Top 25 science / STEM contests for kids 2014-2015

ScienceThrillers.com is proud to compile this list of the year’s top science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) contests and competitions for the 2014-2015 school year. Please share, tweet, re-post this list to parents, educators, potential sponsors and judges.

Encourage–heck, force–your kid to participate the same way you’d push for attendance at that out-of-town soccer game. Help your niece, nephew, grandchild, or the neighbor kid complete a science project. Volunteer to work at your local science fair; if you’re a scientist, technician, or engineer, volunteer to be a judge or mentor a team at your neighborhood school. Make a donation or sponsor a special award. Get involved to support STEM education!

New to the ScienceThrillers List this year (2014-2015): #2 Exploravision and #12 MathCounts Video Challenge

Not your ordinary science fair:

1. The DuPont Challenge: Every kid with access to a computer should enter this one.

  • Science essay writing contest (700-1000 words on the science topic of your choice in broad categories of food, energy, environment, and innovation)
  • Grades 6-12 (junior & senior divisions) students in U.S. and Canada
  • Prizes: expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World & the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, plus thousands of dollars
  • Online entry dates: November 15, 2014-January 31, 2015
  • Science story writing contest for grades K-5 (new this year); entry dates are November 1, 2014-March 1, 2015

2. ExploraVision: ExploraVision is a science competition that goes beyond the typical student science competition and into what it takes to bring ideas to reality. Students work in groups to simulate real research and development. A teacher will guide his or her students as they pick a current technology, research it, envision what it might look like in 20 years, and describe the development steps, pros & cons, and obstacles. Past winners have envisioned technologies ranging from a hand-held food allergen detector to a new device to help people who have lost limbs regain movement in real time.

  • K-12 students in US and Canada in public, private, or home school
  • 2-4 students per team; four age categories
  • Entry deadline: January
  • Entry consists of an abstract, project description, bibliography, and 5 web pages
  • Sponsored by National Science Teachers Association

3. Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge: Deadline for submitting your Investor Pitch is November 4, 2014. Accepted abstracts will be invited to submit full proposal.

  •  Team event, ages 13-18. Challenges high school students to create innovative new commercial products using STEM. Open to students worldwide.
  • Challenge: conceptualize a solution in one of these areas: aerospace & aviation; energy & environment; cybersecurity & technology; health & nutrition; giant leap to Mars
  • Initial entry is Investor Pitch & Video. Entries chosen for semifinals work in prototype development and submit a Draft Development business Plan
  • Teams compete for the opportunity to attend Innovation Summit and share an anticipated $500,000+ in awards including: seed funding grants, investment opportunities, patent support, business services, scholarships and other opportunities (as provided by our partners and sponsors) to grow their solution into a real business.

4. US FIRST Robotics & Tech Programs: World-wide eligibility. You’ve probably seen winners of these competitions featured in the media.

  • Jr. FIRST Lego League: For kids ages 6-9. Team event. Event season is now until April 2014. Learn about this year’s challenge (Natural Disasters) and use LEGOs to build a simple machine around this topic.
  • FIRST Lego League: For kids ages 9-14 (grades 4-8). Team event. Season starts in the fall. Design, build, program, test robots using LEGO Mindstorms technology.
  • FIRST Tech Challenge: For grades 7-12. Big scholarship prizes at stake.

FTC is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of languages. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

The varsity Sport for the MindTM, FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

5. 3M/Discovery Young Scientist Challenge (2015 event coming soon)

  • U.S. students in grades 5-8
  • To enter, students need to submit a 1-2 minute video which describes a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to: [1] the way we move; [2] the way we keep ourselves healthy; or [3] the way we make a difference. {These topics may change for this year’s Challenge.}
  • Ten finalists will be mentored by 3M scientists and win a trip to 3M headquarters in Minnesota
  • First place wins $25,000. All finalists win a Discovery Student Adventures trip
  • Contest entries accepted December to April

6. Team American Rocketry Challenge: Teams design, build and fly a model rocket that reaches a specific altitude and duration determined by a set of rules developed each year. The contest is designed to encourage students to study math and science and pursue careers in aerospace. The top 100 teams, based on local qualification flights, are invited to Washington, DC in May for the national finals. Prizes include $60,000 in cash and scholarships split between the top 10 finishers. NASA invites top teams to participate in their Student Launch Initiative, an advanced rocketry program. AIA member companies, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have sponsored additional prizes such as scholarship money and a trip to an international air show.

