Learn More and Join Us!

The Wright Collegiate Challenge

A non-traditional collegiate challenge designed to encourage innovative thinking across core themes in the outdoor industry.


The Wright Collegiate Challenge is a second-year initiative encouraging innovative thinking across core themes critical to the outdoor industry. Bringing together creative problem-solvers from a variety of backgrounds to address persistent challenges facing diverse stakeholders in the outdoor recreation community, The Wright Challenge, aims to spark out-of-the-box ideas and entrepreneurial thinking amongst students, encouraging them to apply a problem-solving mindset beyond traditional disciplines. This challenge initiative is for students interested in the real work of the outdoor industry, who are ready to explore practical, innovative solutions to real issues with an entrepreneurs’ eyes.


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.

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

The 2020 Challenge

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

Challenge Details

If you’ve made it this far, chances are you are previously familiar with The Wright Collegiate Challenge and/or connected via a faculty or administrator from your school. As mentioned previously, this is the year-two of the initiative and year-one of running it virtually. Should you opt-in, and we hope you do, you will play a role in building the foundation for a unique initiative that is staged to grow and aims to establish meaningful connections between students of all types, Colorado higher-education institutions and the outdoor recreation industry, creating in-roads for future collaboration and career opportunities.

2020 Challenge Presenters

Students will have the opportunity to participate in one of five total challenges being presented in the areas of:


The outdoor industry is taking a lead role in discussions on transitioning economies, sustainable community development and environmental stewardship by driving a more robust discussion around systemic sustainability challenges and holistic product design.


Manufacturers and gear producers are constantly searching for new technologies, materials, and manufacturing techniques that can increase performance, decrease cost, and unlock new possibilities for outdoor recreation.


Address social determinants of health by increasing outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all backgrounds and abilities. And/or assist in quantifying impacts of access to outdoor recreation and related social determinants on healthcare outcomes and costs.








Submit intent to respond by February 21st

Attend Zoom Conferences (only one team member)

Submit final response report and 90-120 second video by April 6

Point of Contact: Michael Clayton @

Previous Pitches

Boa Technology

Presented by Clay Corbett

BOA produces lace alternatives that make use of a dial, which are incorporated into a wide variety of outdoor footwear. Their challenges are 1) develop ways to improve the recycling of their products at end-of-life and 2) help maximize the usage of recycled and renewable sourced materials in their products.

Cipher Skin

Presented by Mike Snavely

Cipher Skin is developing a new kind of human performance measurement system based on flexible sensors incorporated directly into garments. Their challenge is to figure out ways to miniaturize sensors, and make them durable enough to survive inside a garment, and collect data from them on an ongoing basis.

Colorado Mountain Club

Presented by Brittney Smith

The Colorado Mountain Club has been working to protect the environment and educate outdoor adventurers for over a century. Their challenge is to figure out strategies to get more people from different backgrounds outside while both protecting the environment and enhancing the outdoor user experience.

Eldorado Climbing Walls

Presented by Kevin Volz

Eldorado Climbing Walls designs and builds climbing walls around the world. Their challenge is to help develop a low-cost, modular, sustainable, tamper-resistant climbing wall that can be deployed in a self-service manner in urban areas to expand access to climbing.

First Descents

Presented by Ryan O’Donoghue

First Descents provides life-changing, outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer, improving long-term survivorship through outdoor experiential programming. Their challenge is to devise tools and strategies for better gathering data and reporting outcomes around social determinants of health, in order to better make the case that doctors and insurers should prescribe and reimburse for adventure as a first-class citizen in a patient’s treatment program.


Presented by Justine Barone

Gearo is on a mission to simplify the rental gear discovery and booking process, equipping retailers with the management tools they need to grow and thrive, while providing gear-seekers with a convenient, consolidated view of bookable online rentals. Their challenge is around the launch strategy for their marketplace, and how best to get the word out to partners and customers as they move towards a public launch.

Icelantic Skis

Presented by Travis Cook

Icelantic is the largest domestically manufactured ski company in the U.S. whose world headquarters is in Golden, CO. Their challenge is to help develop a durable, high performance, light weight, 100% recyclable (& resin free) ski.

The Human Centered Design Studio creates technology to help people with disabilities live active lives and get outdoors. Their challenges are 1) design an off road wheelchair for hiking and 2) design a system that would allow the visually impaired to hike in the backcountry.

Recoup Fitness

Presented by Matt Hyder

Recoup Fitness designs innovative muscle recovery products for professional and recreational athletes. They are looking for help developing a foam roller that can be used for both hot and cold therapies.


Presented by Andrew Maxey

Vartega improves access to carbon fiber materials by developing technologies to recycle carbon fiber and resins. Their challenge is to find an innovative way to use upcycled plastics with chopped carbon fiber in an outdoor product.

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 for additional details.

What are the judging criteria?

The format will be a tournament-style pitch competition with two elimination rounds – one to determine finalists within each area of focus, and a second to determine an overall champion. Participants will be judged on the following criteria:


  • How clearly have you articulated your understanding of the problem space?
  • Have you put together a unique, realistic, actionable solution to present?


  • Has the target beneficiary actually tried your solution?
  • Is there tangible evidence the solution is on track (even initially) to solve their problem?
  • Is your problem-solving approach well-reasoned and thorough?
  • How well have you vetted your concept with potential partners and/or customers? Is it marketable?
  • How well does your team bring to bear a variety of disciplines (e.g. engineering, business, policy) to arrive at a well-rounded solution?


Many outdoor companies are based in communities close to where they can test product, outside of major urban areas. These communities are frequently looking for ways to increase their economic bases, provide training and education to improve the talent pool in their local workforces, and expand from seasonal to year-round economies.

  • Does your solution provide job creation and/or workforce development/training (this could encompass new business development)?


One of the industry’s greatest challenges is in ensuring that the recreational and economic opportunities it fosters are accessible to individuals encompassing a diverse set of backgrounds, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses.

  • Does your solution address these concerns?
How do I get involved?

There are two steps:

  • One, plan to attend one of our kickoff sessions in January. Though the sessions will be recorded for those who can’t make it in person, the sessions are great opportunity to get briefed on the challenge areas, meet potential teammates, and connect with mentors. These sessions are open to students from any institution.
  • 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?

Additional participating schools will be confirmed shortly.

How does my institution participate?

Reach out to for additional details.