American-Made Challenges


Ocean Observing Prize

Integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, to revolutionize data collection needed to understand and map the ocean.

SPLASH-C Contest Rules Released
Up to $2.4 Million in Total Prizes


Challenge Overview

Ocean Observing Prize

The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize challenged innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our ability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean.

A joint endeavor of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Ocean Observing Prize included a series of competitions, with millions of dollars in awards, to encourage rapid innovation in the fields of marine energy and ocean observations.

The prize began in 2019 with the DISCOVER Competition and is followed by the DEVELOP Competition.  


Team Maiden Wave Energy LLC’s Rover tests their early-stage prototype at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s facility in Carderock, Maryland. Credit: NREL



The Ocean Observing Prize consisted of two competitions designed to accelerate innovation in integrating marine energy with ocean observation.

The first competition, the DISCOVER Competition, which is now closed, solicited novel concepts that integrated ocean observing technologies with marine energy systems.

The second competition, the DEVELOP Competition, focused exclusively on the theme of hurricane monitoring. The challenge theme may vary in future iterations of the prize.



The purpose of this prize is to:

  • Enable collection of valuable new data. Proposed innovations should increase the coverage, resolution, and/or types of ocean and atmospheric variables that can be observed, collected, processed, and transmitted, leading to improved understanding, monitoring, and management of the ocean.
  • Generate sufficient power from co-located marine resources. Submissions must be able to generate enough power to meet the energy needs of the ocean observing community and prove the viability of marine energy to power ocean observing activities.
  • Accelerate commercialization of marine energy systems. Traditionally, marine energy devices developed for the electrical grid can take many years to design, build, and test. The prize aims to accelerate marine energy commercialization by working at smaller scales and zeroing in on the specific energy needs of ocean observing systems.
  • Forge a diverse community of innovators. This prize will welcome new innovators into the marine energy and ocean observing space. It will also help form new partnerships and collaborations among industry, academia, and government to create innovative ocean observing technologies powered by marine energy.


The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are supporting DOE and NOAA on the development and administration of the prize.


Challenge Guidelines

Who can participate?

Please review the official Rules Document for the application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to subscribe to updates on the prize or have any questions, you may use the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly.

If you’re not interested in competing but want to help with the Prize in other ways, please feel free to contact us.



Challenge Updates

Updated BUILD Contest Rules Document

July 16, 2021, 8:33 a.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the Ocean Observing Prize Official BUILD Rules Document has been updated to provide more clarity around the DPPMs, extend the deadline to request a second DPPM, and remove the field-of-view constraints for the DPPM.  Additionally, we've updated the DPPM Consultations resource to also reflect these slight modifications to the rules and include questions from the second round of DPPM Consultations.

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Rules Update, DPPM Clarifications, and more...

June 10, 2021, 3:07 p.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the official Ocean Observing Prize Official BUILD Rules Document has been updated to remove the downward-facing constraint of the DPPM in Appendix E and provide more clarity.  The CAD drawings have been slightly modified to account for these revisions. 

We've uploaded a new version of the Q&A Responses from the May 10, 2021 webinar. This document now holds all questions asked live during the webinar as well as a few submitted by email afterwards.

Additionally, we've added a resource which answers questions that arose from the DPPM Consultations.

Lastly, please remember to check the FAQ for responses to commonly asked questions.

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Updated BUILD Contest Rules Document

May 21, 2021, 2:02 p.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the official Ocean Observing Prize Rules Document has been modified to update the DPPM mounting points and measurements so that they now match the CAD file. Please review these changes, now available in the updated  BUILD rules document

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

DESIGN Contest Winner Announcement

March 24, 2021, 7:19 p.m. PDT by Libby Arnold

Hello innovators,

The Ocean Observing Prize team is hard at work reviewing your applications for the DESIGN Contest, and we are looking forward to announcing the winners in mid-April. Until then, stay up-to-date with our major announcements on the Water Power Technologies Office's Water Wire newsletter and the American-Made Challenges Twitter.

As always reach out with any questions, and we can’t wait to celebrate your accomplishments as we move into the BUILD Contest. Stay tuned!

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Water Power Technologies Office Stakeholder Webinar

Feb. 23, 2021, 9 a.m. PST by Jenny Wiegele

Hi Innovators, 

Join the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office on March 1, from 3:30–5:00 p.m. ET, for the semiannual stakeholder webinar, where staff will discuss some of the most pressing changes affecting water power R&D in 2021. Led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power and WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno, the webinar will feature program managers and technical leads from across WPTO. Program representatives will provide an update on the administration transition and FY21 budget, highlight recent announcements and publications, share project updates including prize milestones and awards, and discuss upcoming priorities. The presentation will close with Q&A.

