History of the Tiger Challenge

Wicked Problems

The Tiger Challenge began with the identification of a desire among students to wrestle with big challenges in the world—not just intellectually, but to build things that would have an impact.

By 2014, Princeton students were using design thinking as an approach to tackle so-called wicked problems on campus in EGR 200: Creativity, Innovation and Design. The student teams designed innovations to mitigate binge drinking in the course’s first semester and sexual assault in its second (one team’s design became the U-Matter Bus).

Because curricular offerings are constrained by the academic semester, the idea for a longer-duration program was floated. While the details were yet to be designed, the Tiger Challenge’s vision was in place by early 2015: a co-curricular program that would equip Princeton students to tackle the most pressing cultural and societal challenges by prompting them to do so.

Designing the Design Program

By Fall 2015, the Keller Center had assembled a team to design the Tiger Challenge: Rafe to be the program manager, IDEO to do the design consultancy, and a team of 11 student fellows who had taken EGR 200 to provide ground level insight. After conducting design research, the team articulated three key insights that would drive the structure of the program:

  • From interviews with Princeton students, we frequently heard, “I want to have a big impact, but I don’t know how to do so.” Insight: Students want structure and support.
  • From conversations with successful social innovators, we learned the importance of a clearly articulated sense of self. Insight: Continual reflection enhances growth and connection to the work.
  • From studying other schools' programs, we observed many promising projects end after artificial finales, such as competitions or reports. Insight: The program must prioritize implementation and impact.


Core Principles of the Tiger Challenge

Collaborative Culture

Projects are predicated on the fusion and collaboration of diverse perspectives and skills. Additionally, the Tiger Challenge program operates like a single organization with a "one-firm" mentality; we work together to build impact.

End-to-no-End Support

We match every student team with a dedicated coach and advisory team who provide support throughout the entire journey. Additionally, support continues for as long as teams are still driving to impact. 

Maker Mindset

The Tiger Challenge encourages teams to work in a low-fidelity and iterative fashion. A mindset and practice of active prototyping throughout the project gives students increased confidence in their ideas.

Connection to Community

Teams stay connected to the people they are designing for and with. The Tiger Challenge helps embed and sustain the connection students have with their end users throughout the process.

Reflection Throughout

The Tiger Challenge is also a journey of self-discovery. The program creates the space and structure for reflection; this deepens personal investment, learning, and growth throughout the challenge.


Projects are chosen with student input, and teams are formed with student interests in mind. Each team then drives the process, as they learn how to balance autonomy with co-creation. 

Tiger Challenge Today

To-date, 125 Tiger Challenge participants have tackled 22 projects: eleven in the community and eleven on campus. Each team consists of three-to-six students of diverse class years, majors, and backgrounds. Overall, students from 25 different majors have participated. 

While each team tackles a different project, the Tiger Challenge has a one-firm ethos. We share a space, a community, and a drive to co-create a better world.  

Read about our projects in the news!