Scientists and engineers need data—from the atomic weight of carbon and the structure of benzene, to the most precise value for the speed of light. High quality physical and chemical reference data help researchers design experiments, build better products, solve health and environmental problems, and even study the stars. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. NIST provides some of the most accurate and comprehensive datasets in the world. Physicists, biochemical engineers, environmental researchers, and many other technically trained experts routinely use NIST Standard Reference Data in their workday. Students from high school through graduate school use the same datasets to master the ropes of scientific discovery. Help drive innovation and support research by developing your own mobile applications that use NIST Standard Reference Data! 


Participants (individuals or teams) should meet these eligibility guidelines:

  • Competition is open to individuals over the age of 18 that are residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa
  • Competition is open to for-profit or non-profit corporations, institutions, or other validly formed legal entities organized or incorporated in, and which maintain a primary place of business in, any of the preceding jurisdictions.  
  • An individual, whether participating singly or with a group, must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Federal entities and non-NIST Federal employees acting in their official capacities are not eligible to enter.  
  • Non-NIST Federal employees acting in their personal capacities should consult with their respective agency ethics officials to determine whether their participation in this Competition is permissible.
  • NIST employees, NIST associates, and any other individuals or legal entities involved with the design, production, execution, distribution or evaluation of the Reference Data Challenge, are not eligible to enter. NIST employees and NIST Guest Researchers are not eligible to enter.

See Rules for Full Details 


Eligible participants are invited to submit an App that uses at least one of the Eligible NIST Datasets

A submission requires:

(1) your App (see minimum App criteria) provided to NIST at no cost; 

(2) a brief (fewer than 250 words) text description of your App;

(3) at least one screenshot image of your App in use on a mobile phone or tablet device;

(4) a brief (less than five minutes) video demonstrating the functionality of your App; and

(5) confirmation that you have read and agree to the Competition Rules contained in this Notice.

Hackathon Sponsors


$45,000 in prizes

First Place

First Place Prize - $30,000 - will be selected by the Judges. App must meet the minimum criteria described in the Rules.

Second Place

Second Place Prize - $10,000 - will be selected by the Judges. App must meet the minimum criteria described in the Rules.

Third Place

Third Place Prize - $5,000 - will be selected by the Judges. App must meet the minimum criteria described in the Rules.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

  1. To enter, create a user account at ChallengePost by visiting and register your interest in participating in the Competition at the Event Website,
  2. Make sure you are eligible to be a Participant in this Competition, and that you have read the Rules.
  3. Create an App that uses at least one of the Eligible NIST Datasets and meets the minimum app criteria. Make sure your submission is complete (see Requirements section on this page). Be creative! 



Bibiana Campos-Seijo

Bibiana Campos-Seijo
Editor, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), and VP, C&EN Media Group

Vinton Cerf

Vinton Cerf
VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

Stuart Chalk

Stuart Chalk
Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of North Florida

Robert J. Hanisch

Robert J. Hanisch
Director, NIST Office of Data and Informatics

Ian Kalin

Ian Kalin
Chief Data Officer, Department of Commerce

Diana Ortiz-Montalvo

Diana Ortiz-Montalvo
Research Chemist and Co-Leader, Postdoctoral Association, NIST

Christopher Sloop

Christopher Sloop
Chief Technology Officer, Earth Networks

Judging Criteria

  • Potential Impact
    How strong is the potential of the submission to help students and other technical experts use NIST Standard Reference Data?
  • Creativity and Innovation
    To what degree is this submission innovative? Does it bring new thinking and creativity to improving access to NIST Standard Reference Data?
  • Implementation
    Does the App provide an engaging user experience and have interactive capabilities? Does it work well? Make sure your App meets the minimum criteria described in the Rules!
  • Uses Scientific Reference Data
    Does the App use at least one of the Eligible NIST Datasets? Preference will be given to applications that integrate more than one dataset.

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