The Wright Collegiate Challenge



The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a hands-on, 12-week challenge for college students at all levels throughout Colorado. Student teams are connected to businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations across the outdoor space to tackle a range of pivotal issues in the industry. Over the course of the competition, students will be tasked with developing actionable solutions to challenges facing businesses and communities at the forefront of today’s rapidly-evolving outdoor recreation economy.

The 2021 Program Framework

The key to a successful experience is the selection of challenges to be taken on by student teams. Each year, The Wright partners with organizations representing a mix of business, nonprofit and civic groups to present a balanced and wide-ranging set of challenges reflecting real issues being addressed in real time by our Challenge Partners.

Challenges are identified within three tracks — People, Product, and Place — with four central impact areas affecting the outdoor recreation industry. These impact areas line up with the four pillars incorporated into the Confluence Accords, providing a framework through which students will be expected to address each challenge. These impact areas are:


  • Work with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to advocate for conservation and stewardship of land, air, water, and wildlife, and for public access to them.
  • Facilitate public-private partnerships to enhance public outdoor recreational access, infrastructure improvements and conservation efforts.
  • Educate and empower the public on the importance and interrelatedness of a healthy environment, outdoor recreation and a vibrant economy.


  • Engage with educators to support environmental and outdoor learning opportunities for early and life-long outdoor activity, career development, and advocacy for outdoor recreation.
  • Promote workforce training programs for technical training, skill mastery, and business opportunities across the spectrum of outdoor industry careers.
  • Promote interest, participation, and diversity in the outdoors for all, supporting opportunities for early and life-long outdoor learning.


  • Collaborate with all stakeholders to establish and improve sustainable outdoor recreation infrastructure and funding.
  • Engage federal, tribal, state, and local governments, as well as local and regional economic development organizations to attract, retain, and expand business and market the outdoor recreation economy.
  • Address barriers to businesses’ success in the outdoor recreation economy.


  • Address social determinants of health by increasing outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
  • Partner with health & wellness stakeholders to determine shared values and common goals, build relationships, and generate innovative partnerships to fulfill shared visions.
  • Assist in quantifying impacts of access to outdoor recreation and related social determinants on healthcare outcomes and costs.

2021 Challenge Partners


Eureka! McConnell Science Museum strives bring to hands-on math and science curriculum to the community of Mesa County. Eureka recently started outdoor adventure programming and has struggled to provide equitable outdoor programming to the Clifton community. The students’ challenge is to develop a permanent solution to address the lack of convenient and safe access from Clifton schools to the miles of trails in the Grand Junction/Clifton area.


Participants are tasked with developing a strategy to educate, inform, and persuade key stakeholders about the importance of the Dark Sky Initiative. The ideal goal is driving the community’s strategy of building a strong outdoor recreation economy to support economic development. Target audiences for buy-in include regional county commissioners and public land agencies.


Fishpond’s commitment to the health of habitats and species around the globe is foundational to our identity. One way we show our commitment to the future of the environment is through our B-Corporation Certification. With the countless hours of work that go into that certification, we are looking to leverage our B-Corp status as a marketing and communications tool. How can Fishpond educate consumers about the value of a B-Corp Certification and integrate it into the company’s brand identity?


There are over 500 climbing gyms in the U.S. However, many gyms are not trained in adaptive climbing best practices for individuals with physical disabilities. Via their Adaptive climbing Initiative, how can Paradox Sports increase climbing gym participation in the adaptive climbing training program in order to increase access for individuals with physical disabilities?


In looking to identify a new, more portable and sustainable solution for carrying Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel, the company is out to gain a better understanding of the key drivers for market acceptance. And, ultimately introduce a unique line of packaging which results in less waste and greater portability.


Our challenge is to establish a set of Product Impact Standards around our company’s sustainability efforts. Specifically, we are looking to establish a standard for calculating our company’s carbon footprint, measuring that footprint, and then devising a plan to make subsequent reductions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is welcome to participate?

Currently-enrolled students (undergraduate or graduate) from any participating institution are welcome to participate. Individual institutions may have additional qualifications – please check with your institution’s sponsors or reach out to Community Manager, Lindsay Hastings, at for additional details.

What are the judging criteria?

The format will be a pitch competition with one elimination round to determine an overall champion. Participants will be judged on the following criteria:


  • Have you clearly articulated your understanding of the challenge area?
  • Have you presented an innovative solution that could change “business as usual” in the outdoor industry?
  • Is your problem-solving approach well-reasoned and thorough?


  • Is there tangible evidence the solution is on track (even initially) to solve their problem?
  • Is your solution economically viable and sustainable? 
    • Did you consider all possible costs and budgetary constraints?
    • Can your challenge partner feasibly enact your solution?
    • Are the materials and/or technology available at this time?
  • How well have you vetted your concept with potential partners, users, and/or customers?


