Frontier Fund
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Anika Warren Wood

Operating Partner
Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
Additional judge announcements forthcoming
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Participate in This Track

1. Select your award level

When submitting a proposal, participants must select the relevant award level based on the size and scale of their tool. Proposals at all award levels should detail how the proposed tool will solve a defined problem, rather than focus on past achievements.

catalyst

Catalyst Level Awards: $50,000

These awards are designed for early-stage participants.

growth

Growth Level Awards: $150,000

These awards are designed for competitors with a tool with some users and scale.
transform

Transform Level Awards : $300,000

These awards are designed for advanced competitors with an established tool.

2. Apply for the OpenAI Learning Impact Prize

Determine whether you are eligible to apply for the OpenAI Learning Impact Prize (optional).

In partnership with OpenAI, the Tools Competition is thrilled to offer the OpenAI Learning Impact Prize to catalyze the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on learning outcomes and drive edtech innovation leveraging advanced computational methods.

Given the rise of ChatGPT and growing interest in the possibilities of AI in educational settings, the 2023-24 competition is especially interested in supporting teams that are exploring, testing, or using AI-enabled tools and services to impact learning.
OpenAI will select up to three recipients of the OpenAI Learning Impact Prize among competition winners who will receive $100,000 in additional funds, $10,000 in OpenAI API credits, and technical guidance from OpenAI engineers. Select contenders will also receive $2,500 in OpenAI API credits

Competitors across all tracks that indicate an interest in being considered for this award will complete additional requirements when submitting their proposal materials. 

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Proposals will be evaluated for the following criteria:

 

1

Novelty of the tool
and technology

 

2

Potential impact and likelihood to
improve learning

 

3

Attention to equity to support learning of historically marginalized populations

 

4

Demand from learners, families, and educators

 

5

Ability to support
learning engineering

 

6

Ability to scale to additional users and/or domains

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What is a Tool?

The Tools Competition funds edtech tools and technologies that support learning outcomes and can contribute to learning science research.

Eligible tools have the potential to generate novel learning data that researchers can study to better understand learning at scale. This may include an app, software, algorithm, or other digital technology that facilitates or supports continuous data collection and has the potential to scale at minimal cost.

Please note that this definition is not exhaustive. As technology continues to develop and innovations are created globally, other tool concepts may also be competitive.

Not sure your tool is eligible? Explore winning tools from previous years or take the eligibility quiz.

Timeline

Building an Adaptive & Competitive Workforce Timeline

January 22, 2024
Track Launch
February 26, 2024
Deadline for Phase I Abstracts

Participants submit an abstract describing the concept for their tool and responding to the evaluation criteria.

March 18, 2024
Select Participants Invited to Phase II
April 22, 2024
Deadline for Phase II Proposals

Participants develop a proposal and budget detailing their tool and its technology and responding in detail to the evaluation criteria. Rubrics will be posted when Phase II opens.

May 24, 2024
Finalists Invited to Phase III Pitches
June 2024
Phase III Pitches (virtual)
Finalists pitch before a panel of expert judges and have the opportunity for support and feedback in crafting their pitch.
July 2024
Winners Announced

Winners receive coaching, the opportunity to connect with leaders in the field, and the ability to present to researchers or to refine their tool.

Year Following the Track - Winner Impact Study

All winners will work with Georgia State University during the year following the track to define impact measures for their tool and set up processes for ongoing data collection and evaluation.

Fall 2024
Product Review Day

Winners present on their progress to date and receive feedback from other winners and leaders in the field. 

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Explore a Different Track

Meet the finalists for the Building an Adaptive & Competitive Workforce track here. Meet the finalists for all other tracks here.