About the challenge

The Rural Tech Project invited high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning.

By advancing technology skills development, rural communities can help their students prepare for rewarding career opportunities. This open innovation challenge empowered educators with resources to create technology education programs that are customized for their students and local needs.

The finalist teams

The U.S. Department of Education announced five finalist teams on December 17, 2020. In fall 2021, all five teams launched their programs. Over the following two school years, teams iterated and grew their programs to best meet the needs of their communities.

At the close of Phase 2, each team compiled resources and lessons learned into a builder — a comprehensive guide covering program design, community engagement, evaluation, sustainability, and more. Visit the team pages to read and download the builders.

iLEAD Academy

Carrollton, Kentucky

The Virtual Computer Science Career Academy offers students across five high schools the opportunity to take virtual, dual-credit courses leading to the completion of computer science degrees.

Louisa County Public Schools

Mineral, Virginia

The Louisa County Cybersecurity Program prepares students to meet a critical need in the workforce through sequential, high-quality course work, work-based learning, and leading industry certifications.

Premont Independent School District

Premont, Texas; in collaboration with the Rural Schools Innovation Zone

The Leaders in Future Technology (LIFT) Startup Incubator Program helps students learn about technology and use it to solve real-world problems in their community.

Ravenna Public Schools

Ravenna, Michigan

The Grow MainStreet project empowers students to develop competencies and build portfolio experiences in technology, science, and business — with the goal of stimulating economic growth within the Ravenna agricultural community.

Woodlake High School

Woodlake, California

The Woodlake Aviation Pathway prepares students for regional aviation careers or postsecondary degrees, utilizing drone operations, geometry, and aerodynamic principles.


The challenge was conducted in two phases. During Phase 1, all eligible organizations were invited to submit program proposals for competency-based technology education using distance learning. Judges recommended five finalist teams to progress to Phase 2, a two-year community implementation period. At the close of Phase 2, a judging panel recommended Woodlake High School to win the grand prize.

Phase 1: Open submissions

June 30 - October 8, 2020

Finalist teams announced

December 17, 2020

Phase 2: Community implementation

January 2021 - August 2023

Finalist showcase

July 12, 2023

Winner announced

September 12, 2023


Total prize pool


Five finalist teams received an equal share of the $500,000 Phase 1 cash prize purse and progressed to Phase 2. During Phase 2, teams received personalized support to plan, run, refine, and report on their programs. One grand-prize winner was awarded an additional $100,000 cash prize.

See lessons learned and resources from the Rural Tech Project teams.

See lessons learned and resources from the Rural Tech Project teams.