STEMUp Youth Maker Competition

Table of Contents

Do you have a great idea to solve a problem in your community? United Way of Greater Atlanta is pleased to announce the 2023 STEMUp: Youth Maker Competition. Through STEMUp, we award small grants to help middle and high school aged youth who are involved in STEM programming test innovative ideas that can solve problems in their communities.

This live competition modeled after the television show “Shark Tank” is an opportunity for young people in our region to use their ideas, voice, and leadership to improve our communities.

The competition is open to middle and high school-aged students who are involved in STEM programming in the United Way of Greater Atlanta 13-county footprint. Written proposals are due March 1, 2023. Finalists selected from the submitted written proposals to go on to the live pitch will be announced March 8, 2023. From the live pitch, up to three winners will be selected to receive a monetary award up to $2,500.00 to support the implementation of their innovative idea.

Employees from Cox Enterprises will be judging the proposals and live pitches in addition to coaching students throughout the implementation process. Finalists must be available on March 15, 2023, for the live pitch, must attend coaching sessions with their volunteer coach, and must be available on June 9, 2023, to give a final report and presentation of their project.

An area of priority for United Way of Greater Atlanta includes improving engagement in STEM by underrepresented groups, social innovation, and partnerships with STEM-related businesses.

Scholarship funds to help support the participation in the STEMUp program may be available if needed. Please see the request for funds on the STEMUp: Youth Maker Competition application.

For questions, please contact the United Way of Greater Atlanta Volunteerism team, at

STEMUp Award Overview

We believe that young people’s leadership and voice are critical to addressing social and economic issues facing our communities. It is our goal to ensure both the process and the results of the STEMUp Competition will showcase young people’s ingenuity and resourcefulness.

  • The STEMUp Prize is a monetary award up to $2,500.00 to support students in the implementation of their innovative ideas.
  • Applicants must have a Staff Champion from their school or non-profit agency that will be a primary point of contact for United Way. That staff person must be an employee of the agency who is positioned to approve and support implementation of the proposed idea.
  • Prizes must be distributed through the agency that the students are affiliated with such as schools and non-profit organizations. Staff Champions will release/use funds as needed.
  • Applicants must be current middle or high school aged students within United Way’s 13-county area (Butts, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale Counties).
  • Proposals must be submitted by March 1, 2023, via an online application that includes an explanation of the problem, a project summary, details from the selection criteria, and a budget explanation. See Appendix A for required written proposal components and scoring rubric. (Spanish version of the application is here.)
  • All applicants will be contacted with their application status on March 8, 2023.
  • Presentations must be prepared by those that move on to the live pitch scheduled for March 16, 2023 at 6pmSee Appendix B for required pitch presentation components and scoring scale. Live pitch finalists must also have a parent/guardian complete a consent form.
  • We anticipate up to three winners depending on available funds and proposed project budgets.
  • Winners will be expected to implement their ideas between March and June 2023 with the help of assigned volunteer coaches. There will be three monthly coaching sessions facilitated by United Way, both virtual and in-person. 
  • Winners will report out on the results of their project at the STEMUp Innovation Celebration on June 9, 2023.
  • If student applicants are in need of resources that would allow them to participate fully in the STEMUp program, such as transportation, professional clothing, computer access, etc., they may include in their written proposal a request for scholarship funding.

Competition Timeline

Phase I: Open CallJanuary 11 – March 1
STEMUp opens for written proposalsJanuary 11, 2023
Deadline to submit written proposalsMarch 1, 2023
Phase II: Proposal Review March 1 – March 8
Phase III: Live Pitch (Winners Selected)March 8 – March 15
Top proposals invited to Live Pitch by March 8; finalists have two weeks to prepare live pitch presentation
Finalists will pitch presentations live to judgesMarch 16, 2023, 6:00pm
Award winners will be announced; Staff Champion contracts issuedMarch 15, 2023
Staff Champion contracts dueMarch 22, 2023
Phase IV: Project ImplementationMarch 15 – June 30
Funds dispersedMarch 30, 2023
Projects implemented; Coaching sessions with volunteer coachesMarch 15 – June 9, 2023
Phase V: Innovation CelebrationJune 9
Final report and presentationJune 9, 2023, Time TBD

For questions, please contact the United Way of Greater Atlanta Volunteerism team, at

Community-Oriented Project Ideas

An area of priority for United Way includes improving engagement in STEM by underrepresented groups, social innovation, and partnerships with STEM-related businesses and STEMUp proposals should address equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is important to remember that proposed projects must be youth-led, STEM-related and have a way to measure impact. Proposals should address a community/social problem, remove barriers, or increase efficiencies. The following are examples of community issues that could be addressed:

  • The Digital Divide
  • COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
  • Academic Support for Youth (Learning Loss)
  • Employment Rate
  • College Planning and Preparation


Written Proposal Overview


Project Summary: Need/Problem, Solution Oriented, and Creativity/Innovation

∙ Provide a brief summary of your project. Include detail on the need being addressed and how your team aims to address/solve the need(s) in the timeline required. The use of data and any research you completed is strongly recommended.