  • Teams of 3-10 students in grades 7-12
  • Enter your team before December 12, 2014

7. eCyberMission: is a web-based STEM competition free for students in grades 6 through 9 sponsored by the U.S. Army. Teams can compete for state, regional and national awards while working to solve problems in their community.

  • Registration deadline: December 17, 2014
  • 3 or 4 student members from the same state with an adult team advisor
  • Team chooses one category of “mission challenge”, asks a question, and tests it using scientific method
  • 1/5 of final score is based on project’s potential benefit to the community
  • Virtual judges also needed. Can you volunteer?

8. Science Olympiad: School-based teams of 15 students in grades 6-12 who prepare, coach, and practice throughout the year. There is also an elementary division for K-6 teams. 9. The Tech Challenge: This is an awesome program with tons of support (workshops and clinics throughout the preparation process) but everything is at The Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA) so contest is effectively restricted to Bay Area teams.

  • The Tech Challenge is an annual team design challenge for students in grades 4-12 that introduces and reinforces the science and engineering design process with a hands-on project geared to solving a real-world problem.
  • Teams of 2-6 people compete in three divisions: Elementary (grades 4-6), Middle (grades 7-8), High (grades 9-12)
  • Event Day is Saturday, April 25-26, 2015 at the Tech Museum.
  • This year’s challenge: Build an earthquake-safe structure

Math & Technology competitions:

10. Future City: “The Future City Competition is a national, project-based learning experience where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade imagine, design, and build cities of the future. Students work as a team with an educator and engineer mentor to plan cities using SimCity™ 4 Deluxe software; research and write solutions to an engineering problem; build tabletop scale models with recycled materials; and present their ideas before judges at Regional Competitions in January. Regional winners represent their region at the National Finals in Washington, DC in February.” This year’s topic (2014-15): Feeding Future Cities. National finals in Washington DC (travel paid by Future City!) are February 14-18, 2015.

  • Educators can do the program without competing if they wish. Teams of 3 students + educator + engineer mentor. More students can participate but only three will present.
  • 1. Register in October; 2. Design virtual city in SimCity4 3. Draft essay 4. Work on building scale model of city 5. Write city narrative 6. Submissions

11. MathCounts Competition Series: Enrichment, club, and competition math programs for middle school U.S. students (grades 6-8). National competition is a major event held in May; 12 students vie for title of Raytheon Mathlete Champion

  • Enroll your school online now to get your MathCounts handbook (early deadline: November 14, 2014; final deadline: December 12, 2014). Homeschools are eligible. Club program is free. Competition teams of 1-4 students: fee $25-$100.
  • Competitions begin in January

MathCounts also offers a Solve-A-Thon fundraising program for school math programs. Great idea–check it out here. 12. MathCounts Math Video Challenge: Empowers students to be math teachers, video producers, actors and artists – all at the same time! Students create a video that teaches the solution to one of the problems from the 2014-2015 MATHCOUNTS School Handbook, and also demonstrates the real-world application of the math concept used in the problem. View previous winners here.

  • Teams of 4 students
  • Grades 6-8
  • Video less than 5 minutes in length
  • Video entry deadline: March 13, 2015
  • Winning students win college scholarships

13. National STEM Video Game Challenge: “Goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games.” No programming experience required. Competitors may use a variety of game design platforms including Scratch, Gamestar Mechanic, and others

  •  Categories for middle school (grades 5-8) and high school. Also prizes for educators. Homeschoolers are eligible.
  • To enter, you or your team of up to 4 people must design a “video game” (defined at the site) that incorporates STEM learning
  • Game can be fully programmed and playable (in one of the platforms suggested) or submitted as detailed written game design documents
  • Entry dates for this year TBD; last year entries were accepted from February to April
  • Prizes: laptop computers + $2000

14. Microsoft’s Imagine Cup: For budding tech entrepreneurs. Three technology competitions for high school & university students worldwide. Imagine Cup World Finals 2015 will be in Seattle. Contests:

  • Code Hunt Challenge: 24-hour intense individual coding event. Next challenge begins October 18, 2014 with more to come
  • Games: Ages 16 and up. Teams of up to 4 competitors. Final submissions deadline March 15, 2015. Best new student game. $50,000 prize.
  • InnovationIncredible, world-changing software innovations often come from students. Social networks, music services, digital photography apps, gadgets and robotics – the list goes on. We’re looking for the next big thing and we know students like you are going to make it. Top team wins $50,000.

