Office of Naval Research STEM Grand Challenge

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is sponsoring a Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM) Grand Challenge to develop adaptive, generalizable intelligent tutors for STEM initiatives or development, and naval training and education. The STEM Grand Challenge will lead to new approaches for building intelligent tutors that are able to:

  • Increase comprehension of instructional content over a fixed teaching duration and curriculum
  • Train to higher standards of competence (e.g., expertise), not simply enabling better recall
  • Accelerate the development of problem solving, reasoning, and decision making skills
  • Generalize across content domains and trainee audiences

The STEM Grand Challenge will proceed as a three-year, two-phase effort, with up to four teams selected for Phase 1 and up to two teams selected for Phase 2. Proposers will compete for total awards of up to $2.5 million over both phases.

Challenge Research Details

Performers, selected on the basis of white paper/proposal evaluations, will compete in developing STEM-based intelligent tutors that produce educational performance improvements of up to two standard deviations in a middle- to high-school setting, and that generalize to a naval student audience, with similar results.

The intelligent tutor should focus on curriculum content from one or more STEM domains, and/or core capabilities that facilitate STEM education, like reading comprehension. The tutor should be tailored to one or more grade levels in the middle- to high-school continuum (grades 7-12).

ONR encourages blended solutions, including both a traditional curriculum emphasis (e.g., reading comprehension for mathematics word problems; reading comprehension skills for scientific and technical documents) as well as naval-focused (e.g., physics or math in the classroom, leading to principles of electrical engineering in the Navy schoolhouse). Careful attention should be applied in selecting the domain and grade levels to ensure that the tutor and tutoring approach will successfully address both classroom and naval training needs and audiences. Solutions may be computer, laptop or hand-held based or combinations thereof, and must address the challenges indicated in the topic description section, and satisfy the research area requirements listed below.

Submission Requirements

The challenge is formally described as part of a Special Notice to ONR's Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology (11-001), which can be viewed in ONR's BAA listing. For additional information, see the special notice description (11-SN-0019) online . The research opportunity described in this BAA specifically falls under numbered paragraph one of the Warfighter Performance Human and Bioengineered Systems Division (Code 34). White papers are required for all offerors seeking funding. Only the authors of white papers that appear to be of particular value to the Department of the Navy will be invited to submit full proposals. However, any such encouragement does not assure a subsequent award. Full proposals may not be submitted by any offeror whose white paper was not identified as being of particular value to the Navy or any offeror who did not submit a timely white paper. The submission of proposals, their evaluation and the placement of applied research contracts and grants will be carried out as described in that broad agency announcement. Submissions details may be found in ONR's special notices area (11-SN-0019). 

Awards Timeline:

Sponsoring Scholars in Science Timeline
Date (2011) Milestone
Aug. 1, 2011 White paper submissions close at 2 p.m. ET
Aug. 31, 2011 White papers reviewed; authors notified if selected or not for full proposals.
Sept. 30, 2011 Full proposal submissions close at 2 p.m. ET
Oct. 31, 2011 Final reviews made; notices sent out
Winter 2011/2012 Funding allocated and awarded based on final proposal

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