Join the movement of young people solving the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges!

General Motors (GM) and Ashoka recognize young people as powerful actors in solving our planet's most pressing sustainability challenges. We are partnering to launch Our Planet, Our Purpose: STEM for Changemaking, an online challenge for young changemakers across the U.S. 

To thrive in a dynamic, ever-changing world, we need more changemakers responding to the problems around us. Leading innovators throughout history have been motivated by urgent societal issues, like climate change. Purpose and commitment are key ingredients for anyone to unlock their changemaking potential — and that includes engineers, scientists, and tech experts. By combining changemaking and STEM education, young people are driving us towards a more sustainable future. 

Are you a young person creatively using STEM skills to make our world more sustainable? Together, let's strengthen the movement among a new generation of problem solvers taking on environmental issues. Join us! 

General Motors' Vision

The automotive industry helped transform the world – reshaping our physical world and fundamentally changing the way many people lead their lives. However, with mass mobility also came crashes, environmental impact and time wasted due to congestion.

Today, General Motors aims to transform the world again by creating a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Success won’t happen overnight, but with the help of passionate innovators, motivated by urgent societal issues (like climate change), we can make these visions a reality.

Key Dates 

  • March 17: Challenge opens 
  • March 17 – May 14: Entry Phase. During this time, participants may submit entries, edit, and resubmit until the entry deadline. 
  • May 18 – May 31: Application Screening and Community Review.  
  • June 1 – June 18: Reference Check and Due Diligence  
  • June 19: Winners announced. 
  • Summer 2020: Online Changemaker Summit*

If you have any questions regarding the Our Planet, Our Purpose: STEM for Changemaking Challenge please contact us at  

After the application closes on May 14, ideas will be reviewed by representatives from General Motors, Ashoka and the Changemaker peer community based on eligibility criteria listed below. Challenge results will be structured as follows:  

  • Early Entry Prize: Ashoka is providing additional one-on-one support and feedback to entries submitted by April 15th  
  • Each winning project will get to send up to three representatives to participate in the Changemaker Summit, an immersive online experience in which teams will receive mentorship from General Motors executives, skills training from Ashoka and network opportunities with other amazing teams. Each team will also receive $1,000 in seed funding.  
  • All winning teams will have access to ongoing mentorship and skills development webinars after the event.  
  • General Motors and Ashoka will also select up to five teams to be featured for additional opportunities, support, and visibility. Details TBD!

In light of the global health concerns due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Ashoka is monitoring public health guidance in relation to in-person events. As the event draws nearer, Ashoka will determine whether an in-person convening is safe for our participants based on the best information available and current policies. We do not take such decisions lightly, and our top priority is the health and well-being of our participants.

Applications for the Our Planet, Our Purpose: STEM for Changemaking Challenge are open to any young person between the ages of 14 and 18 in the USA and its territories. 

Am I eligible?  To qualify, you must meet all of the following criteria. We look forward to receiving your application!  

  • You are a young person between the ages of 14-18 by August 1, 2020 and a resident of the United States and its territories 
  • You are the founder, co-founder, or hold an equivalent leadership position within the initiative your application represents 
  • You have at least one other person on your team 
  • You are committed to mobilizing more young people to join the changemaker movement and to working with changemakers to solve environmental sustainability issues 
  • You have been actively working on your idea for at least three months
  • You are able to submit your application in English 
  • You are not employed, nor directly related (parents or sibling) to a General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee 
  • If chosen as a winner, you commit to attending the Online Changemaker Summit this summer 

Not sure if your project can participate? Here are some examples of how other changemakers are using STEM to solve a problem in sustainability to create long-lasting positive impact: 

  • Creating a low-cost flood warning system using sensors, IoT devices, the cloud, and mobile technologies providing real-time flood warnings to the local community and Emergency Operations Centers.
  • Empowering communities to integrate native ecosystems back into the Midwestern prairie by building awareness of sustainable pollinator gardens and distributing free seeds of native prairie plants.
  • Releasing a video game in which students learn about climate issues and sustainability and how they can make an impact. 
  • Inspiring underrepresented youth to overcome the problems their daily lives through the use of technology. 

How will winners be chosen?  The selection committee, comprised of members of Ashoka and General Motors, will be looking for changemakers who provide strong answers to a range of questions about what your initiative does, how it runs, and your changemaking story. Entries will be evaluated on the following criteria: 

  • Changemaker Quality: You identify as a Changemaker and are already taking steps to make a real difference by leveraging STEM for social change. You are also encouraging others to do so. 
  • Creativity: Whether you’re tackling a new challenge or bringing a different perspective to an existing problem, you’re doing it in a fresh and innovative way that challenges the norm.  
  • Commitment: You have actively been working on this project for at least three months and have made progress – e.g. you have gone through the process of customer discovery and/or have developed prototypes. You are ready to stick by your project and leave a lasting impact. 
  • Connection: You are focused on making a difference for the environment and can demonstrate a personal connection. You are open to connecting with others and working together to solve the problem you care about. 

  • One application per initiative and per person will be accepted. 
  • Previous Winners of the STEM for Changemaking Challenge are not eligible. 
  • Applications can be submitted only in English. 
  • Employees (and immediate family members) of General Motors or Ashoka, their parent companies, affiliates and subsidiaries, joint ventures, participating advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to participate in the challenge. 
  • Participants must be between the ages of 14 to 18 by August 1, 2020 and be a resident of the USA and its territories. 

Our Planet, Our Purpose: STEM for Changemaking Challenge Updates 

The STEM for Changemaking Challenge is a yearly prize that supports young changemakers across the United States, Puerto Rico, and other US territories. Please sign up using this form to receive news and updates, including an e-mail notification when we launch our next edition. 

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

We follow a process with phases. Currently we are in the Winners Announced phase. We have selected and announced the best ideas for this challenge.
67 ideas
67 final ideas