IC² Student Challenge – Schedule, Forms, FAQs

Dates and Deadlines

  • November through January:  Form a team, paying attention to the rules for multi-disciplinary team composition.  If you need help finding teammates, let us know by completing this form, and we will connect you with other students who want to participate.
  • January 23, 5-7 PM, Blackstone LaunchPad, FAC 101D:  [Optionally] attend an information session to have questions addressed.
  • February 5, 5-7 PM, Blackstone LaunchPad, FAC 101D:  [Optionally] attend an information session to have questions addressed.
  • Before February 21:  Meet with your team to select a Texas community that will be the focus of your team’s work and gather the required community information.  Attend to community criteria and the map of eligible communities.  We recommend that at least one team member has a community connection (e.g., lived or worked in the community, has family or professional connections to the community, has identified an official in the community willing to cooperate with research, etc.).
  • By February 21:  Submit a team application with team information and required community information.
  • February 27 or 28:  All team members meet at IC² at a scheduled time to deliver to IC² staff a 5-minute oral (no slides) presentation of basic information about their selected community.  Don’t sweat it! We just want to make sure all team members have participated in gathering the minimal community information.  We can also answer questions and provide tips. At this time, each team member should sign and submit a commitment letter.
  • March 6, 5 PM:  Receive via email questions from IC² for a survey to be distributed to members of your selected community.  Utilize the Qualtrics Survey Tool (free to UT Austin students) to distribute your questions.  The survey questions will concern community Quality of Life.
  • March 6-26:  Collect at least 30 survey responses from members of your selected community.
  • March 12, 4-6 PM, Blackstone LaunchPad, FAC 101D:  [Optionally] attend a training session for tips on evaluating and documenting your survey data.
  • By March 26, 4 PM: Submit to IC² at least 30 Qualtrics responses to your survey.
  • March 26, 5 PM:  Check your email for this year’s Challenge prompt.  All teams will receive the same prompt.  The prompt will consist of about a page of information on a hypothetical opportunity for your community.  At this time you will also receive more detailed instructions and expectations regarding team final presentations.
  • Between March 26, 4 PM and March 28, 8 AM, utilizing what you know about the community as well as further information you gather after reviewing the prompt, create a response to the prompt:  both thoughtful analysis and concrete recommendations should be included in presentations.  Teams should develop a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation with notes for each slide.  Presentations should be deliverable in a 10-minute period. How much time teams spend on creating and practicing their presentations is up to them.  Some teams may be up all night and others may be able to plan and complete their preparation with a decent amount of sleep scheduled.  Knowing a lot about the community and its economic development challenges before March 26 should help teams be productive and efficient during the 40-hour challenge period.
  • By March 28, 8 AM:  Submit your PowerPoint file via email to IC².  No other file types will be accepted.
  • March 28, 11 AM:  Check your email to find out if your team is one of the top 10 teams invited to present and the time (randomly chosen between noon and 4PM) when you will present.  If your team is not invited to present, you will be invited to attend the final competition.
  • March 28, noon to 5 PM, FAC 101B: Finalist teams will deliver their presentations, with each team member taking part in delivery, on the afternoon of Mar 28.  Finalist teams will also answer questions from the judging panel for 5 minutes following their presentations.
  • March 28, 5:30 PM, Blackstone LaunchPad, FAC 101D:  Awards ceremony.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the required community information that we must provide in the team application?

Your application should include the following information about the community:

  • Name (e.g., city town, county, or CDP; or a multi-city/town area if it is clearly defined and the entities are contiguous)
  • Population
  • Population demographics (% race/ethnicity, % below poverty line, % youth if available)
  • Major sources of employment
  • Housing patterns
  • Basic facts about infrastructure, such as roads, airports, and utilities
  • Key geographic and environmental assets and/or challenges
  • Key education-related assets and/or challenges

What times can we choose for our preliminary oral presentation on February 27 or 28?  What if all of our team can’t be there for the preliminary presentation?

On your team application, name an hour between 8am and 6pm on February 27 or 28 when all team members can be present.  Then choose two alternate times. We need to see all team members, but the preliminary presentation will not take long (minimum of 5 minutes and no more than 15 minutes if you have questions).  We will try to assign your team to your first-choice time slot, and will notify you by February 24 of your time slot.

