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American-Made Challenges

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Hydropower Collegiate Competition 2025

Challenging multidisciplinary teams of collegiate students to offer unique solutions to converting non-powered dams to hydroelectric dams.
stage:
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prize:
$325,000
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Summary

Overview

Hydropower— energy created from fresh, moving water—is the world's oldest form of renewable energy.

This competition invites interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students to:

  • Develop a case study on hydropower’s role in a future power grid supported by 100% renewable energy and the associated opportunities and challenges of incorporating the hydropower fleet into this future power grid.
  • Partner with hydropower industry professionals to learn about career opportunities in the hydropower industry
  • Conduct educational events to raise awareness of hydropower in their communities.

By participating in the HCC, students gain industry experience, valuable exposure to hydropower career pathways, and greater knowledge of hydropower’s potential to contribute to a clean energy future.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) launched the HCC in 2022. 

 

Competition Structure

The HCC will consist of three required and concurrent challenges: a Siting Challenge, a Design Challenge, and a Community Connections Challenge. Teams may additionally compete in an optional Build and Test Challenge. Teams competing in all three challenges, and who complete all required stages, will be eligible for up to $15,000 each in cash awards; teams competing in the Build and Test Challenge will be eligible for an additional $5,000 cash prize each. All teams will be eligible to compete for a part of the $25,000 grand prize cash pool. Specific requirements for each stage of the competition are included in the following sections.

HCC teams compete in the following contests:

  • Siting Challenge: Evaluate potential sites to choose an NPD site that fits the challenge requirements.
  • Design Challenge: Complete a detailed design of a singular hydropower concept within their selected NPD site or an overall conceptual design of the full powerhouse.
  • Community Connections Challenge: Create connections among HCC teams, the hydropower industry, students, and local communities.
  • Optional Build and Test Challenge: Build a scaled prototype of their concept and perform a series of tests. 

General Competition Timeline

For a detailed competition timeline, please visit the Timeline tab. 

Spring: HCC organizers open the application period for the 2025 competition. Interested teams fill out an application to compete during the upcoming school year. 

Spring-Summer: HCC organizers select the teams who will participate in the upcoming school year and present their work at the HCC final event. 

Fall–Winter: Selected HCC schools assemble their teams and enter midyear submissions, including a team story, a list of hydropower industry interviewees, and a stakeholder engagement plan. 

Winter–Spring: HCC teams continue preparing their competition submissions, including challenge reports, presentations, and posters.

Spring: HCC teams present their work at the HCC final event, expected to be held in conjunction with the National Hydropower Association’s Waterpower Week or a similar industry event.  

Competition Goals

The HCC will bring together diverse, multidisciplinary groups of students to: 

  • Offer unique solutions to complex hydropower challenges.
  • Explore hydropower’s role in a future power grid supported by 100% renewable energy
  • Build the skills and industry connections that will help them prepare for careers in the hydropower sector and renewable energy industry.

By calling on students to address the challenge of how hydropower can play a critical role in enabling 100% clean energy, the HCC aligns with DOE’s intention to catalyze the timely, material, and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system. 


Guidelines

HCC participants will develop a case study on hydropower’s role in a future power grid, partner with with hydropower industry professionals, and raise awareness of hydropower in their communities.  

  • Up to 15 teams will be selected to participate in the 2025 HCC. 
  • Teams may consist of a combination of post-secondary, undergraduate, and graduate students, but teams must be at least 50% post-secondary and/or undergraduates.
  • Both U.S. and non-U.S. institutions are welcome to apply and participate.
  • Non-U.S. institutions are not eligible to receive cash prize funding. 
  • In a team with students from U.S. and non-U.S. institutions, the lead institution must be a U.S. academic institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for cash prize funding. 
  • Teams should strive to include a diverse range of academic disciplines, including but not limited to:
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Marketing
    • Communications
    • Environmental and Public Policy
    • Social Sciences
  • Teams should also strive to include in their teams individuals from groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Review the 2025 HCC Rules to learn more about the competition. 

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


Are you interested in the 2025 Hydropower Collegiate Competition, but not ready to lead a team?

While we encourage any interested school to apply for the 2025 Hydropower Collegiate Competition, we understand that not all schools may feel prepared to fulfill all of the competition requirements. In such cases, HCC organizers can assist you in partnering with a selected team that will act as the lead institution in the competition.  Fill out the following expression of interest form: https://forms.office.com/g/LKuiYYU8U8.  The details of the partnership will be determined by your school and the lead institution. 

Please note that expressing interest does not guarantee a formal partnership.

HCC Organizers will begin the process of initiating partnerships once teams have been selected in May 2024.

Timeline
Forum1
Teams10
Entries
Resources
FAQ