2018 Sustainable Earth Decathlon (SED2018) is for youth innovators to showcase their CleanTech ideas, investors to discover tech innovations, and policy-makers to see what community-defined climate innovation looks like. Contact us to get involved.

  • Two parts: a CleanTech Forum and a CleanTech Showcase designed to build bridges among technologists, government stakeholders, social entrepreneurs, and youth innovators.
  • Date and place: April 2018 at a location TBD.
  • Deadline: Applications for CleanTech Showcase are due on March 24, 2018 by email to
  • Sponsorship: We offer sponsorship opportunities, including naming rights.



We promote our own 3-step approach to help you identify a problem where food-energy-water systems overlap, develop a solution that people will use, and find the right technology to make your solution accessible.


Step 1. Assess a problem in your community that is tied to the nexus of food, energy, and water

Apply nexus thinking here to understand a problem right where systems overlap. Nexus thinking allows you to see the intersections among multiple systems--how food, energy, and water systems are interconnected. It is a key problem-solving approach in the era of climate change and 'information and communication technology' (ICT).

  • Identify a specific problem related to the intersection of the food system and energy system and water system in your community, also known as the food, energy, and water nexus (FEWS nexus).
  • Understand the nature of the nexus problem in your community. What are the root causes of the problem? How are these root causes related to food, energy, and water? What were the barriers that prevented other innovators from succeeding in addressing these root causes before?
Example: Farmers in my beach community are closing down their farms because they can't grow enough product to sell. The five summers of extreme heat wave has made access to water a major problem. Fruits and vegetables are wilting and rotting in the fields. Past efforts to drill for water and desalinate sea water have failed because of the cost associated with them. Finding a way to bring more water in to my community would improve the lives of thousands of families and hundreds of farmers.


step 2. design a nexus solution

Apply design thinking here to make sure your solution will be used by ordinary people. Design thinking ("human-centered" design) is an approach to problem-solving that pays close attention to the needs and motivations of regular people, who are the end-users. If we solve complex problems without design that ensures people will use our solutions, then our solutions will not be adopted, and we will not have solved the problem, at all.

  • Based on your understanding of the nexus problem and its root causes, find a solution that directly addresses a root cause or an aspect of the problem prominent in your community. Ideas can come from any discipline (arts, urban planning, design, medicine, public health, social science, social work, engineering, computer science, natural science, etc.) and can take any form (from products to services to start-up ventures).
  • Make use of the knowledge of your ancestors and indigenous people; pair this with good science. It helps to make a list of all possible solutions that logically flow from how you've defined the problem first, then, pick the most viable solution from that list using your best judgment. Trusting your own ideas is critical in this step.
  • Optimize the input of your team members by integrating new ideas so that you refine good ideas into great ideas.
Example: Indigenous peoples used to hang fur on trees to gather water from the fog that rolls in every morning and night; they came up with a way to collect the water and store them in wooden containers, which also were used to collect rain water. They used the water to irrigate their farms and meet the daily water needs of their households. This local knowledge deserves to be reconsidered; it could be scaled up if I could find a material that is more effective than fur to gather water from fog. I read that a group of scientists in ABC University published a list of hydrophilic materials. If a few of these materials are affordable to access and then put together, I might be able to collect water from fog in higher quantity.

         Resource for real-world grass-root CleanTech: UNFCCC ICT


Step 3. Integrate technology into your nexus solution

Apply design thinking once more to make sure you pick the right technology that enhances the likelihood that ordinary people will adopt your nexus solution or innovation.

  • Figure out how technology serves your nexus innovation.
  • How will developing a mobile or web-based app help people adopt your solution?
  • How will your tech empower your local community to take action together and policy-makers to take notice? See video below for an example.
Example: If I could develop a water collection kit that is made up of hydrophilic materials and includes a sensor that measures the amount of water each user collects each day, I could inspire my community to start collecting water from fog in a way that is coordinated. The sensors could be networked via a mobile app that tracks how much water is being collected from where and which direction so everyone with the kit could position their water collection kits optimally. We could store and manage the data collected by networked sensors to better strategize as a community where to position our water collection rigs. 




Fill-out the SED2017 application form. This form details what info we need to evaluate your team and your innovation idea. The most important part is the part asking you to respond to the 10 Criteria.

Email your completed SED2017 application form to by March 24, 2017.

If the idea is a great one, you win a cash prize and the opportunity to develop it into a commercially-viable venture. Entries can come from any discipline (arts, design, engineering, medicine, public health, science, social work, etc.) and can take any form (from products, mobile and web-based apps, and human services to tech start-ups). 


  • Applicants must be 13-26 years old.
  • Individuals from outside the U.S. are eligible to apply. Finalists outside the U.S. who advance to the live showcase on Friday, April 28, 2017 will be given a specific time slot to give their presentation via video conference.  
  • Teams should have between 4-6 members. Members can be a mix of junior high, high school, and college students.


grand prize & benefits for finalists

The Grand Prize includes cash and an opportunity to refine their CleanTech idea into a commercially-viable venture.  All finalists will be matched with a coach and mentor, and other support services.




I. Read this web page thoroughly

This page has the 3-steps for 'nexus solution making' that, if used, ensures innovations are developed where food, energy, and water systems intersect.

  • Divide students into groups of 4-6 members. 
  • Complete Step 1, the assessment step. The goal is to identify a problem at the food-energy-water nexus. We created               an example (italicized section).
  • Complete Step 2, the solution design step. The goal is to design a solution to the nexus problem. Similarly, there is an             example (italicized section).
  • Complete Step 3, the selection and integration of appropriate technology platform (mobile app, web-based app,                       etc.). Like the previous steps, we created an example (italicized section).

II. Fill out application form

Fill out the SED2017 Application Form. Submit by deadline: March 24, 2017 at 11:59pm PST. Email completed form to

III. Innovation coaching

We will provide coaching calls via Skype as teams develop their ideas. Email

IV. Educator resource page: 

This educator resource page comes with an assignment guidance that you can use to organize a classroom into teams of innovators.  The template assignment guidance is designed to be used as replacement for one class assignment so students don't have work outside of school to participate in SED2017.


NOTE WELL: We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to change, modify, add or remove details related to SED at any time. It is the responsibility of applicants to check this website periodically for changes, if any.