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The Ultimate Guide to STEM Competitions & Events

iD Tech in action

(Continually being updated with online options in the wake of COVID-19)

The heat of competition is a funny thing. It brings out sides of our personalities we never knew we had lurking. And frankly, it’s invigorating right? Personally, I love it. (My family on game night, not so much.)

More than that, competition just has a way of making us better. And no matter your interest or hobby, there are usually a number of ways to compete.

STEM is no different, offering local, statewide, and even national events for beginner to advanced students across a number of related disciplines.

Benefits of STEM competitions

In fact, STEM competitions provide much-needed structure to those who are just looking to get started in science, technology, engineering, and math, while also acting as a skill-building opportunity for those further along in codinggame developmentrobotics, and much more.

Benefits of STEM competitions include opportunities for students to think critically and work autonomously in some instances, or in others, to work together in teams, strengthening collaborative and social skills.

Also, for those taking their first steps in STEM, the right competition can provide a low-pressure, low barrier to entry opportunity. For more advanced students, plenty of more involved, limit-testing experiences are available.

As you can see, much like after-school STEM programs, such events offer opportunities for anyone falling anywhere on the experience scale. Either way, all participants can expect real-world problem solving, challenges requiring hands-on involvement, and out-of-the-box thinking—not bad, right? We haven’t talked about the fun and enjoyment factor.

STEM Competitions 3

How to get started

As mentioned, the good thing is, there are tons of competitions to consider—and more being added each year—with some solely taking place online and others requiring more in-person involvement.

The bad thing? I have no idea where you live, and will have to do my best to list all of the major STEM competitions I can find! Thus, this list is fluid, and while we are only a few months into the new year, some opportunities have already come and gone.

So keep this post in your pocket! Refer to it regularly, and let me know in the comments if you have an event you think should be added.

Please note that iD Tech has no affiliation with any of these events, and this listing does not serve as an endorsement. In other words, do some research.

Please also note these are simply snapshots of the different events at this time. For up to date info, you’ll want to check each listed website for dates and other specifics.

STEM competitions for high school students

Swift Student Challenge

2020 NOTE: Updated!

What: In moving the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) online for 2020, Apple has also announced the Swift Student Challenge, which pits teens against each other to see who can create an "incredible Swift playground" on the topic of their choice. 

Who: Teens ages 13 years and up. 

When: Participants can apply now!

Where: Online!

Prize: Exclusive WWDC20 jacket and pin set. 

Get involved:

Congressional App Challenge

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A public challenge where students must code and build an app of their choice. The apps are judged in district-wide competitions hosted by Members of Congress.

Who: High school students.

When: The challenge takes place from July through early November. The 2019 challenge recently launched 7/8/19—check it out!

Where: Online.

Prize: Winners receive recognition by their Member of Congress and have their work put on display in the Capitol Building.

Get involved:
App Competitions

Emperor Science Award

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A competition committed to helping develop students who have a passion for science join in the next generation of cancer researchers.

Who: Students in grades 10–11.

When: Check back for 2019 deadlines.

Where: Online.

Prize: 100 winning students will be paired with a university-level mentoring scientist to collaborate on a cancer research project. Students will also receive a Google Chromebook and $1500 for project expenses!

Get involved:

Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)

2020 NOTE: 2021 application is now open. 

What: The nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition. Entrants to this competition must conduct an original research project and supplement their applications with recommendation letters and transcripts.

What else: 13 alumni have won the Nobel Prize (wow!).

Who: Any student who is enrolled in or attending their senior year of high school.

When: Applications for the 2020 competition will open in summer 2019.

Where: 40 finalists are selected and receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for in-depth judging.

Prize: Over $2 million in awards are given; first-place prize is $250,000.

Get involved:

STEM Competitions 9

THINK Challenges

2020 NOTE: Check back in the fall.

What: Organized by a group of undergraduates from MIT, this competition is for high school students who are in the early stages of an original research project, rather than being fully completed.

Who: High school students.

When: 2019 registration is now closed; check back soon for 2020 details!

Where: Application is online.

