Skip to content

2018–2019 Rules and Requirements

Look for updated rules and requirements when registration opens for the 2019–2020 competition in late August.


For a team of students to participate in the National Geographic GeoChallenge, a teacher, paid school employee, or representative of an informal education organization (e.g., museum, after-school program, Scouting group) must register as the GeoChallenge Coordinator.

There can be only one GeoChallenge Coordinator for a school/organization but a school/organization can have multiple teams. GeoChallenge Coordinators should register their school/organization and team(s) at


There is no fee for participating in the 2018-19 GeoChallenge.


Student Teams

A minimum of four and a maximum of six students are required for each team. All student members must be in grades five through eight.

Students from different schools/organizations can participate on a team together, but all team members must live and go to school in the same state. Students can participate on only one team and a team can submit only one project. Children of employees of the National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners are not eligible to participate in the GeoChallenge.

GeoChallenge Coordinator

This person is responsible for registering the team(s), delegating a Coach(es) or serving as the Coach, monitoring the progress of the project(s), and ensuring the National Geographic Explorer's Code and rules are followed. The GeoChallenge Coordinator must be a teacher, paid school staff member, or representative of a homeschool or informal education organization. The Coordinator also abides by the Explorer's Code. Upon registration, the GeoChallenge Coordinator will receive a unique identifier code. This code will be used by the school/organization’s Coach(es) to submit the project(s).

GeoChallenge Coach

The GeoChallenge Coach is either the GeoChallenge Coordinator or is delegated by the Coordinator. The Coach must be an adult. (S)he may be a parent volunteer or community member. This person is responsible for recruiting the team, providing a time and place for the team to work together on a regular basis, making sure students work safely, and submitting materials to the National Geographic Society for appraisal if the team is applying to participate in a regional competition. The Coach introduces the National Geographic Explorer's Code and rules to the students and assures that they are followed. The Coach also abides by the Explorer's Code.

Parents and Volunteers

Parents and volunteers may assist the Coach with recruitment, transportation, and providing space for team meetings. Parents and volunteers must also abide by the Explorer's Code.


Grade Level

All students on a GeoChallenge team must be in grades five through eight. Teams can include students of different grade levels within those specified grade levels.

School Eligibility

Any U.S. public school, private school, homeschool, or informal education organization with students in grades five through eight may participate in the GeoChallenge.

Only one project may be submitted per team, but a school/organization may have multiple teams.

Teams from schools in one of the U.S. Territories or Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools abroad can participate and submit projects for appraisal. These teams will be appraised virtually at the regional level.

Adult Involvement

Adult involvement in the GeoChallenge must be minimal. GeoChallenge Coordinators, GeoChallenge Coaches, and adult volunteers cannot actively participate in the research, design, testing, or building of any parts of the project. Adult roles include organizing the team, providing meeting places, ensuring safety, and giving encouragement. Adults may instruct students on how to use tools—including mechanical tools, hardware, or software—needed to create the project, but they may not actively work on the project, contribute ideas, or provide solutions at the risk of disqualifying a team. Adults make sure rules are followed and remind students of the Explorer's Code, requirements, and deadlines.

Coach and Coordinator Eligibility

Individuals who have received funding or support from the National Geographic Society (e.g., fellows, grantees, explorers) or are employees of the National Geographic Society or National Geographic Partners may not participate in the GeoChallenge as a Coach or Coordinator.


For the solution and map, students are encouraged to use available school materials or materials from home. Using repurposed or recycled materials is encouraged. GeoChallenge materials and videos should be created in a way that does not require expensive purchases. Spending large amounts of money on a GeoChallenge project will not increase a team’s odds of advancing in the competition.

Appraisal of the projects will focus on design, innovation, and creativity, not on the value of the materials or equipment used to create the project. Basic video equipment, including mobile devices, may be used for the video submission. Appraisal of the videos will focus on creativity and not on the image quality or sophistication of recording or editing equipment used.


