NSF 2026 Idea Machine Competition


The NSF 2026 Idea Machine is a competition to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science and engineering. Participants can earn prizes and receive public recognition by suggesting the pressing research questions that need to be answered in the coming decade, the next set of “Big Ideas” for future investment by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

It's an opportunity for researchers, the public and other interested stakeholders to contribute to NSF's mission to support basic research and enable new discoveries that drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and advance knowledge to sustain the country's global leadership in science and engineering.

Here’s how the NSF 2026 Idea Machine works:

  1. 1) Submit your entry at the NSF 2026 Idea Machine website, with a written description that outlines your vision, why it matters, and why now is the right time for NSF to invest in this area of research.
  2. 2) Science and engineering experts will evaluate entries, and ask those with promising concepts to elaborate on their ideas by submitting brief visual presentations, either through video or slide shows. The videos and written descriptions will be posted for public comment.
  3. 3) A group of external judges will interview selected entrants and recommend potential winning ideas to NSF.
  4. 4) NSF will choose up to four winning ideas. Each winning entry will receive cash prizes and/or public recognition.


Contestants must be at least 14 years of age and either a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident or be residing in the U.S. as of September 1, 2018. Individuals and teams are welcome to apply. For more information, including guidelines, restrictions, full eligibility rules, and descriptions of NSF’s current 10 Big Ideas, please visit the NSF 2026 Idea Machine website at http://bit.ly/NSF_IDEA_MACHINE.

NSF will accept the NSF 2026 Idea Machine entries from late August to late October 2018.

Identifying New Directions for Research


Cultural Relevance, Equity, and Diversity
STEM Career Opportunities and Workforce Development
Youth Motivation and Interests in STEM
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