robot and a lady

President's Innovation Challenge

The President’s Innovation Challenge is a team competition to encourage social and business entrepreneurship that helps solve major problems of our day here in Southern Nevada.

The Challenge

When Rebel undergraduate and graduate students sign up for this challenge, they soon learn that this is not just a technology challenge for techies — it is an idea challenge for all of us.

Students form teams to invent a solution. Maybe teams identify a significant social issue to solve; or launch the development of a new business or nonprofit that can take root and thrive; or invent an app that fosters a sustainable improvement in the socio-economic factors that drive or hinder this city; or maybe they come up with a brilliant idea for an expansion of the arts to achieve a greater benefit for everyone, residents and visitors alike.

The challenge is what we offer. The idea is up to our students – one that could win them a significant cash prize, including a $20,000 grand prize, and even a life-changing path for their future.

Upcoming Events

The 2023 President's Innovation Challenge is in the works! Please check back soon for details.

2022 President's Innovation Challenge Recap

The Question

COVID-19 changed the world.

And in Las Vegas, it achieved the unimaginable: it closed the Strip.

When the city’s famous lights went off in 2020, it looked like a zombie movie. However, Las Vegans did not shy away from this challenge – they realized that we needed more resilience, more economic diversity, and more ingenuity. It was a matter of survival.

For UNLV’s first-ever President’s Challenge, this is the task: invent a creative solution to Las Vegas’ economic diversity challenge. How do we make Las Vegas’ economy more resilient, more diversified, and more sustainable for all Las Vegans?

Winning Teams

1st: Esenjays (Team 10)

  • Shaimaa Abdelhaleem, Geoscience Ph.D.
  • G Liu, Quantitative Finance M.S.
  • Jacob Gross, Accounting BSBA
  • Jonathan Kim, MBA and Quantitative Finance M.S.

2nd: A More Sustainable World (Team 1)

  • Andres Rodriguez Lombeida, Public Affairs Ph.D.
  • Alejandro Rodriguez Lombeida, Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Anyelina Rodriguez Lombeida, Pre-Business (Economics)

3rd: AERO AI (Team 4)

  • Osarodion Victory Igbinobaro, Master of Architecture
  • Richard Bergstrom, Entrepreneurship BSBA
  • Godson Ebenezer Adjovu, Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D.
  • Glenn Nowak, Hospitality Administration Ph.D.

The Teams

We started with 16 interdisciplinary teams, each with at least one undergraduate and one graduate student; and after the first round of presentations, nine incredible teams advanced to the final round on April 6.

Watch the 2022 President's Innovation Challenge

The Judges

  • Jan Jones Blackhurst, Mayor of Las Vegas, 1991-1999; Chief Executive in Residence, Black Fire Innovation
  • Jason Gastwirth, President of Entertainment, Caesars
  • Peter Guzman, CEO of the Latin Chamber of Commerce
  • Nadia Hansen, Digital Transformation Executive, Salesforce; Former CIO, Clark County
  • Chris Heavey, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Provost, UNLV
  • Yong Li, Ph.D., Lee Professor of Entrepreneurship, Research Director for Troesh Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, UNLV
  • John Krieger, Esquire, Dickinson Wright
  • Shaunt Sarkissian, CEO, XCo
  • Nicole Thomas, Educational Psychology Ph.D. Student, Graduate Assistant, GPSA President
  • Rama Venkat, Ph.D., Dean, Engineering, UNLV
  • Frank Woodbeck, Executive Director for Grants and Special Projects, College of Southern Nevada
  • Caren Yap, International Business and Business Marketing B.S. Student, Student Body President, CSUN
Students working with the president of UNLV.

Competitor Information

Competition Details

You and a team of fellow students will develop an innovative solution and vie for the opportunity to win prize money to make your idea a reality. Teams must be multidisciplinary (e.g., arts, engineering, and business) and include at least one graduate student and one undergraduate student.

As always, teams are best, simply due to the effectiveness of teams in solving major problems. If you don’t have a team, though, that’s fine! We will help you build a team. And we want all Rebels — all majors, all disciplines, all backgrounds, and all students — to participate. 

During the fall semester, you will form your team, attend technical assistance workshops to gain the knowledge you need to be successful, and submit a competition proposal. The most competitive proposals will be selected to move forward to the next round of the competition in the spring during which your team will build and submit your final solution to the problem statement. You’ll present your plans at the spring showcase to a panel of judges, and final prizes will be announced.


Winning teams will receive cash prizes from a prize pool of $50,000 (including a grand prize of $20,000)! To support winning teams in transforming your proposals into realities, prize packages for winners will include a place in the UNLV Incubator cohort and support from mentors in your field.

Students who advance to the final round will receive a free class and a pass - tuition for a spring semester class (or scholarship equivalent) and a free UNLV parking pass.

All participating teams will receive a sustain and inspire package with gift cards, in-kind products and services, 24/7 access to the UNLV Incubator and the UNLV Gateway Graduate Commons, and resources to help launch your innovation and prepare your submission.


  • Nov. 1: Submit Interest Form.
  • Nov. 23: Join us for the President's Innovation Challenge Social & Innovative Thinking & Problem-Solving Workshop. Please log in to your Grad Rebel Gateway account and click on The Grad Academy tab to RSVP.
  • Dec. 1: Submit Team Registration Form. Please note that teams must consist of 3-5 people in at least 3 different disciplines/majors, with 1 Undergrad and 1 Grad student on each team.Please be prepared to provide the following information when registering your team:
    • Team members' first and last name
    • Team members' UNLV RebelMail
    • Team members' department
    • Team Name
    • Team Mantra
    • Team faculty advisor/mentor (if you don't have one, just let us know and we'll help you find one)
  • Dec. 3: Participants that don’t have a team will be paired
  • Jan. 12: Submit Competition Proposal 
  • Jan. 18: Next Round Winners Announced


Learn more about the competition and complete the President’s Innovation Challenge Interest Form by November 1, 2021.


Email or send us a message on Discord.

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