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U.S. government agencies constantly work to address issues that affect people, communities, and industries throughout the country and even the world. Sometimes, they need help.

Launched in 2010, Challenge.gov allows federal agencies to crowdsource ideas from the public and solve problems with thinkers and doers from any neighborhood and field of expertise.

The challenge concept goes back centuries. Longitude and ship navigation, Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, even initial designs for the U.S. Capitol and White House—all were the result of open prize competitions.

More recently, challenges have produced concepts for cost-effective clean water systems, gunshot detectors to improve responses to school shootings, and robots that can set up life support and communications infrastructure on Mars in preparation for future human missions.

That's just a small sampling. You can learn about all past government challenges and their outcomes in regular progress reports put together for Congress.

Since 2010, the U.S. government has run nearly 1,000 challenges and offered well over $250 million in cash prizes for the best ideas. These challenges have been won by everyone from students and hobbyists to small business owners and academic researchers.

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