Prize: Selected finalists are invited to a 4-day all-expenses-paid trip to MIT’s campus to meet professors in their field of research, tour labs, and network with members of the THINK team! Finalists also have weekly mentorship meetings and are given $1000 to fund their research project.

Get involved:

FLEET Competitions

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: An individual competition where students compete on a web-based platform to complete scenarios faced by naval engineers on a daily basis, using the application of STEM.

What else: Held by the American Society of Naval Engineers.

Who: Students in grades 9–12.

When: A 10-week program with one challenge scenario per week.

Where: Online.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

Source America Design Challenge

2020 NOTE: Learn more about the 2021 challenge here:

What: A challenge with a purpose! Student teams are put to the test to use STEM concepts to create a product that empowers people with disabilities. The teams work directly with an individual who is experiencing difficulties, and inventions are evaluated based on their impact level.

Who: High school and collegiate-level students.

When: Registrations take place in the Fall, with final projects due at the end of January. The National Finals occur in the Spring.

Where: The finals take place in Washington, D.C. The 3-day event includes training sessions and congressional visits on Capitol Hill.

Prize: Grand prize is $8,000 per team and $6,000 to the affiliated school.

Get involved:

M3 Challenge

2020 NOTE: 2020 competition has been completed.

What: The Mathworks Math Modeling (M3) Competition is one of the only mathematics competition of its kind. Students have 14 hours to solve an open-ended applied math-modeling problem focused on a real-world issue.

Who: Eleventh and twelfth graders located in the United States. Teams are comprised of 3–5 students and 1 coach.

When: March 2020. Check back for 2021 dates and details.

Where: Entirely based online.

Prize: Over $100,000 total in Scholarship Prizes!

Get involved:

Microsoft Imagine Cup

2020 NOTE: 2021 competition registration info has been added. 

What: A global software and game design competition hosted by Microsoft, where teams create and build technology to solve the world’s problems.

What else: Tens of thousands of participants compete every year!

Who: The “next generation of computer science students” who are at least 16 years of age, and currently enrolled at an accredited high school or college.

When: The 2020 competition has concluded. Check for 2021 details!

Where: Finals are held in Seattle, WA.

Prize: Grand prize is $100,000.

Get involved:

STEM Competitions 2

FIRST Robotics Competition

2020 NOTE: Check site for updated info.

What: An intense robotics competition typically described by students as “the hardest fun you will ever have." With limited resources and only six weeks, students are challenged to raise funds, design, build, and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against other teams.

Who: Teams of 10 or more high school students (grades 9–12).

When: Registration typically occurs in the Fall with the competition season beginning in January, culminating in the FIRST Championship in April.

Where: There are regional/state tournaments all over the US and the world! Check here for a full listing.

Prize: Access to apply to over $50 million in available scholarships.

Get involved:

Google Science Fair

2020 NOTE: New info added!

What: Competition where participants are challenged to create a hypothesis, perform an experiment, and then present the results.

Who: Students 13–18 years old, from around the globe.

When: The 2018-19 competition has concluded, so keep checking back for details (or sign up for updates).

Where: Online.

Prize: $50,000 in scholarship funding presented to an individual winner or team of winners. There are also a number of secondary prizes worth checking out!

Get involved:

Intel ISEF

2020 NOTE: Check site for info.

What: The world’s largest international pre-college science competition (basically, it’s the Superbowl of science fairs).

What else: The first step is to get involved in a regional affiliated Intel ISEF Science fair. These fairs exist in nearly every state in the United States as well as over 70 other countries, regions, and territories. Winners of regional, state, and national finals advance to the international finals.

Who: Students in grades 9-12.

When:  The 2020 International Science and Engineering Fair will be held May 10-15, 2020

Where: The 2020 Fair will be held in Anaheim, CA.

Prize: Various awards ranging from $500 to $75,000. Check the website for more details!

Get involved:

Spellman Clean Tech Competition

2020 NOTE: Live streamed finals on August 6!

What: Worldwide research and design challenge! The competition encourages students to develop a scientific understanding of real-world issues.

