Over the summer months, students around the world have been taking Udacity classes for a chance to win an all expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley, sponsored by Battelle. On their trip, Sebastian Thrun, Udacity CEO, will take the winners on a tour through the Udacity offices and the Stanford Intelligence Labs.

Since June, 408 teams competed with over 2,591 students participating in the challenge, and seven team have been named the winners:

The Top Teams are:

  • Team Renaissance from Bergen Country Academies, NJ
  • Team NYC from The Dalton School, NY
  • Team Freehold from Freehold High School, NJ
  • Gerard’s Team from San Francisco de Asis, Dominican Republic
  • Team Daphne and Aaron from Needham High School, MA
  • Team FlyingNinjas from Texas Academy of Math and Sciences, TX
  • Team DEE35 from Calday Grammar School, UK

The rules were simple: two team captains, who must be attending secondary school, can form a team. From there, captains recruit teammates, who do not have to be attending secondary school, and accumulate as many completed course units as they can for points. On August 24, Udacity tallied up the numbers of completed units to determine the winners. The results were impressive — across all of the teams, 14,862 units were completed!

Throughout the summer, Udacity saw secondary school students cultivating their own learning communities through the Udacity forums and through social outlets. Some teams set up Facebook groups where they could help each other with problem sets and programming. One team even turned the challenge into a fundraiser for The School Fund by soliciting sponsors for each unit completed.

Feedback from students has been tremendous. As one student stated (summarizing the many emails and posts we have received), “Udacity classes are a way to learn things I wouldn’t be learning in school.” In a survey, 99% of students polled said that they would like to continue taking Udacity courses, even during future vacations!

High schools have taken note as well. At Battelle STEMx network high school in Ohio — eSTEM Academy of Reynoldsburg — has announced that they enrolled 41 students in Udacity’s Introduction to Statistics and 49 students in Introduction to Physics this fall semester for credit. Their goal is to help drive high school students to excel in college-level courses.

Both challenge sponsor, Battelle, and challenge partner, the Conrad Foundation, helped promote the competition and are now exploring how to further promote online learning opportunities for high school students. Ultimately, the motivation and achievement show by high school students taking and completing college-level courses in STEM has been inspiring.