IDEAS Academy Spring 2019 Design Challenge

2020 Census: Erase the Undercount!

"What Undercount?" – Houston's 2020 Census

Every ten years, our constitutionally mandated US Census counts "every person" in the country. That population count determines congressional representation and how much federal funding returns to Houston to support health, education, safety, environmental protection, mobility, transportation & infrastructure for the decennial.

In 2010, over 30% of Houston’s residents did not respond to the Census. It is estimated that Houston will lose $15,780 between 2020 and 2030 for every resident not counted in 2020. That is a potential loss of $45 billion federal dollars for programs that matter to students like Head Start, School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, Medical Assistance Program, and even the Federal Pell Grant Program if we do not erase the undercount.

The Challenge: The Mayor's Undercount Initiative

This Spring, Houston's Mayor’s Office launches a first-in-the-nation student design challenge to inspire creative solutions to ensure that all residents are counted in our 2020 Census. This initiative will be supported at Houston Community College through IDEAS Academy, an innovation program of the West Houston Institute.

2020 will be the first time ever for online response to the US Census! This is a game-changer for Houston's population count and our students will be pivotal in erasing our chronic undercount. The Mayor envisions student-oriented, student-focused and student-led communications and peer-to-peer networking design challenge innovations.

HCC students who submit a project in any category will be eligible for service learning hours, and priority consideration for the summer jobs program with the City of Houston. Students will also learn real-world design, problem-solving and team-building skills; build a network of mentors and peers; and develop valuable technology skills in data research, coding, and visual communications. What students design, test, and implement will serve as template demonstration projects for students across the region.

Design Categories

Students can choose to participate in individual or multiple categories:

1. Data Research Project: Undercount Neighborhoods Fieldwork

  • Create a Team-Based Research Design Plan
  • Conduct Primary and Secondary Research
  • Design Community Surveys Using Data Research Tools
  • Present Research Findings & Insights to Stakeholders

2. Communication Design Project: Branding & Messaging

  • Create Brand Identity & Strategy for Awareness Campaign
  • Create Research-driven Messaging for Campaign
  • Design Graphic Logo and Collateral Materials for Use in Campaign

3. Web Design Project: Social Media & Informational Website

  • Identify and Test Effective Online Messaging Platforms
  • Design Social Media Strategy for Awareness Campaign
  • Design and Develop Awareness Campaign Website
  • Produce Digital Media Content (Audio/Video/Infographics)

4. Experience Design Project: Neighborhood Events & Activities

  • Design Community Events, Activities, and Meetings for Undercount Neighborhoods
  • Develop Live Experiences to Motivate Census Response of Students
  • Develop Student Census Ambassadors Program

How to Participate

HCC students and faculty are invited to participate during the Spring 2019 Semester. Please contact IDEAS Academy Program Director, Jordan Carswell, directly at or (713) 718-5769 to get more information and sign-up for the challenge.

Important Dates

January 25th– IDEAS Academy Design Challenge Kick-off

February 22nd– Data Jam Event at West Houston Institute

March (TBD) – City of Houston Census Innovation Challenge Launch Summit

May (TBD) – City of Houston Innovation Challenge Presentation Day