Amazon Web Services (AWS) often describes DeepRacer League, which launched in November 2018 at the tech giant’s AWS re:Invent 2018 conference, as the world’s first autonomous racing league open to everyone. But entering the tournament entails devising an algorithm that can successfully drive a 1/18th scale car around a track, which requires a firm grasp on machine learning basics.

There’s a steep learning curve indeed, particularly for those who aspire to qualify for the elite DeepRacer League Cup in Las Vegas. That’s why Udacity today launched a scholarship program in partnership with AWS — the DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge — intended to help enrollees attain the skills they need to compete in the DeepRacer League.

Applications for the corresponding free Udacity course — AWS DeepRacer: Driven by Reinforcement Learning — open August 1.

There’s more to it than fun and games, according to former Google X head and¬†Udacity executive chairman Sebastian Thrun. Students will create, train, and optimize reinforcement learning models — models that employ rewards to achieve goals — in the AWS DeepRacer 3D racing simulator, all while receiving support and feedback from Udacity’s community (along with access to exclusive webinars). They’ll evaluate their designs and deploy them to a physical car, and by the end of the course, they’ll have a model they can enter into a virtual or physical circuit of the AWS DeepRacer League.

The program’s top-performing students will have an opportunity to earn their way to a Udacity Machine Learning Nanodegree program scholarship. Those who participate in the AWS DeepRacer League as part of the DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge will compete for 200 spots.

“There simply aren’t enough people who are equipped with machine learning skills. That’s why AWS and Udacity share a commitment to train machine learning talent,” said Thrun. “I’m confident that the DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge from AWS will empower learners to master Reinforcement Learning and land some of the most exciting and in-demand jobs in the field.”

The DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge expands on the collaboration between AWS and Udacity, which first joined forces in April 2019 to launch the Machine Learning Nanodegree program. Udacity says that in the intervening months, that course has seen “thousands” of enrollments in over 100 countries.

“This new scholarship program aims to grow the skills of the machine learning developer community that will build the next generation of machine learning using tools like reinforcement learning in a fun and accessible way,” wrote Udacity chief product officer Alper Tekin in a blog post. “Now, with the addition of the AWS DeepRacer: Driven by Reinforcement Learning free course to the Udacity-AWS catalog — and the creation of the new DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge from AWS — both organizations welcome new learners focused on mastering some of the newest and most important machine learning tools.”

Udacity previously launched a self-driving car nanodegree in partnership with big-name brands such as Mercedes-Benz.