Calling all UCI undergraduate and graduate students: are you interested in applying your unique skills and talents to protect our planet? Do you want the opportunity to work with other student innovators and develop solutions to pressing environmental challenges? Are you interested in receiving mentorship from founders and industry experts while competing for over $65,000 in prizes and funding? Then don’t miss out on the new Hacking Student Success: Sustainability Challenge! Learn more about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center’s biggest event of the year!

We are also calling UCI faculty, staff, and community members to join us as volunteers to support the Sustainability Challenge by serving as video judges and mentors! If you are interested in supporting, please fill out this interest form and get involved. 

About the Sustainability Challenge

Following the massive success of the 2022 Hacking Student Success: Mental Health Innovation Challenge, the ANTrepreneur Center is going even bigger with this year’s Hacking Student Success: Sustainability Challenge (Sustainability Challenge). The Sustainability Challenge asks UCI students to form interdisciplinary teams and develop new business ideas that offer sustainable solutions for important environmental concerns. 

“With the Sustainability Challenge, we want to empower students and let them know that regardless of their major or current business experience, they have the ability to make a real difference for their fellow students, their communities, and even the world,” explains Ryan Foland, Director of the ANTrepreneur Center. “The great thing about this type of competition is that it creates a safe environment to explore what it means to be an entrepreneur. Students will learn about teamwork, leadership, stewardship, and more, all while working towards solutions for some of the world’s biggest sustainability-related problems.”

The Sustainability Challenge is open to UCI undergraduate and graduate students of all majors. Students will form teams of five with a maximum of two graduate students per team. No previous business or hackathon experience is necessary to join a team. Once formed, teams will work together to create a business idea that falls into one of five categories:

1. Energy: Shape the future of energy production and consumption. From renewable energy sources to energy efficiency, this category is all about finding innovative solutions to power our world sustainably.

2. Water: Preserve and protect this precious resource. From water conservation to purification, this category is all about ensuring access to clean water for all.

3. Air: Improve the air we breathe. From reducing pollution to developing new clean technologies, this category is all about protecting our health and the environment.

4. Livable Spaces: Make cities greener and more livable. From urban planning to transportation, this category is all about designing environmentally friendly communities that prioritize resident well-being.

5. Food/Waste: Feed our growing population while reducing waste. From sustainable agriculture to reducing food waste, this category is all about creating a more efficient and equitable food system.

Following team formation, students will receive mentorship and training to refine their business ideas and prepare for the video pitch portion of the competition. For the video pitches, each team will submit a  two-minute video of them pitching their idea. These videos will be reviewed by the judging panel, and 20 teams will be selected to compete at the semifinals.

Leading up to the semifinals, the teams will participate in two Hack Day events where they will continue to fine-tune their ideas and prepare for their in-person pitch presentations. At the semifinals, all 20 teams will deliver two-minute pitches in front of a panel of judges and a live audience. Five teams will be selected to advance to the next stage of the competition. All semifinalist teams will receive $1,000 for their effort, and the five finalist teams will receive an extra $5,000 to fund their continued development over Summer and Fall 2023. 

Following the semifinals, the five teams will continue developing their business ideas over Summer as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (overseen by the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program). At the end of Fall Quarter 2023, the ANTrepreneur Center will host the Hacking Student Success: Sustainability Challenge Finals, where finalist teams will present their fleshed-out ideas and compete for the $20,000 grand prize. 

For more information on the Sustainability Challenge, please review the event rules and judging criteria.

Important Dates

  • Thursday, April 13, 6:30 – 9:00 pm: Kickoff and Team Formation. RSVP here.
  • Thursday, April 20, 6:30 – 9:00 pm: Business Development and Video Pitch Workshop. RSVP now.
  • Sunday, April 30, by 12:00 pm: Video Pitches Due. Submit here.
  • Thursday, May 11: Twenty Semi-Finalist Teams Announced
  • Saturday, May 20, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm: Hack Day 1. RSVP here.
  • Sunday, May 21, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm: Hack Day 2. RSVP here.
  • Sunday, May 21, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Semifinals Pitch Event. RSVP here.

Students can RSVP for all upcoming Sustainability Challenge events on the ANTrepreneur Center’s CampusGroups page.

Why Sustainability?

For over a decade, UCI has been recognized as one of the greenest campuses in the country. UCI has spent 12 consecutive years at the top of Sierra magazine’s “Cool Schools” ranking, and in 2021 UCI achieved a platinum rating through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System with the highest score ever recorded by an institution.

Given the campus’s commitment to sustainability, making it the focus of the ANTrepreneur Center’s annual challenge event was a natural fit. Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy, adds:

“Most students today understand the importance of protecting the environment and finding new, eco-friendly ways to deliver necessary products and services. This is one of the main reasons why the Sustainability Challenge is such an exciting event—it offers students the opportunity to iterate and develop ideas for something that they’re passionate about. This competition also provides a platform that shows students from all over the world that they do have the power to transform the environment.”

Errol Arkilic, UCI Chief Innovation Officer, adds:

“The Student Success Sustainability Challenge is a unique opportunity to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and inspire the next generation of leaders into climate action. Leveraging the UC Irvine campus’ culture of innovation and access to world-changing discoveries and technologies, this challenge encourages participants to think creatively and apply their skills to real-world sustainability adaptation and resilience opportunities. We are thrilled to witness the transformative impact that this event will have on our community and the world at large.”

Looking for Mentors, Speakers, and Judges

As the ANTrepreneur Center prepares for the Sustainability Challenge, they are looking for volunteers to serve as mentors, speakers, judges, and video judges for the different stages of the event. Partnering with the ANTrepreneur Center offers a great opportunity to connect with UCI student innovators, gain valuable exposure for your company, and share your expertise with the next generation of business leaders. By serving as a mentor, speaker, or judge at this year’s Sustainability Challenge, you can make a visible impact on UCI students and support their entrepreneurial journeys. Additionally, volunteering opens the door to partner with the ANTrepreneur Center on future events and speaking opportunities.

“Our office was thrilled to participate in last year’s challenge, and we can’t wait to partner on this year’s Sustainability Challenge,” says Tom Andriola, Vice Chancellor for Information, Technology and Data. “By volunteering as judges and sponsors, community members can provide valuable feedback to the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. I encourage all those interested in supporting student success to join us and help shape a more sustainable future for our community.”

If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who might be interested, then please fill out or share this interest form

Thank You to Our Sponsors

The Sustainability Challenge is made possible by sponsorship from the UCI Office of Data and Information Technology, Dyson, UCI Graduate Division, UCI Division of Undergraduate Education, UCI Beall Applied Innovation, Sigma Computing, OOTify, XvsX Sports, and AWS.

Want to be a sponsor? Email Ryan Foland at

For More Information

To learn more about the Sustainability Challenge, visit the main event page. To learn more about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center, visit their website. To keep up with the latest news and updates, follow the ANTrepreneur Center CampusGroups and Instagram.

To volunteer as a mentor, speaker, judge, or video judge for the Sustainability Challenge, fill out this interest form. Finally, to learn more about other ways to support the ANTrepreneur Center, visit their community partners webpage.