This webinar is one of WPTO’s many efforts to improve transparency and engagement with stakeholders in the hydropower and marine energy industries. Register for the webinar and email questions ahead of time .

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team


Frequently Asked Questions

  • The competition is open only to winning teams of the Ocean Observing Prize DESIGN Contest as named by DOE. Competitors progressing into the BUILD Contest are limited to one system design based on their submission in the DESIGN Contest.
  • DOE national laboratory employees cannot participate in any stage of the prize. If you are interested in getting involved with the competition in a different capacity, we invite you to drop us a line!
  • For a full list of eligibility rules, please see the official rules document.

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Accept Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

No, if you are a contest winner you are receiving the prize for meeting or exceeding the contest goals.

Yes! We encourage you to promote your concept via social media channels, media outlets, and to any potential partners.

  • Competitors retain the intellectual property for their submission, and the Ocean Observing Prize team encourages innovators to create businesses around their technologies.
  • The rules document details which parts of your submission will be made public, but as all materials submitted become DOE records, they are potentially subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
  • While DOE will make a reasonable effort to protect these materials from public disclosure, competitors who would like to ensure any elements of their submission will be withheld in the event of a FOIA request must mark their materials according to the instructions in Appendix A.

The Prize Administrator screens all completed submissions and, in consultation with DOE and NOAA, assigns subject matter expert reviewers to independently score the content of each submission. The reviewers will be composed of Federal and non-Federal subject matter experts with expertise in areas relevant to the competition. The Director of the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office is the final judge of the competition and will make final award determinations. Subject matter expert reviewers’ scores and the interview findings (if applicable) will be taken into account by the final judge for award determinations.

Please direct all your competition related questions to

The Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize is led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office in close coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

There shall be no batteries or other energy storage devices except those specified in the competition rules apart from small primary batteries integrated into clocks/global positioning system (GPS)/memory assemblies. If there are any questions on whether a given battery is allowable, please email the prize administration team at

No. Designs that require direct contact with the bottom of the tank or the seafloor are not within the scope of this prize.  

To qualify for the prize, designs must be capable of harvesting energy from the surrounding wave field. 

The beam length is the measurement of the widest part of the system orthogonal to the axis aligned with the direction of travel in the horizontal (surface) plane. The height axis is mutually orthogonal to these axes, but is not defined as a beam length.  

DOE cannot provide specific recommendations or endorse any specific product, however the Ocean Observing Prize Team is developing examples of acceptable wiring configurations for kill switches and those will be provided as a resource to all teams. 

  • Competitors/spectators are only allowed on campus between 0800 and 1800 local time.
  • No photography or video recording by any competitors or visitors will be allowed, and only approved personal electronic devices will be allowed on site. (see Appendix F: Carderock Access Forms, Electronic Devices Permissions).
  • Neither internet access nor any other wireless network access will be provided by Carderock. All portable electronic devices (e.g. computers, tablets, hotspots) that will enter the test site must be approved ahead of time (see Appendix F: Carderock Access Forms, Electronic Devices Permissions)
  • Competitors/spectators will only be allowed to visit specific parts of the facility directly related to the testing for the BUILD Contest. Tours of other parts of the campus may be set up for interested parties.
  • To access the base, all team members must complete the necessary forms listed in Appendix F (Personnel Access Form, Foreign National Access Form, and Electronic Devices Permissions Form) at least one month prior to the BUILD Contest.
  • With proper authorization, foreign nationals are permitted to access the base and use the facility; though it does require more time to process base access applications for foreign nationals. Please see Appendix F to access the Foreign National Visit Request Form and submit this form as soon as possible.
  • Teams may change on-site team members throughout the four days of testing, but due to facility occupancy restrictions, only three team members will be allowed on site at the same time.
  • There are no hotels within walking distance of the test site.
  • Three areas near the test site to consider for lodging are Tyson’s Corner, Chevy Chase, and Georgetown. Please note that traffic in the Washington, D.C., area can significantly increase transit times during peak rush hour (7:30-9 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. local time).
  • Though there is a public transit route from the Bethesda Metro station to the test facility, given the strict hours of the test facility and the likelihood for a need to transport bulky items, competitors are encouraged to rent a vehicle for convenient transit between hotels and the test facility. Parking is available, and visitors may generally park in any unmarked spaces as well as spaces marked as visitor parking. There are a limited number of spaces reserved for handicap parking. Do not park in any numbered or otherwise marked reserved spaces.

