Partner FAQ

Who will be attending?

The hackathon will be open to undergraduates, graduate students, and environmentally-focused professionals from the greater Boston area. We have active outreach on the following campuses: MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Babson, Wellesley, UMass Boston, Boston University, Boston College, Clark, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

How large will teams be and how many teams will be hacking on each challenge?

Participants will be encouraged to forms teams of 3-5 and to divide into 2-3 teams per challenge.  

What are the challenge theme areas?

  • Environmentally Conscious Design: Green buildings and product design
  • Mobility in the Modern World: Green transportation and infrastructure
  • Sustainable Resource Management: Waste, water, and natural resources
  • (re)Fueling the Next Generation: Sustainable energy solutions

Do note, that these are broad categories intended to frame the event and provide prize categories. Sponsor challenges need not perfectly fit into one of the areas above. 

Will sponsors have access to participant information?

Some information submitted on our registration form, including educational institution affiliation, industry interests, and LinkedIn profile pages will be available to sponsors, unless the participant opts out of disclosure. Our participants will be given the option to have additional contact information shared with sponsors.

What are the guidelines for submitting a challenge?

Challenge Statement

  • Provide a targeted Challenge Statement (150 – 200 words)
  • Challenge Statement may include the Situation or Background of the challenge and the Complication of the challenge, i.e. limitations of current approach, why there is a need for new solution
  • You may include website links to provide participants with more background knowledge about the challenge
  • You may suggest or specify tools for participants to use to tackle the challenge - if you are expecting they use a particular kind of software, or create a prototype to certain specifications, you may have to provide some of the software or materials, depending on the scope and what we can provide at MIT. 
  • You can submit more than one challenge to the participants. However, participants will be free to choose whichever challenge they prefer to hack on, we cannot guarantee that a team will hack your challenge

​​Your challenge should fit in one of these 4 themes:

Natural Resource Management: Waste, water and resource reuse and conservation 

  • Examples:  Wastewater management, Water conservation and recycling/repurposing, Management of waste and/or recycling streams, Composting, Conservation and protection of existing natural land from pollution and other threats 

Mobility in the Modern World: Transportation innovation for the 21st century 

  • Examples: Integration of Bicycling in city/urban planning,  Public Transport, Trains, Hybrid/Electric cars, Natural gas vehicles, Vehicle peer-sharing, Battery storage solutions

Environmentally Conscious Design: Reducing the footprint of products and buildings 

  • Examples: Life cycle analysis of products, alternative materials for energy/carbon intensive sources, energy efficient appliances, smart home energy monitoring, rooftop solar, Zero carbon buildings, urban farming 

(re)Fueling the Next Generation: Sustainable energy solutions 

  • Examples: Solar, Wind, Wave power, Tidal Energy, Geothermal energy, Energy storage, Demand-Response

Examples actual challenges (These are still being developed and fine-tuned but to give you an idea):

1) Glass is a negative value commodity in the recycling stream today and there are very limited outlets accepting recycled glass.  It has often been used as an aggregate, but those outlets are dwindling as well. Students are challenged to create new markets for recycled glass that don't exist today, possibly by finding solutions to clean the glass stream to make it more acceptable for markets that do exist. ,

2) Design water heaters that don't switch on/off at peak power capacity, but are (a) controllable and (b) can use a constant, reduced power consumption to work better with solar PV without net metering.

3) Landfill gas collection systems and the fact that we are not able to effectively capture all of the gas that we can be even with state-of-the-art equipment. EPA has a general rule of thumb for 75% collection which means 25% of the gas is escaping and which is a very harmful greenhouse gas. We have been deploying temporary covers at our sites in addition to placement of vertical and horizontal wells. Can participants come up with a means for us to capture more gas than through current practices?


There will be one winner for each of the four main categories 
You are highly encouraged to participate as a judge for your challenge area(s) 
Prizes will be given out on Sunday evening

Judging criteria will be based on:

  • Originality 
  • Impact
  • Technical difficulty
  • Business Potential

How do I reach you? 

We would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email at cleanearthhack [at]