All complete projects submitted by the deadline will be appraised by the National Geographic Society. Based on scores from those appraisals, some teams will be invited to participate in a regional competition.

All materials must be submitted digitally via the project submission website by January 15, 2019, 11:59 PM EST to be considered for an invitation to participate in an in-person regional competition.

The GeoChallenge Coach must submit all of the following to the National Geographic Society for a project to be considered complete:

  1. GeoChallenge project video. Name the video film using the following system: Team Name.GeoChallenge Coach Name.State Abbreviation. Example for Coach Rollins' team: TeamViper.Rollins.TX

  2. Four photos from various angles of and distances to the project (for example, the solution or anything built/created for the project)

  3. One photo of the map

  4. Explorer's Code signed by the GeoChallenge Coordinator, the GeoChallenge Coach, and all team members

  5. GeoChallenge Project Brief

  6. GeoChallenge sources list

It is strongly encouraged that teams use only team-created original images, video, and music or materials that are in the public domain in producing their GeoChallenge video and project materials. For clarity, copyrighted materials (with a © or the word copyright) cannot be included without permission from the copyright owner. All sources must be cited.

Quotations from materials printed in newspapers, magazines, or books are permissible if an accurate citation is included.

Teams may continue to work on their project after submitting it for consideration to compete in a regional competition.

Teams that excel at the regional level will be invited to compete at the GeoChallenge national finals in Washington, D.C.


Regional Competition Participation

Teams that submit complete GeoChallenge projects by January 15, 2019, at 11:59 PM EST may apply to participate in a regional competition. Invitations will be issued by the National Geographic Society about a month before the regional competitions. GeoChallenge regional competitions will take place on March 29, 2019.

Team Attendance

A majority of the team members as listed at the time of submission must be present at the regional competition. If the team has six members, at least four students must be present. If the team has five members, at least three students must be present. If the team has four members, at least three must be present.

Coordinator or Coach Attendance

Either the GeoChallenge Coordinator or the GeoChallenge Coach must accompany the team to the regional and  national competitions.


Prizes will be awarded to teams that excel at the regional- and national-level events.

Individual students on teams that win the top prize at the national level of competition are not eligible to compete at the regional or national level in future years.


Please visit our FAQ page for an up-to-date list of questions and helpful answers.


Please contact us at with all other GeoChallenge inquiries.


THIS CONTEST IS VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. GeoChallenge teams, Coaches, and Coordinators agree that the GeoChallenge shall be subject to and governed by the laws of the District of Columbia and the forum for any dispute shall be in the District of Columbia, United States of America. To the extent permitted by law, the right to litigate, to seek injunctive relief, or to make any other recourse to judicial or any other procedure in case of disputes or claims resulting from or in connection with this GeoChallenge are hereby excluded and any entrant expressly waives any and all such rights. Certain restrictions may apply.

Participants also agree (a) to be bound by these Official Rules and (b) that the decisions of the National Geographic Society are final and binding with respect to all matters relating to the GeoChallenge.

All federal, state/provincial/territorial, and local taxes, fees, and surcharges and taxes (whether foreign or domestic, and including income, sales, and import taxes) on prizes are the sole responsibility of the prize winner. Winner will be issued an IRS Form W-9 with the Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability Release, a Publicity Release (where lawful), and a subsequent IRS Form 1099. In the event that the selected winner of any prize is/are ineligible, cannot be traced, or does/do not respond within ten (10) days to a winner notification, or refuses the prize, the prize will be forfeited and Sponsor, in its sole discretion, may choose whether to award the prize to another team or team member.  

Right to Cancel or Suspend GeoChallenge

If for any reason the GeoChallenge is not capable of running as planned, due to tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the National Geographic Society that corrupt or

affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this GeoChallenge, the National Geographic Society reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual(s) who tamper with the entry process or teams that fail to follow the rules, and/or to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the GeoChallenge.