What else: Past challenge topics include “Solving Climate Change,” “Feed the World,” “A Solution to Pollution,” and “Clean Water for All.”

Who: Students 15–18 years old.

When: Registration takes place November to March; the final event takes place in July. 2020 dates to be announced—stay tuned!

Where: The final event takes place at Stony Brook University in New York.

Prize: Grand prize is $10,000 and the opportunity to develop a continued relationship with a mentor. All 10 finalists receive monetary awards; check the website for more details.

Get involved:

U Stockholm Junior Water Prize

2020 NOTE: The 2020 competition has completed.

What: A prestigious youth award for a water-related research project that seeks to address current and future water challenges.

What else: The competition consists of four levels: regional, state, national, and international. Awards are given at each level to recognize achievement in water-related research.

Who: Open to all high school students in grades 9–12 who have reached the age of 15 by August 1st of the competition year.

When: Deadline to submit state competition is usually around mid-April. State winners will be eligible for national competition entry.

Where: State entry is online. International SJWP Competition will take place in Stockholm, Sweden.

Prize: Student will receive $15,000 and the student’s school will receive $5,000.

Get involved:


2020 NOTE: The 2020 competition has been canceled.

What: The world’s largest high school-level competition with a focus on environmental science and natural resource management.

What else: Students must win their respective local or state competition to be eligible to participate in the National Competition.

Who: Teams of five students in grades 9–12.

When: The 2021 NCF-Envirothon takes place July 25 - July 31, 2021.

Where: 2019 finals competition are being held in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A business and technical competition that challenges students to identify a problem, build a solution, and design a path toward commercialization of the product.

What else: The Conrad Foundation was created by Nancy Conrad in honor of her late husband, Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. The famous astronaut believed that students are the key to creating the next commercially viable product that will help to support global sustainability and propel humanity.

Who: Teams of high school students (ages 13–18).

When: Initial registration begins in September and competitions culminate in the Innovation Summit in April.

Where: The final Innovation Summit takes place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida—cool!

Prize: Various awards from sponsors. Check website for more details.

Get involved:

STEM Competitions 12

Google Change the Game

2020 NOTE: Looks like ideas can still be submitted. 

What: A competition that challenges entrants to use their creativity to imagine a new video game and write an essay that represents what they want to see change about the video game industry.

Who: US residents between the ages of 13–18.

When: Deadline to enter is typically May 2019. 

Where: Online.

Prize: Grand prize is a VIP Trip to L.A. to attend the E3 conference, a scholarship to Girls Make Games Summer Camp, a $10,000 college scholarship, an Android tablet, and a $15,000 technology contribution to their school.

Get involved:

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A STEM competition where students are asked to present findings of their original research effort to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers.

What else: The National Symposium is much more than a competition. It includes planned opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits, and networking.

Who: Students in grades 9–12.

When: Deadlines vary by region.

Where: Regional competitions occur across all 50 states. Click here to find your closest location!

Prize: The first-place regional prize is $2,000 in scholarships and the National grand prize is $12,000 in scholarships.

Get involved:

American Regions Mathematics League (ARML) Contest

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A mathematics contest for high school students that consists of several events, including a team round, a power question round, an individual round, two relay rounds, and a super relay round. Teams generally consist of 15 students.

Who: Generally high school students, although some exceptional junior high students attend each year.

When: May 31st and June 1st, 2019

Where: Held at four universities across the United States (Penn State University, University of Iowa, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Georgia).

Prize: Various prizes are awarded to the top teams.

Get involved:

LEGO Rebrick Contests

2020 NOTE: TBD

What: A collection of official LEGO contests. Anyone can participate by submitting digital photos and videos of their own custom LEGO creations online.

What else: Rules of each contest and requirements may vary. Each contest has its own theme, such as creating your own go-kart, creating a dream skyline, or creating stop-motion endings to LEGO YouTube videos!

Who: LEGO enthusiasts over the age of 13.

When: Various due dates.

Where: Online.

Prize: Various prizes ranging from rare signed LEGO sets, display and use of your LEGO creation, or even an all-expenses-paid trip! See website for more details.

