Rules and Eligibility



    Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools Founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to stimulate a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs.

    Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a philanthropic program of The Smidt Foundation, and is not part of Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc. (HFT), the national tool retailer. All cash awards to prize-winning teachers and schools come solely from The Smidt Foundation. HFT provides operational support to The Smidt Foundation and donates tool carts and gifts cards in conjunction with the prize.

    If you have any questions, please contact our team at


    The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, started in 2017, recognizes outstanding skilled trades teachers and programs in public high schools in the United States.

    In 2020, we will award over $1 million in prizes overall: Three grand prize winners will receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to the public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 going to the eligible individual skilled trades teacher or teacher team. Fifteen prize winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to the public high school program and $15,000 going to the eligible teacher or teacher team. Applicants whose school, district or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize earnings may still apply. Please see Receiving a Prize Award below for further information.

    Finalists will be announced on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

    Winners will be announced in October 2020.


    The Prize for Teaching Excellence is open to skilled trades teachers or teacher teams who are current faculty members at U.S. public high schools.

    Eligible applicants are those who teach skilled trades classes that emphasize the expert use of tools and materials to build, repair and maintain products and structures. Most applicants will come from the following broad fields of trades education in public high schools:

    • Agriculture Mechanics
    • Carpentry
    • Construction
    • Electrical
    • HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning)
    • Manufacturing
    • Plumbing
    • Transportation mechanics and repair
    • Welding

    We recognize that high school classes within these broad categories have a variety of names, focus areas and sub-specialties. Past winners of the prize have taught, for example, green construction, marine systems technology, diesel mechanics, advanced manufacturing and engineering. The common thread prize winners share is that their students work with their hands, using tools regularly throughout the course of study, to build, repair and maintain. Classes that do not meet our definition of skilled trades courses include, for example, cosmetology, design-only architecture courses and agriculture classes that focus solely on animal husbandry or horticulture.

    Teachers at district career and technical education centers serving both high school and post-secondary students may apply if they are members of their school district’s high school faculty. If you are a teacher at a career and technical education center not on a high school faculty, please email

    Teams of up to three skilled trades teachers at the same U.S. public high school can apply together under a single application. No teacher may be listed as an applicant on more than one application. For the sake of clarity, if a teacher submits an individual application, he/she may not be listed as a member of a team application. Similarly, if a teacher is listed as a member of a team application, he/she may not submit an individual application.

    Past first- and second-place winners of the Prize for Teaching Excellence are ineligible to apply for the 2020 prize. Previous semifinalists and other applicants who were not named first- or second-place winners in any previous year are permitted to apply.

    The following persons are ineligible to apply for the 2020 prize:

    Directors, officers and employees of The Smidt Foundation (the “Foundation”), HFT, and/or any of their respective affiliates; family members of directors and officers of the Foundation, HFT, and/or any of their respective affiliates; immediate family members of employees of the Foundation, HFT, and/or any of their respective affiliates; any contributor of more than two percent of the total contributions and bequests received by the Foundation in any taxable year, or family member of such contributor, or, if the contributor is an entity, then any person who owns more than twenty percent of such contributing entity, or family member of such person; and senior government officials.

    Each applicant and each prize recipient must be an active faculty member in good standing who is not subject to any threatened, pending or active disciplinary proceedings or involuntary leave of absence with their school, district or state education agencies or other authorities during the entire 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any applicant whose participation may subject the prize, its judges, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, the Foundation or HFT and any of its customers to controversy, negative publicity and/or reputational harm.

    Harbor Freight Tools for Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.


    To learn more about Harbor Freight Tools for Schools’ privacy policy, please click here.



    We assume that teacher or teacher teams will prepare applications on their own time. If you have any questions about whether you can use school time to work on your application, please consult your school/district policy.

    This application process is designed to engage teachers. While you may seek advice from whomever you would like, you/your team’s answers should reflect your own ideas and be written solely by you/your team. Administrators, teacher aides, grant writers and non-skilled trades teachers are not eligible to apply or receive the individual prize award and should not participate in writing the application.

    Each question has a character count maximum of 2,000 characters with spaces. The entire Round 1 application must be at least 2,500 characters total to be considered eligible to advance to Round 2.


    To register as an individual, you must:

    1. Click on the “Register” link on the homepage.
    2. Please complete the information on the registration page and then click “Submit.” We highly recommend that you register with a personal email account (ex. Gmail or Yahoo) because we have learned that emails from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools may be blocked by school email security systems.
    3. You will receive an email from the system which contains a link you must click on to validate your email address. For security reasons, this link expires in seven days. If you do not receive the return email from our team, please check your spam folder to see if it is there. If not, please email us at to ask us to validate your account.
    4. After you click to validate your email address, you will be directed back to the Login page. You can then login to the system with the same validated email address and the password you created to begin the application process.
    5. Please make sure to hold onto your password and sign-in email as the prize application window opens on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

    The first person to register will follow the above instructions and is considered the “Team Leader” in the system. Once you have logged in, you can invite other people to your team.

    1. The team leader should go to the “Teams” page in the application.
    2. Add up to two other team member names and emails.
    3. You could personalize the invitation if desired and then send it.
    4. Each team member invited will receive an email with a link. By clicking on this link, they will be taken to a registration page. Once they fill out the required information, they will click “Submit” and be able to login as an official team member.

    While only the Team Leader can submit the final application, team members will have access and can write and edit the team application. Please note that role of “Team Leader” can be transferred by the “Team Leader” to another active Team Member if they choose to do so.


    To apply, you must:

    1. Complete the required information on the application page. The system has autosave that will save an application every minute while you are active. You’ll be timed out of the system after 60 minutes of inactivity.
    2. You can also click "Save and Preview" at the bottom of the page at any time to manually save your entry. If there are required fields that are blank, you will receive a message that you cannot submit until all required fields are completed.
    3. If you are ready to submit and click "Save and Preview," you will be able to preview your application one last time. You can then either click "Submit" to officially submit your application, or you can click "Back" to return to editing the submission.
    4. After submitting your entry, you will see a confirmation timestamp on screen and a link where you can download your entry as a PDF. You will also receive an email that your entry was submitted. Please note that once a teacher or teacher team submits the application, it cannot be recalled or revised.

    Harbor Freight Tools for Schools may require the applicant to provide additional information in support of a submitted application. Upon submission or your application, you agree that:

    • Your application will become the property of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, and will not be returned to you; and
    • Your application materials may be disclosed, publicized or included in any publication or resource of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, LLC, The Smidt Foundation, and/or any of their respective subsidiaries, successors and/or assigns.

Receiving a Prize Award


    In administering the prize over the past three years, we’ve learned that some school, district, and state policies may prohibit teachers from receiving the individual portion of prize money. Before beginning your application, we ask you to check your school, district, and state policies to learn if you/your team are eligible to receive the individual portion of the prize funds. If and only if your school, district, or state policy prohibits you/your team from receiving the individual portion of prize funds, you may still submit an application on behalf of your school. On the application, check the box indicating that you/your team are applying on behalf of your school and that in the event you are named a winner, all prize money would be directed to your school’s skilled trade program, and not to you/your team. This information will not be used as a factor in the judging process.

    Upon being named winners, teachers and their schools will be asked to submit documentation required to receive a cash award from The Smidt Foundation.

    Schools are required to direct the funds to further support the winning skilled trades program. Teachers are free to use their individual prize money as they would like.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020
5 p.m. (Pacific Time)


Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Monday, August 10, 2020
5 p.m. (Pacific Time)


October 2020