American-Made Challenges


Fish Protection

Catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to prevent fish from swimming into water infrastructure.

This challenge is closed

Voucher Period Closes
$700,000 in total prizes

This challenge is closed


Challenge Overview

Fish Protection Prize

The Fish Protection Prize sought new solutions, designs, and strategies to prevent fish from swimming into water infrastructure, such as water diversions and pipes and intakes at hydropower dams. Participants submitted innovative ideas to advance fish exclusion technology.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has launched the Fish Protection Prize to inspire innovators to compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support to help protect fish from these threats. Three finalists were selected as Grand Prize winners.




The prize consisted of three stages that provided the structure and resources needed to move methods for protecting fish from water diversions and intakes from initial concept, to technical design, to prototyping, to field-tested systems.

This prize built on the initial Fish Exclusion Prize, run by the Bureau of Reclamation, released on March 6, 2019. The winners of the first prize were announced in December 2019. This next three-staged prize asked participants to share their innovative approach—along with a design and research plan—for keeping fish away from water diversions and intakes.



This prize will distributed a total of $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Prizes were distributed between three Grand Prize winners:

  • First Place: $200,000 cash and $100,000 in voucher support
  • Second Place: $125,000 cash and $100,000 in voucher support
  • Third Place: $75,000 cash and $100,000 in voucher support



The purpose of this prize is to incentivize the development of innovative solutions to advance fish exclusion technology. 

While the prize solicited solutions of all shapes and sizes, organizers identified the following six topic areas as having the greatest potential for successful and cost-effective fish exclusion:

  1. Sensory deterrents - Sensory deterrent systems are used to prevent the upstream movement of fish. Technologies that make up this innovation category include but are not limited to: Acoustic Air Bubble Curtains, Electrical Barrier, Underwater Sound, and Underwater Strobe Lights.
  2. Turbulence and velocity-based deterrents – Influencing and controlling turbulence and velocity in river channel design can be employed to deter fish from diversions, pipes, and intakes.
  3. Combination stimulus barriers – This innovation category can utilize multiple stimulus or sensory deterrents, or a combination of physical and non-physical barriers to avert fish from diversions, pipes, and intakes.
  4. Diversion or intake layouts/geometry – This category addresses the design, planning, and implementation of diversions and intakes for the purpose of fish exclusion.
  5. Fish screen materials or coatings - Structures or surface coatings meant to prevent fish from entering hydroelectric dams, aqueducts, river diversions, or other anthropogenic structures, are developed with the intent to supply water free of debris to power plants and other facilities without harming aquatic life.
  6. Fish screen cleaning methods – This innovation category can include various fish screen cleaning technology including but not limited to air burst, water jet, and brush systems.

For further information, please  review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing. 



Challenge Guidelines

Who can participate?

Please review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at .

We’re also looking for ideas on how to best structure this contest to attract groundbreaking ideas that will spark tomorrow’s marine life-energy solutions. If you’re not interested in competing but want to help develop and judge the prize, please feel free to contact us . 


Challenge Updates

And the Fish Protection Prize winners are...

Sept. 28, 2020, 6:05 a.m. PDT by Tessa Greco

On September 15 and 16, nine teams of finalists presented their proposals for the Fish Protection Prize’s PITCH CONTEST at the American Fisheries Society Virtual Annual Meeting. Following two days of pitches, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Bureau of Reclamation selected three prize winners.

During the PITCH CONTEST, each team presented a 10-minute pitch, followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer period—introducing their concepts, discussing the technical and market feasibility of their ideas, and presenting their overall research and development plans. The winning teams will split $700,000 in the form of cash and in-kind support to further their solutions, with expertise provided by PNNL to evolve and develop their concepts.