Get involved:

Dive deeper: LEGO robotics summer camps

STEM Competitions 7

STEM competitions for middle school students

Perennial Math Tournaments

2020 NOTE: Looks like online competitions are ongoing. 

What: A online, virtual, or in-person math tournament—you choose! Rules vary by each tournament, so check out their info pages below to learn more.

Who: Teams or individuals in grades 3–8.

When: There are two seasons for the online tournaments (Nov–Feb,  Jan–Apr). The in-person tournaments take place throughout the year. All winners of on-site tournaments will be invited to the National Championship on May 14–21.

Where: The in-person tournaments take place throughout the US.

Prize: Your own championship trophy!

Get involved:

National Science Bee

2020 NOTE: All live events through July 2020 have been canceled. 

What: The National Quiz Bowl, buzzer system and all.

What else: This is a great competition to get your feet wet in a big way! Whereas attendance at most national competitions requires success at a pre-qualifying regional event, anyone can register and participate in the National Science Bee!

Who: Students eighth grade and younger.

When: The National Science Bee is undergoing a major expansion for the 2018-2019 academic year. See the announcement and check back for more info on the 2019-2019 season. 

Where: Atlanta, GA.

Prize: $1,500 worth of total prizes will be distributed.

Get involved:


2020 NOTE: Registration for 2020-2021 is open.

What: A National mathematics competition where students face off in live, in-person contests against their peers.

What else: The competition takes place at three levels—regional, state, and national championships. The top students at each level advance to the next.

Who: Open to all students in grades 6-8. Students must be registered with their school by a coach representative (usually a teacher). Check with your local school to find out more!

When: Registration typically opens in late summer with the competition season in Winter/Spring.

Where: There are over 500 regional competitions all over the country!

Prize: Vary each year—check the website for more details!

Get involved:


2020 NOTE: National judging and education even in June is going virtual.

What: STEM Competition for teams proposing solutions to real community issues with their projects.

What else: Put on by the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP).

Who: Students in grades 6–9.

When: Registration typically takes place from August–December with the research project due in March.

Where: Online.

Prize: 1st place winners at the state level receive $1,000 US Series EE Savings Bonds per student. 1st place regional winners receive an additional $2,000 in Bonds and a paid trip to the finals. 1st place national winners receive an additional $5,000 in Bonds.

Get involved:

You Be the Chemist

2020 NOTE: Registration for the 2020-2021 Challenge will open in Fall 2020.

What: A chemistry competition held by the Chemical Educational Foundation where individuals compete in a quiz bowl format at the local, state, and national levels. View the intro video here.

What else: National Championships take place in Washington D.C.

Who: Students in grades 5–8.

When: Registration typically begins in October. State Championships take place in April and the National Championship in June.

Where: Over 40 states participate! Click the link below to find the location closest to you.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

America’s Top Young Scientist

2020 NOTE: 2020 winners have been announced. 

What: A video competition in which students are asked to create a 1–2 minute video describing a unique solution to an everyday problem.

What else: 10 finalists are chosen to compete in the National Finals.

Who: Students in grades 5–8 in the United States.

When: 2020 challenges have concluded. Please check back for 2021 details, but the challenge typically opens early March. 

Where: Online! National Finals are typically held in Maplewood, Minnesota.

Prize: Previous grand prize was a $25,000 cash award, a trip to attend the taping of a Discovery Networks Show, and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist 2018.”

Get involved:

Project CS Girls

2020 NOTE: Deadline to register was March 2020. 

What: A STEM challenge aimed at increasing the education of middle school girls and closing the gender gap in STEM.

What else: The challenge: “Build something using computer science and technology that can help solve an imminent social problem under one of four themes—global health, a safer world, intelligent technology, and bridging inequalities."

Who: Girls currently enrolled in middle school (grades 6–8). You can participate as an individual or as a team of 2–3.

When: Registration typically occurs in Fall (Sept–Oct). Finalists are announced in May and the National Gala takes place in June.

Where: The National Gala is held in Washington, D.C.