A small punt (flat bottom boat) will be used to position articles under test in the basin prior to the onset of in-water portions of the test. During in-water testing:


  • Competitors will NOT be able to dive in the tank, even if they have a dive certification.
  • Competitors will NOT be allowed on boats in the tank.
  • Competitors will NOT be able to handle the systems once they are in the water.
  • Only facility personnel will be able to dive in the tank or handle the systems once they are in the water.
  • No further physical intervention will be possible while testing unless a pause or stop work is called, at the expense of allotted testing time.
  • Personal flotation devices (PFDs) must be worn at all times when operating outside of safety rails in the test basins. United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices are supplied by NSWCCD facilities personnel.

Competitors must bring their own steel toe boots or shoes and respirators. The facility will provide hard hats, personal floatation devices, and nitrile gloves. If competitors would rather use utility gloves, they must bring their own.

For COVID-19 related PPE policies, please email for the latest guidance.

Teams are responsible for the transport of their marine energy device and all necessary tools and equipment, as well as any damage to or loss of such items.

Competitors should note: precise navigation (e.g., moving to specific waypoints) within the test basin is not a requirement of the competition

The prize admin acknowledges that operating in the MASK basin introduces non-realistic navigation challenges that do not exist in the open ocean. Teams will be judged on the basic maneuverability detailed in the Appendix of the Official Rules Document, not on navigational accuracy. These tests are intended to show required degrees of freedom and control for maneuvering (e.g., vehicle is capable of diving/submerging, moving in a straight line at depth, turning 90 degrees at depth, surfacing). The prize admin encourages teams to keep the navigation element in mind for the open water test, where the artificial constraints presented by the tank test will no longer be an issue – a design for the real world is encouraged. 

Due to the overhead structure of the wave basin, satellite telemetry is difficult if not impossible. Technologies successfully used in the tank: 

  • Bottom tracking for velocity (through DVL or ADCPs with bottom tracking capability)
  • Acoustic distance sensors
  • Mission preplanning with knowledge of distance to travel and use of vessel characterization with respect to RPM/speed to distance travelled

The tank is an acoustic house of mirrors where care must be given to any acoustic pinging, there is a lot of reverberation.  There are no markings on the MASK floor or sides that will give any navigation assistance.  Majority of testing involves driving the model remotely with an operator in an elevated room overlooking the basin, this will not help in an autonomous mission.

  • Remote control is allowed to position the vehicle in the tank during initial deployment, reset between tests, and final recovery. The maneuvering test must be completed by the vehicle autonomously, without operator intervention.
  • Demonstrating vehicle maneuvering with remote control does NOT satisfy the maneuvering requirements. 


We’ll do our best to work with competitors to ensure everyone gets time in the tank. If a team’s system gets damaged in transit you must let the Prize Administration team know as soon as possible and we’ll do our best to adjust the schedule to allow for repairs, though this is not guaranteed.

Yes, a staff member of the facility will manually connect the two bodies if they are unable to dock after the allotted time.

The intent of providing teams with the option to tether is to provide a safeguard against damage the device might sustain by drifting and colliding with the wall of the tank. The elastic tether designed, provided, and attached by Carderock will tether the device to the model towing carriage of the MASK basin (see Appendix B in the Build Contest Official Rules Document). The carriage, operated by Carderock staff, will follow your device as it drifts, leaving the tether slack. As the device nears to the edges of the tank, the tether may be used to reposition the device to prevent collision with the basin.  Energy harvesting performance will not be counted for the durations when the tether is under tension and the device is being repositioned. Remember, tethering is optional. If a team chooses to tether their system, it is mandatory to use the tethering system provided by Carderock. Teams should focus on designing the best system possible for the open ocean mission.

Yes, a PDF is available in the resources. Note, the first two underwater photos appear to be black boxes, but these are actual underwater photos. It is dark in the facility.

It is very clear.  The only recorded measurement was done for optical/laser use with a beam attenuation C Coefficient of 0.4 per m.

When completing your safety plan, your team should fill in the Test Team Safety Procedures section and Personnel Mitigation section. We ask that you leave all other sections in the document.