Finalists in $225,000 Reach Higher Career App Challenge Announced by White House, U.S. Education Department

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Finalists in $225,000 Reach Higher Career App Challenge Announced by White House, U.S. Education Department

May 11, 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative and the U.S. Department of Education today announced five finalists in the Reach Higher Career App Challenge, a prize competition to promote the development of mobile app solutions that will help students navigate education and career pathways, including career and technical education (CTE).

The challenge is aimed at inspiring the development of apps for middle and high school students that will help them learn about career options, while increasing the capacity of career counselors to assist students in planning for their futures. The apps will include integrated tools to assess student skills and interests, and offer information on occupations, education options, credentials, and career-seeking skills.

"We are incredibly impressed with the caliber and creativity of solutions submitted to the challenge," said Johan Uvin, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. "These five solutions hold tremendous promise for engaging our students in planning their pathway to future success."

First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the challenge last fall, putting out the call for new technologies to help students plan for the future.

"To all the app developers, educators, career counselors, business leaders, and everyone else who wants to help young people succeed, I'm asking you to put your heads together and design new mobile apps that will connect students with the programs and jobs they need to fulfill their dreams," First Lady Michelle Obama said at the time.

The five finalists are:

  • Future Plans® by Pinellas Education Foundation — a career discovery app that assesses student aptitudes and interests to map educational pathways with in-demand career choices.
  • Hats & Ladders by ThinkZone Games — a game-based app that supports middle and high school career exploration with swipe-to-choose self-assessments, connected activities, and mini-challenges.
  • INFORM® Journeys by, Inc — an interactive learning map app created to help students explore life's possibilities as they navigate through K-12, CTE, college/university, military service, and/or vocational training.
  • MARi by MARi LLC — a school and career coach app that brings together assessments, capability mapping, and achievement validation, along with personalized career and education opportunities into a comprehensive map of the labor market.
  • Overgrad by Overgrad, Inc. — a web platform that leverages community resources, technology, and data to support long-term student outcomes.

The finalists were selected based on recommendations by a panel of external judges with expertise in career counseling, workforce development, CTE, educational technology and business scaling.

Virtual Accelerator Phase

Each finalist will receive $25,000 and proceed to the next phase of the competition to improve their concepts with support from subject matter experts in design, business modeling, civic tech, and career counseling.

This phase will culminate in a Demo Day where finalists will present their refined concepts and demonstrate prototypes to the panel of judges. Ultimately, one grand prize winner will be announced later this year, and will win $100,000 and additional prizes donated by IBM and Microsoft.

The challenge is online here. It can also be found at Follow the First Lady on Twitter at and Reach Higher at

The Reach Higher Career App Challenge is part of a series of prize competitions conducted by the U.S. Department of Education with the goal of spurring the development of new technology, products, and resources that will prepare students for the high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations of tomorrow.

The series is funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. Learn more about CTE at