Prize: Three grand prize winners receive national recognition, an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Gala, certificates and engraved plaques, electronics, gadgets, and other various prizes.

Get involved:

Broadcom Masters

2020 NOTE: 2020 application is now open! 

What:  A premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.

What else: Affiliated science fairs around the country nominate the top 10% of their participants to enter this prestigious competition.

Who: Students in grades 6-8.

When: Finals are typically held in May.

Where: Finals are typically held in Washington, D.C.

Prize: Various awards ranging from $2,500 to $25,000. Check the website for more details!

Get involved:

Future City

2020 NOTE: The 2020-2021 theme will be released in mid-July 2020.

What: “If you can dream it, you can build it.” The Future City is a team challenge where students research, design, and build cities that showcase a solution to a citywide sustainability issue. The topic changes each year and can include stormwater management, public spaces, green energy, age-related issues and more.

What else: The challenge is made of five parts: a virtual city design (using SimCity), an essay, a scale model, a project plan, and a presentation to the judges.

Who: Teams of students in grades 6-8. All teams must have an educator or mentor as a coach.

When: Deadline to register will be announced (typically registration takes place in the Fall). Regional competitions take place in January and the finals take place in February.

Where: Finals are in Washington, D.C.!

Prize: Grand prize is a trip to space camp and $7,500 cash award.

Get involved:

Junior Solar Sprint

2020 NOTE: 2020 conference has been canceled. 

What: An engineering competition where teams of students design, build, and race solar-powered cars. Students that are successful in local and regional competitions are invited to the national competition each June.

Who: Students in grades 5–8.

When: Registration begins in September 2019.

Where: Details for regional locations to be announced.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

STEM competitions for various ages

NASA Student Competitions

What: A collection of official NASA contests for the “next generation of explorers.” Topics range from creating a space app, illustrating a topic, or even bioengineering!

Who: Varies by contest.

When: Deadlines vary, please check the link below for the current contests.

Where: Varies by contest.

Prize: Varies by contest—prizes range from a trophy to $500,000.

STEM Competitions 6

American Mathematics Competitions (AMC)

What: A series of mathematics tournaments and competitions for middle and high school students that’s over 60 years old! There are three levels of competition: the AMC-8 (middle school students), AMC-10 (grades 9 and 10), AMC-12 (grades 11 and 12).

What else: The AMC is one of the first steps for determining the United States team for the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Who: Students in grades 8–12.

When: AMC-8 typically takes place in late fall, while the AMC-10 and 12 take place in late winter.

Where: Competitions take place all over the country. See the full list here.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

Math Competitions

Math League

What: A series of competitions designed for teams of elementary, middle, and high school students that all culminate in National Championships in spring.

What else: The details of the competition change based on the age of the students. Click the link below to read more about the details for your child!

Who: Elementary (grade 3) through high school students (grade 12).

When: Most regional- and state-level contests are held throughout the fall and winter. For instance, the 2019 Elementary School National Championship will be held June 15, 2019 (at Texas A&M!)

Where: Various locations throughout the entire United States.

Prize: Prizes vary based on location and competition levels.

Get involved:

Purple Comet Math Meet

What: An online, international mathematics competition designed for middle and high school students.

What else: There is a ten-day window during which teams may compete choosing a start time that's most convenient. Problems range in difficulty.

Who: Teams of middle and high school students with an adult supervisor.

When: The 2019 contest has passed! The 2020 contest takes place April 21, 2020. 

Where: Online.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

The Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl

What: One of the nation’s largest academic competitions that tests students’ knowledge on a range of science and math disciplines. Teams face off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format.

What else: Teams must qualify at the regional level to participate in the National Science Bowl. Click here to find your closest regional competition.

Who: Middle and high school teams formed of 4 students, 1 alternative student, and 1 coach.

When: Check your local state’s website for regional event info.

Where: All 50 states participate!

Prize: Regional prizes vary. Top teams can win a variety of awards including monetary awards for their schools, a (massive!) trophy, an all-expenses-paid trip, and bragging rights. Check the website for more details!