15. M3 Moody’s Mega Math Challenge: Math competition to solve an open-ended, realistic, applied math-modeling problem focused on a real-world issue. Top prize $20,000.

  • High school juniors & seniors in 45 U.S. states only. (Should go nationwide in 2016.) Homeschoolers eligible.
  • Teams of 3-5 students have 14 hours over one weekend to do the problem; prepare by working on problems from previous years
  • Last year, registration began November 2013 and ended February 2014

16. Technology Student Association TEAMS: Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (TEAMS) is an annual competition for middle and high school students designed to help them discover their potential for engineering. Open to homeschoolers. During this one-day competition (sometime between Feb. 9-March 21, 2015), students apply math and science knowledge in practical, creative ways to solve real-world engineering challenges. The 2015 TEAMS competition, “The Power of Engineering,” is based on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge “energy.”  Students will address engineering challenges in areas such as alternative fuels, solar power, hydropower, nuclear power, smart homes, wind energy. Events are held at universities around the U.S. National finals June 28-July 2, 2015, near Dallas, TX. TEAMS take a multiple choice test to apply math and science to novel situations, then offer ideas for engineering solutions in response to five tasks.

17. NASA Exploration Design Challenge. “The goal of the Exploration Design Challenge is for students to research and design ways to protect astronauts from space radiation.” Not sure if this event will be repeated in 2015. 2014 entry deadline was in June.

  • Challenges for grades K-4, 5-8, 9-12
  • Classroom based (would work for homeschool, too)
  • Design and build a prototype radiation shield

Traditional science fair competitions:

Science fairs were a crucial formative experience for me.  I’m competitive by nature but not interested in sports. I loved science and I was smart. Science fairs were a perfect match for me. Competing in three ISEFs truly changed my life. (Thank you, Minnesota State University SC/SW Regional Science Fair–so happy to see you’re still honoring kids with a passion for science!)

18. Intel International Science and Engineering Fairs (ISEF) and their affiliated regional fairs are the granddaddies of the science fair world. I can only summarize this massive global enterprise and direct you to the website of the sponsor, Society for Science and the Public.

  • Students in grades 6-12 are eligible to compete in affiliated regional fairs
  • Individuals or small teams perform a real scientific investigation (sometimes engineering, math, or computer programming) with well-designed experiments following the scientific method. This can be from the most basic level (such as, testing effect of water on seed germination) to the most advanced (ISEF national winners often have worked in university laboratories on cutting-edge science).
  • Check your regional fair’s website for deadlines. Regulations for use of human subjects, chemicals, etc. are quite strict and most projects require pre-approval as early as December, but certainly before the student starts work.

Broadcom MASTERS competition is part of the ISEF enterprise, a kind of junior ISEF. Top winners in grades 6-8 at ISEF-affiliated regional science fairs are nominated to enter their work in Broadcom MASTERS. Entry is by nomination only. Semifinalists are announced in August/September from the previous school year. 19.  Siemens Competition. Siemens is open to grades 9-12. Project entry deadline: Sept. 30, 2014. (Research must be done to enter, so plan now to enter next year.) 20. The BioGENEius Challenge: For big-time high school science projects in biotechnology 21. The Google Science Fair: “an online science competition seeking curious minds from the four corners of the globe. All you need is an idea. Geniuses are not always A-grade students. We welcome all mavericks, square-pegs and everybody who likes to ask questions.” As best I can tell, Google Science Fair entries are traditional science fair projects (real experiments performed using the scientific method and following all safety/ethics rules of the sponsoring fair) that the student enters online in a virtual science fair. You are allowed to enter a project that you also entered in a “real” science fair. Ideal for kids who don’t have access to an ISEF-affiliated regional fair.

  • Anybody, anywhere ages 13-18 can enter
  • No details posted yet for 2014-15; sign up to be notified
  • Awards in 3 age divisions. Big prizes: previous year’s winners won tens of thousands of dollars, media coverage, a trip to Google, and even a visit with President Obama at the White House, and a grand prize ten-day trip to the Galapagos Islands.

22. The Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair invites K-12 Canadian students to do a science project and then build a website to display their work.

