Congratulations to our Innovation Award winners!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Actually, we have eight. We’re thrilled to share a little more about the worthy teams that have landed in our Top 8 for our first-ever Think It Up Innovation Awards! We searched the country for outside-the-box classroom projects and found these incredible and innovative programs:

· King-Robinson IB Magnet School (New Haven, CT): What happens when five 8th graders try to make school more interesting? With a little field research and a lot of heart, an incredible pilot program that leverages Chromebook technology in the classroom to make kids passionate about learning again! Way to go, guys!

· Polaris Charter Academy (Chicago, IL): These 8th graders worked together to change stereotypes about their community. Here’s how: they created documentaries featuring volunteers and workers from West Humboldt Park, inspired a dialogue between local youth and police and organized a neighborhood rally for peace. Amazing work!

· Tokay High School (Lodi, CA): Great minds can do great things. More than 20 high school students worked together to create STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), the first-ever Science and Tech Festival in their community. Designed to spark creative thinking, STEAM covered everything from coding to circuitry. If you’re looking for the next generation of entrepreneurs, we know where to look! Awesome job!

· STEM Academy (Highlands Ranch, CO): Sometimes, all you need is love. By releasing their own album, four high school students (the new “Fab Four” to us) were a voice for unity and love through music. Students across the school united to learn the production process while working alongside local professional musicians. The icing on the cake? An album release concert that celebrated their new passion to make a difference with music. Rock on!

· Two Rivers School (North Bend, WA): These high school students have a wonderful green thumb! They built a greenhouse to teach their peers about nutrition and healthy eating, and how to prepare good meals on a budget! Students cooked the food they grew in their garden and donated it to their local homeless shelter, plus created a community at school that prepares monthly lunches for students. Their dedication to the greater good is an example for us all. Two thumbs up, guys!

· Mt. Nebo Jr. High School (Payson, UT): Concerned about environmental issues, these middle school students created a butterfly pavilion and beehive to help save dying honeybees. Led by students on the autism spectrum, this incredible project empowered students to explore how to improve the world around them by being proactive and a leader. Fantastic job, everyone!

· Chowchilla High School (Chowchilla, CA): Nobody likes a bully, especially not this high school class who put a bullying prevention program into action in their community. Speaking from personal experiences, they visited schools to raise awareness and teach empathy. In return, each audience signed a pledge not to tolerate bullying. Keep it up!

· Florida South Western Collegiate High School (Fort Myers, FL): These high school students went up, up and away with their after-school program for flying drones! Known as “Drone Academy,” this twice-weekly program includes guest speakers, community education and outreach, entrepreneurship and partnerships with drone makers. It’s a great way for them to learn about technology, fundraising and relationships. High five!

Congratulations to all of our winners! Your creativity and hard work are definitely something to be very proud of. Along with our partner DonorsChoose.org, we’re awarding each team $5,000 in credit to advance their excellent work in the classroom. And this weekend, three of our winning teams will join us in Los Angeles for the Teen Choice Awards on Sunday!

These eight special teams were selected from thousands of impressive submissions from all over the country. Thanks to our dedicated Education Advisory Committee — comprised of representatives from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ExxonMobil, Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative, DonorsChoose.org, EL Education, Learning Heroes and America Achieves — we were able to narrow the field to these standouts. What do all the winners have in common? They all foster curiosity and learning!

And curiosity and learning are exactly why we launched ThinkItUp.org, a first-of-its-kind platform to fund student-powered, teacher-led learning projects in partnership with teacher crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.org. Together, we’ve helped greenlight more than 2,700 classroom projects — being done by public school students in grades 7–12, with their teachers — from coast to coast.

And just think — all of this and it’s only our first year! Our winning teams are a great reminder of what’s possible. What’s possible for you?