Get involved:
Head to Head

National STEM League

What: A team-oriented STEM competition. Students can participate in the online competition or one of the three face-to-face competitions, depending on their interests.

Who: Middle to high school students.

When: The 2018-19 points race ended on May 6th. The 2018-19 NSL Finals will be held April 27-28, 2019. Regional in-person competitions typically begin in the Fall.

Where: Regional competitions occur throughout the United States.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

STEM Competitions 4

U.S.A Mathematical Talent Search (USAMTS)

What: A monthly online mathematics competition where students are given one math problem to solve. Because of the level of difficulty, students have the remainder of the month to work out solutions.

What else: Students' solutions are graded by mathematicians, and comments are returned to the students to develop their problem-solving skills and writing abilities.

Who: Middle and high school students.

When: Ongoing! As soon as you register, you're able to download the month’s problem.

Where: Online.

Prize: Participants are eligible for various prizes, such as books and software throughout the year. Additionally, the top scorers are invited to take the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), a process necessary for applying to the USA Mathematical Olympiad Team.

Get involved:

F1 In Schools

What: A competition that challenges teams of students to design, manufacture, and race the Formula 1 “car of the future."

What else: Competition takes place at regional, state, national, and world levels. Over 40 countries participate in the World Finals and the competition runs alongside the International F1 Grand Prix (cool!).

Who: Nine- to nineteen-year-old students in teams of 3–6.

When: World Finals will start November 24, 2019. National Finals usually take place in April–June 2019. 

Where: All over the country! Click the link below to find a location closest to you. The World Finals will be held in Abu Dhabi!

Prize: Access to recruiters from prestigious universities. Other prizes may vary; check the website for more details.

Get involved:
Research and Proposal

EngineerGirl Essay Contest

What: An essay contest challenging students to research and write about engineering and its impact on the world.

What else: Previous prompts include various topics, such as improving your community’s infrastructure, using engineering to improve the life of an endangered species, and the intersection of engineering and sports.

Who: Students grade 3–12.

When: 2019 contest has concluded! Check back for 2020 info. 

Where: Online.

Prize: Up to $500 cash award.

STEM Competitions 8


What: “More than just a student science competition” where participants engage in real-world problem solving, rooted in STEM.

What else: The challenge is to look 20 years into the future and communicate a new future technology. Cool!

Who: Teams of 2–4 students in grades K–12.

When: The 2019 competition has concluded. Please check back for 2020 details. 

Where: Online.

Prize: 4 winning teams are awarded US EE Savings Bond worth $10,000 at maturity. Other prizes also offered for second place, finalists, and honorable mentions.

Get involved:
Real World

Technovation Challenge

What: A 12-week challenge where teams of young women work with mentors to identify a problem in their community and develop a mobile app and launch a startup (completing everything from coding to writing a business plan).

What else: Technovation is the world’s largest technology entrepreneurship challenge for girls aged 10–18. It runs across 100+ countries.

Who: Girls aged 10–18 as of August 1, 2019.

When: Registrations typically open in October and final submissions are due in April.

Where: Online.

Prize: Top students are chosen to attend the Technovation World Pitch Summit in Silicon Valley where they “pitch” their apps to industry professionals.

Get involved:

Bonus: Technovation strives to inspire girls to get involved in STEM and close the gender gap. For enrollees in Technovation, 58% of alumnae enroll in a further computer science class and 26% major in CS (that is 65x higher than the national rate)!

Fluor Challenge

What: A hands-on engineering contest that challenges students to complete a fun task (such as launch an aluminum foil ball as far as possible) using limited resources (such as pencils, paper, paper clips, plastic cups and rubber bands).

Who: K–12 students; individuals or teams up to 4 students.

When: All entries are typically due by March 2019. Check back for 2020 dates.

Where: Students can complete the challenge anywhere!

Prize: Ten teams are drawn at random for $1,000 prizes for their schools!

Get involved:

STEM Competitions 10The Tech Museum Challenge

What: The challenge invites teams of students to use their engineering skills to solve a problem. Teams must document their processes and build their designs. Teams showcase their work at the finals in April.