We are ready to complete our team application, but we have team members who are still unsure of their schedules for February.  May we submit the team application without the February 27 and 28th date detail?

Yes, we can accept your team application without that scheduling information, but we encourage you to email your preference to challenge@ic2.utexas.edu as soon as possible for the best chance of presenting at a time convenient for your team.

After we obtain our community survey results, how do we include those results in our presentation?

We will have an optional training session on March 12 to offer tips and address questions that teams have about obtaining, understanding, presenting, and referencing survey data.  (You might choose to send just one member of your team to the session.)  The relevance of your data to your presentation recommendations will depend on several things:  the specific challenge question that is posed; your community; and the relevance of the survey data to the issue for your community.  The survey data does not necessarily need to figure largely into your recommendations or presentation.

What happens to teams who do not qualify for the top ten?

Teams that do not qualify for the finals will be notified on the morning of Mar 28 and invited to attend finalist presentations.  Non-finalist teams may request an appointment (in April) at the IC² Institute to receive feedback on their PowerPoint submissions.  Teams may re-form in a subsequent year–according to team criteria–and compete again.  Viewing finalist presentations and meeting with IC² for feedback can help teams improve their strategic thinking presentation skills and possibly be more competitive in another year.

How will cash awards be distributed?  Are there other awards?

The $15,000 in cash prizes will be distributed among the top three teams, as determined by the judging panel.  We expect that the first-place team will be awarded $8,000, with $5,000 for the second-place team, and $2,000 for the third-place team.  However, we reserve the right to distribute the $15,000 differently among the top three teams, for example in the case of a tie.  The team award will be distributed equally among all team members.  For example, in the case of a team award of $8,000 to a team with 4 members, each member will receive $2,000.  Checks will not immediately be available at the award ceremony, but should take about one month to process assuming students do not have any financial bars issued by UT departments.  Awards are considered income for tax and financial aid purposes.

All finalist teams will have the opportunity to impress a prestigious panel of expert judges.  IC² can facilitate communication between students and judges who are professionally interested in high-achieving presenters.

How was the topic of community development chosen for the Challenge? 

The IC² Institute is a UT Austin research department concerned with prosperity and sustainable development for communities outside of urban corridors.  Although a great deal of attention has been paid to economic development in cities like Austin–what we call a “technopolis”–less attention has been paid to rural or more remote towns and cities.  We want to develop a body of research related to development of overlooked communities, and we want to enact programs that help these communities thrive.  There is increasing worry about widening differences between different types of communities–or the geography of opportunity.  Here are a few related and interesting readings:

Is it best to choose a large community or a small one?

Any community within the constraints outlined is acceptable.  There will be advantages and disadvantages to choosing either small or large communities. For example, a community with a population close to the limit (150,000) will have more sources of information (e.g., professionals, online information) related to economic development and community issues than will a small community.  On the other hand, a team that works with a relatively small community may have the advantage of being able to learn about and understand more fully a wide range of community issues.  We suggest choosing a community that highly interests your team (within the Challenge constraints).

Can more than one team choose the same community?

Yes.  If you know that many other teams are choosing a community of interest, consider the potential reduction in availability of help from community professionals—who may be receiving requests for information from other teams.

Will the prompt be “What are your recommendations for the community?” or something that general?

No.  Although you are encouraged to get general information and consider general recommendations in the period prior March 26, the March 26 prompt will be specific and ask you to consider an issue that may not have occurred to you before.  Thus your presentation cannot be merely what your team thinks of the community and its concerns.  Your presentation must specifically address an imagined scenario that we present.  All teams will receive the same prompt.

Is it permissible to get help outside of our team?

Prior to receiving the prompt on March 26, we encourage you to reach out to people in your community who can inform you about community assets, needs, issues, plans, etc.  During this time, use your community connections to obtain data, perspectives, and opinions.  Prior to March 26, you may also seek out and consult with experts on general topics, such as topics related to economic development or community planning.  Once you receive the prompt on March 26, you may not ask for advice from anyone not on your team.  You may not present the challenge prompt to anyone and ask for strategy ideas or opinions.  You may continue to find and/or ask for data—facts that are a matter of record—without reference to the specific prompt.


Send questions to challenge@ic2.utexas.edu.