Please note that the details of this Challenge are no longer open. This challenge is under evaluation and is no longer accepting new submissions. You can:
Challenge Powering Electronic Instruments on a Rotating Shaft

Powering Electronic Instruments on a Rotating Shaft

Award: See details
STATUS: Under Eval
Active Solvers: 327
Posted: Sep 06 2018
Challenge ID: 9933885
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The Bureau of Reclamation and its collaborators are seeking devices to provide direct current power for loads of up to 20 watts to electronic instruments on rotating shafts for hydropower generating units.  Presently, no practical methods exist for continuously powering these instruments on a rotating shaft.  Solutions can be novel approaches or can build upon existing methods or technologies.  The total prize purse for this reduction to practice challenge is $250,000.

This is a two-phase Reduction-to-Practice Challenge that requires (Phase 1) written documentation, proof-of-concept data and, (Phase 2, if requested by the Seeker) sample/prototype delivery for experimental validation.

Challenge Orientation Video: Subject matter experts from Reclamation discuss the need for methods to power instruments on a rotating generator shaft (


This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Bureau of Reclamation or the Department of the Interior (DOI).  The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with Reclamation or DOI unless you win the Challenge.  To collect an award, Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation. Please consult the Challenge-Specific Agreement


Reclamation is the second largest hydropower producer in the nation, operating 53 powerplants with a generation capacity of 14,730 megawatts and more than 40 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced annually.  Reclamation’s hydropower generating units are expected to safely and reliably produce the power that is delivered to the western electric grid.  Monitoring these generators provides a critical advancement toward keeping these units operational and reducing costly outages - in a small power plant, an unforeseen outage can result in an opportunity cost of $30,000 per day per unit; for a large power plant, this cost can be up to $800,000 per day per unit.  However, the monitoring instruments require a continuous power source in order to keep them online and performing their key role.  New solutions are needed to permanently install low-power instruments on a rotating shaft in order to collect continuous data pertinent to generator operation and performance.

Presently, the available power sources for electronic instruments on rotating shafts include batteries and contact solutions.  Powering the electronic instruments with a battery does not provide continuous operation and requires generator downtime to replace the batteries, resulting in lost power generation.  Existing contact solutions for this application, such as slip rings, have unacceptable installation and maintenance requirements because their components in physical contact degrade over time.  Non-contact solutions include emerging technologies, such as wireless energy transfer, that may prove beneficial but are not yet developed for this application.

Reclamation and our collaborators seek novel methods and technologies to reliably provide direct current power for loads of up to 20 watts (20 W) to electronic instruments on rotating shafts.  Proposed solutions must be applicable to rotating shafts that are 18- to 144-inch diameter, whether during rotation (72 to 550 rpm), standstill, before generator rotation begins or after it ends. We seek new devices or significant improvements to existing methods and technologies, as long as the improvements offer substantial enhancement.


  • By the Challenge deadline Solvers should submit a white paper that describes a device for providing direct current power to electronic instruments on rotating shafts meeting the specific Solution Requirements presented in the Detailed Description of the Challenge. This description should be accompanied by a well-articulated rationale supported by literature/patent precedents and include experimental proof-of-concept data obtained as outlined in the Detailed Description of the Challenge.
  • The total award pool for the Challenge is $250,000. Awards will be available in two phases: an initial Phase 1 award up to $50,000, and a final Phase 2 award reflecting the balance up to $250,000. 
  •  Phase 1 Selected Solvers will be informed within six weeks of the Challenge deadline if they have been selected for the initial award and whether a prototype device is requested by the Seeker for experimental validation in a laboratory and/or field-scale demonstration. Following notification, Solvers are expected to have a prototype ready to be shipped within a maximum of 8 weeks, so that the Seeker can start evaluation. Because of these requirements, the whole evaluation period is expected to last up until 6 months from the Challenge Deadline. Phase 1 award may vary from $5,000 to $50,000 for solutions that meet all of the criteria. At the Seekers’ discretion, the Solver may be invited to attend and assist in activities during prototype evaluation.
  • Phase 2 awards from the remainder of the total pool of $250,000 will be granted for a novel method that results in a solution experimentally validated, with a minimum award of $25,000. In addition to the direct monetary award Reclamation will invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives for the demonstrations.  Participating industry and venture capital representatives will have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers.
  • The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker and the judging panel appointed by the Seeker.  As such, the meeting of the Solution Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will be awarded by the Seeker.  Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on December 6, 2018.  Late submissions will not be considered.


After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and decide which Solvers are selected for Phase 2 protoype device evaluation and, upon experimental validation, the winning solution(s).  The Judging Panel may be composed of Federal and/or Non-Federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge.  All persons or entities that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of the submissions.  Decisions by the Seeker cannot be contested.


To receive a Phase 1 award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker.  Instead, Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. The Solver will not receive an Award if Solver cannot provide Seeker with the non-exclusive license to the Solution IP on the terms set forth in the Challenge-Specific Agreement. Solvers who have transferred their IP rights in their solution to another party, or otherwise entered into any commercial exclusive arrangement with another for the exploitation of their IP rights in their solution prior to the end of the Challenge shall not be eligible for a Challenge award.  Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information.  Accordingly, Solvers should take whatever steps they deem necessary to protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal submitted prior to submission).  See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

This Challenge is being conducted by the Seeker under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. Code § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017, which states that cash prize purse awards for this prize competition may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by the Seeker before cash prize purses are awarded.

Cash prize purse payments:  Payments will be paid in full to the eligible registered individual, entity, or team selected as a winner.

Registering as a team:  Teams must register to compete by having the Team Leader form a Team Project Room.  The Team Leader must be a U.S. citizen, permanent U.S. resident, or representative of a U.S. entity eligible to receive a cash prize.  In the case of a team registration, the cash prize purse can be split and paid directly to eligible team members as directed by the registered eligible team leader.  The Seeker will not make payment to team members that are not eligible under 15 USC 3719 to receive a cash prize.

Team Project Room requests must be made no later than 1 week prior to the Challenge deadline.  Once registered, click on ‘Form a Team’ at the top of the Challenge page for further instructions.

Participation by those not eligible for cash prizes:  Submissions can be entertained from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. entities and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any.  Meritorious submissions from non-U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and entities will also be recognized in publications issued by the Seeker announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases.

Full eligibility details and other restrictions are detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement

About The Seeker:  The Bureau of Reclamation is the sponsoring agency for this prize Competition and is an agency of the United States Federal Government with a mission to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.

About the Collaborators:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion.

What is InnoCentive?
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is an RTP Challenge?

An InnoCentive RTP (Reduction to Practice) Challenge is a prototype that proves an idea, and is similar to an InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge in its high level of detail. However, an RTP requires the Solver to submit a validated solution, either in the form of original data or a physical sample. Also the Seeker is allowed to test the proposed solution. For details about treatment of IP rights, please see the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

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