What else: The challenge’s topic changes each year! 2019’s topic: “No roads, no problem!”

Who: Teams of students in grades 4–12.

When: The deadline to register is typically March 2019, with judging taking place at the end of April. 

Where: Location to be announced.

Prize: Check the website for more details!

Get involved:

VEX Robotics Competitions

What: A collection of various robotics competitions held by The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. Each team of students is tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams head-to-head in a game-based engineering challenge.

What else: The world championship is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s largest robotics competition (awesome!).

Who: Elementary to collegiate-level students. Minimum age is 8 years old.

When: Tournaments are held year-round at the regional, state, and national levels. Winners are invited to the VEX Robotics World Championship each April.

Where: All across the globe! Check your local listings for locations/dates here.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

Get involved:

Dive deeper: Vex robotics summer camps

Rube Goldberg Machine Contests

What: A national contest that tasks teams of students to build a machine that completes a simple task (like “pour a box of cereal”) in an overly complicated way. The 2019 competition topic was "Put money in a piggy bank" and the 2020 challenge will be "Turn off a light."

What else: There are two categories—live competitions or online competitions. To compete at the National Finals, teams must win one regional level live competition.

Who: Students aged 8 and up to collegiate-level.

When: Live competitions occur throughout Spring, all culminating in the National Finals in late April. Deadline to register for online competition was 3/31/2019.

Where: Find a listing of regional competition locations with dates/times here.

Prize: National Champions win a team trophy and a $1,000 cash award. The 2018 team even appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! See the clip here.

Get involved:

BEST Robotics Competition

What: A robotics competition where teams compete head-to-head. Each year a new challenge is chosen based on real-world issues.

What else: “BEST” stands for “Boosting Engineering, Science & Technology.”

Who: Middle and high school students.

When: Local competitions begin in October 2019.  National finals typically take place in December.

Where: Currently, 19 states participate. Locations vary—click here to see the upcoming list of events.

Prize: BEST distributes many awards for each competition, ranging from the coveted BEST award, creativity awards, and software design. Prizes vary based on regional, state, or national level. Check the website for more details!

Get involved:

Robotics Competitions

Wonder League Robotics

What: A robotics/programming challenge where teams participate in three competition rounds over a period of five months under the guidance of a coach.

What else: Teams that are successful in the preliminary competition rounds are invited to the open invitational to compete face-to-face with other teams.

Who: Children aged 6–12 (as of August 14).

When: A year-round competition. Registration begins each year in late Summer. Competitions take place throughout Fall and Winter, with the finals taking place in Spring.

Where: Registration is online and preliminary competition rounds take place remotely, which means children with all types of schedules can participate!

Prize: Grand Prize has been $5,000 STEM grant, national recognition, and each team member receives their own Dash Robot.

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Zero Robotics Tournament

What: An international programming competition where students must program satellites to complete certain objectives (such as avoid obstacles, collect objects, etc.) while preserving resources such as fuel. The competition is provided through a partnership with various organizations including MIT and NASA.

What else: The competition culminates in the finals where winning teams’ satellites compete aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Students watch via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide commentary (cool!).

Who: Middle and high school students.

When: Middle school registration deadline is June 1, 2019. High school registration typically opens in late Summer.

Where: Throughout the United States and multiple other countries; locations vary based on program and age. Click the link below to find all locations offered.

Prize: Check the website for more details.

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FIRST Tech Challenge

What: A robotics competition where teams of students are responsible for designing, building, and programming robots in a 10-week period, and competing in a head-to-head alliance format against other teams. Winners of the regional/state tournaments are invited to take part in the FIRST National Championship!

Who: Students in grades 7–12.

When: Each season is year-round. Registration typically takes place in May, competition season begins in September, regional/state tournaments from October–April, and the FIRST Championship in April.

Where: Regional and state competitions occur all over the US!

Prize: Access to apply to over $50 million in available scholarships.

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Team America Rocketry Challenge

What: The world’s largest student rocket contest. The contest challenges students to design, build, and fly a rocket carrying a raw egg to a specific altitude and back. The top 100 teams are invited to Washington, D.C. for the National Finals.