  • Grades K-12 in Canadian schools
  • Registration begins January 2015

Bonus Contests:

23. Science & Art: 3rd Annual Humans in Space Art Contest

  • Open to kids 10-18 years old worldwide
  • Visual, literary, musical, or video artwork expressing vision of how will space, science, and technology benefit humanity? Must include a clear reference to the International Space Station.
  • Entry deadline: November 15, 2014.
  • Top prize: $5,000

Envirothon_Logo(1)24. Environmental Education:  North America Envirothon

  • Nationwide team competition for high school students in U.S. and Canada.
  • Teams organized in schools, homeschools, scout groups, etc.
  • In-class learning + hands-on outdoor activities to learn environmental science.
  • Topics: Soils and land use; aquatic ecology; forestry; wildlife; environmental issues. This year: sustainable local agriculture.
  • Students are tested at local competitions. National event is held in summer. (This year: July 27-August 2, 2015 Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.)
  • 2015 Topic: Urban/Community Forestry
  • Registration will open in late fall.

25. Odyssey of the Mind: A wide-ranging intellectual competition for K-12+ that includes solving problems in these categories, most of which involve STEM:

  • Mechanical/Vehicle
  • Classics
  • Performance
  • Structure
  • Technical Performance

For K-12 students in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia only:
Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research poster contest “Biomedical Research Saves Lives.” Prizes $25 and invitation to awards dinner in Hershey, PA. Entry deadline: March 15, 2015.

Discovered this one too late but will include next year: Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Entries accepted August-November 24, 2014. Working with a faculty advisor, teams of 5-7 middle or high school students develop an original concept for a mobile app that incorporates STEM principles and content and addresses a real need or problem in their school or community. Students win Galaxy Tabs; schools win thousands of dollars.

Past events that might come back: Kavli Science Video Contest. View 2014 video winners here.  The Kids Science Challenge: Sponsored by National Science Foundation, for grades 3-6. Last seen in 2012.


Do you know about another contest which should be on this list? Please leave a comment!

Please share this post! We need more kids involved in STEM.

http://www.sacstemfair.org/other-competitions.html


Teachers: Combine science learning with thriller fiction. Use the PETROPLAGUE Teacher Guide to easily incorporate Dr. Amy Rogers’ page-turning eco-disaster novel Petroplague into your advanced biology or microbiology curriculum. Perfect for homeschoolers or book clubs. Learn how to virtually bring Dr. Rogers to your group.

Want to know more about how to do a science project? Need project ideas? ScienceBuddies.org will walk you through everything.

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15 Responses to Top 25 science / STEM contests for kids 2014-2015

  1. Pingback: X-factor: 대입과 인생을 좌우하는 변수 | 털사에서 쓰는 교육컬럼

  2. kinga says:

    Top 25 science / STEM contests for kids 2014-2015 is a fantastic resource. is there an updated list for 2015-2016?

  3. Anonymous says:

    American Statistical Association Student Competitions

  4. This is a fantastic list! I love seeing Science Olympiad – I competed when I was in high school. It’s one of my favorite memories. And the bonus, Science and Art? Fabulous. I love STEAM even more than I love STEM.

    I also wanted to share that The Museum of Science Fiction, in conjunction with NASA and Cornell University, just announced a CubeSat design contest, which might be of interest to include.

    http://www.museumofsciencefiction.org/cubesat

  5. Pingback: Science Contests | Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence

  6. Each year NASA Goddard Space Flight Center sponsors the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Video Challenge which challenges students to learn about NASA Spinoff Technology and how it affects our everyday life.

    http://itpo.gsfc.nasa.gov/optimus/challenge_overview.php

    Contest opens early September and entries must be submitted by April. Winners are chosen thorough public voting and winners are invited to spend 3 days at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center working with NASA professionals.

  7. Amy Rogers says:

    Another one: National BioGENEius Challenge, for high school students doing biotechnology research.

  8. M Seiloff says:

    This posting is phenomenal! I will pass this information about these competitions along to every school that I have have contact with! I agree that it is up to us as educators, coaches and mentors of youth to make sure that they know Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math can be fun! The prizes/grants to the students/schools also help!

  9. Anonymous says:

    hiii i really like this 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Robert Chandler says:

    The Population Connection World of 7 Billion video contest! Yearly video contest to create a short PSA related to issues of increasing world population. http://www.worldof7billion.org/student-video-contest/

    • Amy Rogers says:

      Thanks for the tip, Robert. An important issue, and a delicate one, linked as it is to fertility and reproductive issues.

      I see the entry deadline for this year’s contest is February 19, 2015.

  11. Pingback: Best science technology engineering math contests for kids | ScienceThrillers.com

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