Bronco Challenge

Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact 

Status of the challenge

Year 1 of the Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact wrapped up in May 2023. Read about the winners in this WMU News story titled "Sustainable innovation earns Western students a share of $19,000."

Collaborators are already building support for the 2023/2024 Challenge and readying it for launch in the Fall semester. Individuals and organizations interested in sponsoring the Challenge in 2023/2024 should contact Professor Neil Drobny:

What is the Challenge?

The Challenge is a new WMU initiative launched in the Fall of 2022 to provide students with an opportunity to have a sustainability-related problem-solving experience. The Challenge is an optional, co-curricular opportunity open to all WMU students across all academic majors. Students work competitively throughout the academic year in self-selected, 3-5 person teams on a sustainability project of their own design. Projects must propose solutions to issues raised by one or more of the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) described below and incorporate applicable issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The end result of a project may be an idea for a product, a service, a business or a public policy.

As a means of organizing discussion and work pertaining to sustainability the UN published in 2015 targets for achievement by 2030. These targets are called the UN SDGs and are grouped in 17 topical areas as follows:

No PovertyReduced Inequality
Zero HungerSustainable Cities and Communities
Good Health & Well BeingResponsible Consumption and Production
Quality EducationClimate Action
Gender EqualityLife Below Water
Clean Water and SanitationLife on Land
Available and Clean EnergyPeace & Justice Strong Institutions
Decent Work and Economic GrowthPartnerships to Achieve the Goals
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 

In each of these 17 topical areas, detailed goals and issues are provided which constitute the scope within which Challenge projects must be designed. Challenge projects should also include DEI issues that may be embedded in the SDGs associated with a given project.

Unless prescribed as a course requirement, there will be no academic credit for participating in the Challenge. There will be financial rewards for teams judged to be best performers, and in the first year of the competition prizes were as follows: 1st Prize - $10,000; 2nd Prize - $6,000; and, 3rd Prize - $3,000. The Challenge is an opportunity for students to do original work on cross-disciplinary and cross-functional teams to solve problems that challenge the survival of civilization. 


Competitors followed the guidelines in the 2022-23 Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact (BCFSI) Student Handbook. The Handbook will be updated for the next annual competition in 2023-2024.

(BCFSI) Student Handbook


Contact Professor Neil Drobny, PhD with any questions:

the power of cross-Disciplinary innovation

Nick Holonyak, inventor of the Light-Emitting Diode (LED) passed away on September 18, 2022, at the age of 93.

“It’s a good thing I was an engineer and not a chemist. When I went to show them my LED, all the chemists at GE said, ‘You can’t do that. If you were a chemist, you’d know that wouldn’t work’. I said, ‘Well, I just did it, and see, it works!”

Be brave if others dismiss your ideas, especially if they’re innovative. If Nick Holonyak hadn’t challenged the status quo, we wouldn’t have these great LED products that we love using today!!

Hopefully, future generations will say the same about ideas developed as part of the Bronco Challenge that stopped climate change in it’s tracks or otherwise helped pull civilization out of it’s unsustainable tailspin.