What else: Approximately 5,000 students from across the nation compete each year. The contest rules and scoring parameters change every cycle to challenge the students.

Who: Teams of 3–10 students in grades 7–12.

When: Registration typically occurs in Dec. Check back for the 2018/2019 competition year!

Where: National finals take place in Washington, D.C.

Prize: Winning teams split over $100,000 in cash and scholarships. The overall winning team will travel to Europe to compete in the International Rocketry Challenge.

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STEM Competitions 11

Future Engineers Challenges

What: A collection of innovation challenges for K–12 students. Previous challenges have included designing a 3D-printed tool for astronauts to use in space!

What else: Held in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Foundation and NASA.

Who: Students in Grades K–12.

When: Varies by challenge.

Where: Online!

Prize: Varies by challenge.

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Science Competitions

Science Olympiad

What: One of the nation’s premier science competitions.

What else: Founded in 1984, to increase K12 and teacher participation in STEM.

Who: Differs by state; go here to get started.

When: Same as above; check your local state’s website for event info!

Where: All 50 states participate!

Prize: Awards, trophies, cash scholarships, tuition awards, and prizes are offered by the host Universities and sponsors. Check the website for more details.

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Shell Science Lab Challenge

What: A competition recognizing school programs for their innovative approaches to science lab instruction utilizing limited school resources.

Who: Teachers representing their programs in middle and high schools in the United States and Canada.

When: Due by 12:00pm EST on 1/15/2020.

Where: Online submission. Winners will be announced during a black-tie dinner at the NSTA National Conference on Science Education.

Prize: Grand prize includes a lab makeover valued at $20,000—wow!

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Destination Imagination STEM Team Challenges

What: A set of seven challenges, each focusing on one specific area of STEM (i.e., Scientific Challenge, Technical Challenge, etc.) and including a project that teams work on for 2–4 months.

What else: Teams select only one challenge to participate in and showcase their projects at local tournaments. When a team qualifies at the state level, they are invited to compete at the Global Finals.

Who: Anybody in Kindergarten through University can participate! Students are grouped and compete according to their grade level.

When: Typically September through May. Check back for 2018–2019 registration!

Where: Located in 45 states and 30 countries!

Prize: Check the website for more details.

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Solar Decathlon

What: An international collegiate competition made up of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design, build, and operate full-size, solar-powered houses. Simply put, there is nothing else like it. Teams spend up to two years planning and designing their houses with the final competition taking place over a few days.

What else: The competition has expanded internationally with contests taking place in Europe (2019), China (2018), Latin America (2019), Africa (2019), and the Middle East (2020).

Who: Collegiate teams.

When: The next US Solar Decathlon will take place in 2020.

Where: The next U.S. location will be announced—check back soon!

Prize: 2017 was the first year of cash prizes. All participants received at least $100,000 for successfully completing the competition. Each team received additional cash awards based on their finished rankings, with the top team receiving $300,000 total.

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computer camp instructor helping student

Collegiate Wind Competition

What: A competition that challenges collegiate teams to use their skills and knowledge to finish a complex wind energy project over the course of a school year. The challenge includes three elements that provide each student with real-world experience.

Who: Interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate students.

When: Registration will take place in the Fall of 2019 and the competition finals take place in Spring 2020.

Where: 2020 location will be Denver, CO.

Prize: Not all awards are cash prizes—click here to see five benefits of entering the Collegiate Wind Competition.

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Video Game Competitions

National STEM Video Game Challenge

What: A video game design competition, designed to spark an interest in STEM by appealing to a natural interest in games (and to encourage kids to go from playing games to creating their own... sound familiar?).

What else: Originally launched by the White House’s “Education to Innovate” campaign!

Who: Students in grades 5–12.

When: Check website for details; typically February–April for entries.

Where: Online.

Prize: Members of winning teams are each awarded $1,000.

Get involved:

That's all... for now! Please let us know about any other STEM competitions you feel are worthy of inclusion!

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Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!