  • How might your solution provide opportunities for job creation and/or workforce development/training (this could encompass new business development)?
  • How might your solution build foundational relationships within the communities your challenge partner resides?


  • Does your solution provide a comprehensive sustainability plan that: 
    • Utilizes environmentally friendly materials and processes;
    • Protects valuable resources for future generations; and
    • Provides tenable options for giving back to the community and public spaces 
  • Is your solution environmentally viable? Did you consider all possible risks?


  • Is your solution accessible to individuals encompassing a diverse set of backgrounds, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses?
  • How well does your team bring to bear a variety of disciplines (e.g. engineering, business, policy) to arrive at a well-rounded solution?
  • Does your solution provide a social benefit that previously didn’t exist in this geographic region?


  • Did you thoroughly and respectfully engage with their challenge partner? Did they utilize all necessary resources that were made available to them?
  • Did you engage with the local community while coming up with your solution?
  • Did you engage with the customers/users of your challenge partners business in order to build a targeted solution?
    How do I get involved?

    There are two steps:

    • One, please contact Community Manager, Michael Clayton, at by 2/21/20.
    • Second, contact your campus coordinator for more details on the resources that your school has available to participants. These may include course credit, grant money, transportation, and more.
      Who are the participating institutions?
      • Western Colorado University
      • Colorado Mesa University
      • Colorado Mountain College
      • Colorado School of Mines (2019)
      How does my institution participate?

      If you are interested in competing in the 2021 competition as either a student, university, or challenge partner, please reach out to Community Manager, Lindsay Hastings, at for additional details.


      Launched in 2019, in collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office with support from Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, the Challenge sparked interest and participation from 74 students who had the opportunity to learn about unique challenges facing the outdoor industry in three areas — conservation, stewardship & sustainability; innovative materials & technologies; accessibility, health & wellness — engage with mentors with deep industry experience and ultimately pitch their ideas to a diverse panel of judges.

      In 2020, we introduced a new virtual format, centrally organized and managed via the online Zoom platform, and in partnership with the Western Colorado University Outdoor Industry MBA program. Student participants and challenge presenters engaged virtually throughout their projects, with Michael Clayton, a second-year student in the Outdoor MBA program, serving as online challenge Community Manager. The Community Manager’s role is to streamline communications, coordinate online forums and help participants track down information and resources, as necessary.

      In 2021, we continued our virtual Zoom-based format and are proud to include multiple partner institutions (Western Colorado University, Colorado Mesa University, and Colorado Mountain College) for the first time, incorporating a mix of students at multiple levels. Lindsey Hastings, a student in the Western Colorado Outdoor MBA program, is serving as Community Manager.

      Past Challenge Partners


      Smartwool receives a number of warranty items back from our great consumers each year via mail. In addition, we sometimes have excess inventory that isn’t suitable for the marketplace. Currently, we don’t have a sustainable solution to dispose of unwearable/unsaleable items. We are looking for both upcycling and recycling solutions that better the planet and our communities, and, if possible, Smartwool’s revenue stream. We are open to any ideas that fit within our purpose and values and help the planet. Think about a few options: 1) Upcycling and turning the product into a new/different product 2) Recycling and repairing and reselling 3) Donating


      1) In looking to real-time ways to mitigate and reduce Salida’s carbon footprint, transportation is a readily identifiable area to address. What initiatives might the community consider, and why, in its efforts to become carbon-neutral by 2030? 2) How can the community of Salida best encourage and incentivize property owners to convert commercial and residential properties to renewable energy sources? How do you do this affordably and efficiently? Develop a public utilities & building plan to help the city reach its goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2030.


      Despite its high volume of public lands and natural surface trails, a large percentage of Mesa County residents do not engage in outdoor recreation. Pathways to Nature, a report funded by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and produced by Colorado Mesa University, cites time, cost, transportation, perception of safety, and quality of facilities as barriers. 

      The challenge is to take the recommendations of the Pathways to Nature report and create an actionable plan for increasing outdoor recreation participation in a specific area of Mesa County that experiences significant social determinants of health challenges. Income, social connectedness, neighborhood, and built environment, health outcomes, and academic achievement are among the social determinants of health that should be considered when drafting an action plan. 


      Create, for scale, a new comprehensive, sustainable, direct-to-consumer business market strategy/plan for the artisan, small-batch fly rod manufacturer. SaraBaraBella has had a strong direct-to-consumer plan for the past five years; at this juncture, we’re looking for unique ways to expand our reach so we can get our products in the hands or more/new anglers around the world. Yes, we like to stir things up, do things differently than our competitors, and make an impact along the way. 


      Develop/source more sustainable packets for First Ascent’s single-serve coffee without compromising durability.