∙ Describe the specific purpose for which you are asking to be awarded the STEMUp Prize – your proposed idea/solution. For example, improve engagement in STEM programming by underrepresented populations (i.e., youth of color, girls) in “X” location by implementing your project.

∙ Describe any details about who will be served and/or impacted. For example, include average age, ethnicity, income, etc.

∙ How will your proposed program/project help the community and address the problem? Why is this a great idea?

Youth Leadership, Collaboration, and Social Responsibility

∙ Describe the roles and responsibilities that your team and any relevant additional youth will play in this project.

∙ Outline any partnerships you have established for successful implementation of this project including your host organization’s staff, etc. (i.e., teachers, youth development staff) and their specific roles.

∙ Outline any efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion within your project.

Realistic Implementation Plan

∙ If you are awarded the grant, describe the specific steps you will take between April – June 2023 to implement the proposed project.

∙ If you are not awarded the grant, outline any plans for the project if relevant.

Anticipated Outcomes

∙ What specific outcomes do you expect to achieve by June 2023? Describe what will be different as a result of this project. Be as specific as possible.

∙ Consider noting any relevant longer-term outcomes expected if relevant.


∙ What is the total amount you are requesting for the STEMUp Award (request must be between $1,000.00 and $2,500.00)?

∙ Outline any other resources that will be utilized for this project (financial or in-kind)

∙ Provide an estimated line-item budget for the full project.

∙ Note: Staff time from the participating school or non-profit organization cannot be funded through this prize.

Additional relevant information:

∙ Estimated time to complete a written proposal is 1.5 hours.

∙ Written proposals must be completed in one sitting (the application portal does not have a save feature to return later).

∙ To access a budget template, click here.

∙ Applicants will need their Staff Champion to sign an Acknowledgement Statement and upload a copy of the signed statement. To access a copy, click here.


Applicants will be scored on a 1-5 scale in each of the areas below.


A specific community or social need or problem is clearly defined.

Solution Oriented:

The proposal describes how funding from STEM UP would be used and how this funding would help to improve or solve the community problem. The proposal describes goals that directly address a particular community/social problem, removes barriers, or increases efficiencies.


The proposed project is a creative approach to addressing the problem/issue presented and would be considered a new approach for the community.

Anticipated Outcomes:

The proposal outlines SMART goals to measure success/impact (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).

Youth Leadership:
The proposal clearly shows the project is and will be youth-led, from ideation to implementation.


The proposal indicates the ability of the project to optimize available resources (skills, expertise, human capital, partnerships, funding, etc.) through partnerships to ensure the project’s success (e.g. engage 100 community volunteers, 25 hours of in-kind web development expertise, matching funds).


The proposed budget did not exceed $2,500 USD and included an estimated, complete, line-item budget for the full project.

Social Responsibility:

The project shows a priority placed on equity, diversity, and inclusion.


The proposed project is feasible and realistic as described; projected success is reasonably achievable given the proposed timeline and resources.


Live Pitch Presentation Overview

Finalists will present a 5-to-10-minute slide deck to volunteer judges and then will answer questions during a 5-minute Q+A session. The presentation should cover the same content in the written proposal including:

∙ An overview of the project

∙ What problem in the community is the project intending to solve and how does the project provide a solution?

∙ How are youth leadership, collaboration and equity incorporated into the project?

∙ What are the expected outcomes of the project?

∙ How will the project specifically utilize STEMUp funds?

∙ Applicants may include additional information such as specific steps planned and may use additional resources such as videos.


Applicants will be scored on a 1-5 scale over all as indicated below based upon the same 9 criteria from the written proposal. Each proposal will also receive a judge’s recommendation.

5 – Excellent: All elements are present. There is a clear picture of the idea, purpose, and impact of their project. The project is realistic, innovative and can be done within the allotted time and budget. The presentation provides details addressing the 9 criteria. The presentation provides plans to continue and increase resources for the project.

4 – Good: All or most elements are present. There is a clear picture of the idea, purpose, and impact of the project.  The project is realistic and can be done within the allotted time and budget. Presentation provides details addressing the 9 criteria.

3 – Average: Some elements are clearly missing. Presentation was organized but provided less detail addressing the 9 criteria.  There is not a clear picture of their idea, purpose, and impact of the project.

2 – Fair: Some elements are clearly missing. Presentation was disorganized and missing critical details addressing the 9 criteria.  There is not a clear picture of their idea, purpose, and impact of the project.

1 – Poor:  Most elements are missing. Presentation was very disorganized. The project idea is unlikely to address the community problem it is intending to solve

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