2018 ‘Project Innovation' Grant Challenge Winners Announced

The winning organizations were selected by the stations for their outstanding programs that leverage technology to solve everyday problems in the areas of civic engagement, skills for the digital economy and STEM/STEAM youth programming.

Five Chicago-area non-profit organizations will receive a total of $225,000 in grants as part of the first annual Project Innovation grant challenge, NBC 5, Telemundo Chicago and the NBCUniversal Foundation announced.

The winning organizations were selected by the stations for their outstanding programs that leverage technology to solve everyday problems in the areas of civic engagement, skills for the digital economy and STEM/STEAM youth programming. 

“We’re proud to help five deserving organizations continue their benevolent work in the community by awarding much needed grant assistance to their individual missions,” said David Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago. 

Project Innovation is presented by the NBCUniversal Foundation and NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, a division of NBCUniversal.

NBC and Telemundo owned stations in 11 cities, including Chicago, launched the new grant challenge in January to identify local organizations that embrace technology and innovation to develop real-life solutions for their communities.

The stations located in each of the participating regions created community panels to review the grant applications and select final grant recipients. This year, more than $2.4 million will be awarded to not-for-profit organizations all across the country that are doing their part to transform their communities by providing solutions to real-life problems through tech-based approaches.

Local Project Innovation 2018 grant recipients include: 

CODE PLATOON – $50,000

Based in Chicago, Code Platoon provides software development training to help local veterans find meaningful careers as professional software developers. While some veterans do have four year degrees, the only requirements of enrollment are a deep desire to become a professional software developer, a positive work ethic, and a tremendous amount of tenacity. Each veteran receives a scholarship that covers about 80% of their tuition, making this career path affordable and attainable. Code Platoon also offers extra scholarships to women veterans who join the boot camp as they are historically underrepresented in technology based careers. Instruction is a carefully curated mix of lectures, advanced coding training, and team projects, frequently culminating in a local paid internship. Code Platoon currently focuses recruitment efforts on post-9/11 veterans. Our program teaches our nation's heroes the advanced skills necessary to find full-time employment as a software developer. Our veterans benefit from our focus on workforce training and promoting technology focused skills opportunities in the field of software development.

LUMITY – $20,000

Lumity will use the $20,000 to expand STEM programs for 400 incoming freshman at three underserved Chicago high school next year. Lumity’s model consists of in-school and out-of-school programs that include hands-on experiences that expose students to STEM careers, workplaces and industries. Our program focuses on problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, presentation and career readiness skills, all of which serves as the foundation for success in life, no matter what career path a student chooses. What makes Lumity’s program innovative is how they mimic the workplace in the classroom, giving students hands-on experiences solving real problems in small teams. Students visit a range of corporate settings and industries, get to work side-by-side with STEM professionals while problem solving, thinking critically, and learning teamwork, presentation and interpersonal skills over all four years of their high school experience.


This program will add a new technology and digital media journalism component to an existing program, the Citywide Youth Councils. Mikva City-Wide Youth Councils advise city leaders on public policy issues affecting youth. Each year, Mikva hires approximately 160 youth from 45 high schools across the city to focus on the issues of juvenile justice reform, education, health, safety, employment, college access, affordable housing and after-school programming. Each council has 15-20 diverse youth members and undertakes a rigorous process to provide public officials with youth expertise and policy ideas. These councils meet regularly with officials such as the Mayor, the Superintendent of Police, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, and other officials to advocate change. Students work like researchers taking a deep dive into a public policy problem, conducting research among other young people (their peers), developing recommendations and actions to present to decision makers, and then partnering with officials to implement a few of the best policy ideas. This program is effective because it bridges the crossroads of youth education, policy-making and advocacy in a practical way.


Core to Youth-Science Pathway programs are opportunities for youth to work alongside real scientists and engineers, who serve as role models, inspire youth, and communicate the need for more diversity in the STEM professions. Project Exploration has developed best practices, toolkits, and resources to train STEM professionals in outreach with youth. These programs respond to the need of providing high quality STEM education. All of PE’s Youth-Science Pathways programs have been designed to maximize learning. There are no fees or academic prerequisites, and PE strives to recruit students who are inquisitive and ambitious, but are not necessarily “straight-A” students. Experiences in these programs build students’ self-confidence, increase their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, and give them the tools to become thoughtful, inquisitive, and successful adults.


True Star is requesting funding to expand its organization and acquire the technology assets to build a digital creative studio that will be home to its digital content and digital marketing on-the-job training programs that teach young people how to curate, create, and distribute digital content. True Star’s advanced youth will be part of a production team that will create digital content for small businesses and other non-profits in Chicago and beyond. True Star’s goal is to teach young people the skills to compete in the digital age, build the students portfolio and resume' while providing small businesses a digital marketing service that will grow their business and customer base. True Star ultimate goal is to be the “Buzz Feed” for Chicago youth, with all content curated, created, and distributed as well as strategies implemented and backend development be supported by youth, taught by instructors who have the unique expertise. True Star students will get hands on experience and learn on industry standard equipment. The skills learned in True Star can be monetized immediately and the job training programs will offer a pipeline to the senior production team who will create digital content for small business and other non-profits who are desperate for digital marketing assets to grow and sustain their businesses.

Winners were selected in the following three categories: Igniting Civic Engagement, Skills for the Digital Economy, STEM/STEAM Youth Programming.

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