Congratulations to our prize-winning teams, receiving both a cash award and voucher support from PNNL:

  • Grand prize: Benjamin Mater of Alden Research Laboratory and Charles Coutant, Making a Deal with the Devilfish: Biometric-Informed Screening Technology
  • Second place: Nicholas and Kenneth LaBry of Prometheus Innovations, LLC, Fish Diversion Material & Inspection Improvements
  • Third place: Sterling Watson and Abe Schneider of Natel Energy, The Center Sender.

And congratulations to all of our amazing finalists for their work over the past eight months, from the start of this competition through to the end. We appreciate everyone's engagement and wish you all success in moving your concepts forward!


Upcoming Webinar 6/11: Intellectual property (IP) and patent processes for innovators and startups

June 9, 2020, 9:17 a.m. PDT by Tessa Greco

Fish Protection Prize Innovators,

Tune in to an upcoming webinar hosted by an American-Made Network Power Connector on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 11am ET. More details and registration info is below.


Power Connector the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University is hosting an informational webinar on intellectual property (IP) and patent processes for innovators and startups. The webinar, From Idea to Invention to Intellectual Property: What Startups and Innovators Need to Know, is on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. ET.

Tune in to hear about IP best practices from legal experts at the national law firm and Network member Babst Calland, as well as Scott Institute entrepreneur Jay Whitacre. This webinar is free and will also have a Q&A session. 

Register here to join:


Last Chance to Enter: Up to 3 Finalists Could Still Win $700,000!

May 7, 2020, 1:45 p.m. PDT by Jenny Wiegele

Fish Protection Innovators, 

With the deadline extended through May 13, you still have time to enter your idea to advance fish exclusion technology!

We know there haven't been any updates yet on the American Fisheries Society event, but regardless of if this event runs or if we're all able to meet in person, we will still hold a pitch event for the finalists to present to a panel of judges. The $700,000 is still on the table!

If you have any questions, reach out to us on the forum, or send us an email at

-The Fish Protection Prize Team

CONCEPT Stage extension

April 27, 2020, 2:44 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Fish Protection Prize Solvers:


After thoughtful review and discussion the Fish Protection Prize Administration Team has decided to extend the deadline for Concept Stage submissions until Wednesday, May 13, 5pm ET. This extension will enable new solvers to submit their concepts, and will allow those who have already submitted their concepts to revise and refine their innovations before submitting the final application on Wednesday, May 13.


We understand this is a challenging period for everyone and hope that this extension affords our inventors the needed time to work and improve on their solutions. Please reach out with your questions to and good luck preparing your concepts!


-The Fish Protection Prize Team

Rules Webinar Recording Now Available

April 9, 2020, 2:38 p.m. PDT by Jenny Wiegele

Hi teams, 

The recording from the Fish Protection Prize Applicant Webinar is now available: 

Listen in to hear the submission process, an explanation of the rules and requirements, and the answers to specific applicant questions. 

Reach out to us with any other questions you have on the forum, and remember to submit your idea by April 24!

-The Fish Protection Prize Team

Joy Montgomery's team Joy Montgomery's team
1 team member
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Janine Bryan's team Janine Bryan's team
3 team members
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Umida AG Umida AG
1 team member
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Vijay P's team Vijay P's team
1 team member
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Sterling Watson's team Sterling Watson's team
2 team members
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W8 of the Water LLC W8 of the Water LLC
1 team member
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Fish Tracker Fish Tracker
5 team members
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Ron Bingaman's team Ron Bingaman's team
1 team member
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Greg Kangas's team Greg Kangas's team
1 team member
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Jamie Hanley's team Jamie Hanley's team
1 team member
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Nicholas LaBry's team Nicholas LaBry's team
2 team members
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Jenna Rackovan's team Jenna Rackovan's team
1 team member
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Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc. Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.
2 team members
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Kuz's team Kuz's team
1 team member
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Thomas Jefferson High School Ocean Bowl team Thomas Jefferson High School Ocean Bowl team
2 team members
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Joshua KIM's team Joshua KIM's team
1 team member
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Jophiel Group Jophiel Group
2 team members
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