Learn how computing positively impacts our world, and possibly earn a trip to South-by-Southwest (SXSW).

The Topplers Domino Award encourages students to “think big” by seeing how the work of computing professionals has significantly impacted modern society. The goal of the program is to honor the past, and in doing so, inspire students to see the potential they have to make a difference through their future work.

Reaching undergraduate engineering and computer science students at universities across America, the Domino Award competition provides winners an all expenses paid trip to the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

The Domino Award is unique because it appeals to a wide audience. Since the award’s inception in 2002, the competition has successfully attracted a diverse group of applicants. Women and minority students have accounted for over half the entries in recent years, and in fact women have been among the award winners for many times.

“What’s so amazing about this opportunity is that it allows you to take inspiration from things that you might have never imagined yourself taking inspiration from.”
-Alex Tsankov
, 2013 Domino Award winner


Herb Morreale

Founded in 2002, Herb Morreale, a University of Colorado (CU) alumnus, partnered with CU professor Clayton Lewis to bring the Domino Award to CU computer science students. Inspired by Domino Theory – the idea that one small action can set off a chain of events that leads to a much bigger impact, Mr. Morreale wanted to give back to his alma mater and inspire students to think about the impact their work in computer science can have on the world.

In 2008, Topplers was founded as a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization, supporting other Domino Theory-driven programs. Topplers programs (Branches) start with a BIG Idea and use a combination of people and technology to reach those goals.

How You Can Participate

Based on the concept of Domino Theory, where one small action can set off a chain of events that lead to a much bigger impact, the Domino Award is designed to be quick and simple, while leading to a big prize. Watch a short video from previous trip winners here!

Students write a 500 word essay honoring the work of a notable computer scientist or computing professional, focusing on the chain events their work set in motion.  The essay is submitted online and judged by a panel of professors, computing professionals in industry, and former winners. Winners will be announced in November.

APPLY NOW! Essay submission rules are here. Essays are being accepted until October 27, 2017.

The Domino Award Trips

IMG_0135Past trips for Domino Award winners included attending the Telluride Technology Festival, an inside tour of Spaceport America, a weekend in Silicon Valley visiting Facebook, Google, Dropbox, Twilio and a meeting with one of Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurs, Bill Coleman (of VisiCalc, Sun, BEA, Coleman Institute, and others), and an inspiring weekend exploring the South-by-Southwest Interactive Festival, meeting with emerging and established technologists and innovators.


*The Topplers Domino Award is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with SXSW, LLC.