Everything You Need to Know about Fall STEM Competitions

Posted September 4, 2020 by Aisha Abdullah, PhD

science competition

A new school year brings exciting new challenges, this year perhaps more so than most people in our lifetime have seen. With the abundance of challenges ahead, many educators, and parents alike are wondering how to keep their students engaged in a world of virtual learning. The answer may be through problem, or challenge-based-learning, particularly in STEM subjects. 

Academic competitions are an ideal opportunity for students to explore all that STEM has to offer. Student contests, competitions, prizes, and challenges offer unique experiences that students can often lead on their own while engaging them at an intrinsic level in the curriculum they need to learn. Now is the perfect time to get involved as many STEM competitions are just beginning to ramp up! 

Each year, new STEM competitions emerge and some close their doors. Whether you’re new to the academic competition space or an old pro, the options can be overwhelming. To make the process easier, we’ve compiled a list of STEM competitions that are opening registrations or submissions this fall. This list isn’t comprehensive but will give you a good idea of the wealth of exciting STEM opportunities available. To explore further, check out the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) database of academic competitions

With a free ICS  account, you can follow competitions to make sure you never miss a deadline or update, or with an upgraded, premium account you can take advantage of additional features to help you manage your participation in the wide array of opportunities available.


Getting Started in STEM Competitions

Are you new to STEM competitions? No problem! Here are some tips for getting started, finding the right competition for you, and how to succeed in this new academic arena.

  1. Find what sparks your interest. If you are unsure if STEM competitions are for you, we highly recommend taking some time to explore what types of competitions are out there using the ICS database. You might be surprised to find that STEM competitions are not limited to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Searching the database by keyword and theme will reveal competitions that involve visual art and design, videos and music, sports, poetry, entrepreneurship, and much more. Use the ICS database filters to find the topics of contests and competition that are most interesting to you.
  2. Discover the right competition style for you. There are many different types of STEM competitions: virtual or in-person, team or individual, project-based or quiz-based. Take some time to review the list below and explore the find ICS database using the competition type filter to find a competition that suits your learning style.
  3. Think local. Many of the largest and most recognizable STEM competitions start with local affiliates. FIRST, Regeneron ISEF, Olympiads, FPSPI, and many others host local competitions that send finalists to national or international events. Check with local schools, colleges and universities, science centers and museums, and libraries to find out about competitions in your own backyard!
  4. Build your support system. STEM competitions may seem intimidating, but the reality is no one becomes a STEM champion on their own. Seek out peers who are involved in competitions, supportive teachers, and family members who can help you succeed. Virtual competitions are a great way to connect with other students and coaches to build a network.
  5. Don’t get discouraged! It’s not all about winning the grand national championship. There are so many other benefits to just participating in these programs, like building your own critical thinking, teamwork, resiliency, and grit! Don’t get down if you don’t make it to the advanced rounds on your first try, learn from the experience and try again!

Featured Competitions


Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a creative problem-solving competition in which individual and team participants research topics and propose solutions or stories about the local and global challenges of today and the future. FPSPI has four competitions: Global Issues Problem Solving, Community Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Scenario Performance. The competitions are open to students grades 4 – 12. Interested participants can contact their local affiliates to get involved. 


Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (RGMC) is an engineering design competition with a twist: students aged 8-18 are challenged to design a machine that performs a simple task in the most amusingly complicated way possible! The contest encourages creative thinking, teamwork, and a healthy dose of humor. The contest task was announced on September 9th.


Modeling the Future Challenge(MTFC) is a math-modeling competition that incorporates risk-management, analytical and critical thinking skills, and independent research. Hosted by The Actuarial Foundation (TAF) and High juniors and seniors are eligible to participate. Registration is open from September 14 to November 16.


Innovation and Design Competitions

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest – Contest that invites students aged 11-18 to submit visual, art, media, writing, and/or multimedia pieces that bring awareness to ocean issues. Submissions open in September.

Conrad Challenge – A team innovation and entrepreneurship competition for students ages 13-18. The deadline for team registration is November 6.

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge – Science competition invites grades 5-8 to develop innovative solutions to challenges facing them, their communities, and the world. Challenge opens on December 17.

Junior Solar Sprint – Education challenge for students grades 5-8 to design a solar-powered vehicle. Registration is open through January 1.

NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge – Engineering design challenge focused on human space exploration. Open to high school students. Registration begins on October 8.

REACH Challenge – Team design-thinking project for middle school and high school students. Registration ends on December 18. 

The American Rocketry Challenge – Team rocketry competition for 6 – 12 graders. Applications open through December 1.

The Tech Challenge – Teams of students grades 4-12 use the engineering design process to solve real-world problems. The challenge launches in October.

Math Competitions

Caribou Mathematics Competition – Global online math contests held throughout the school year. Open to grades 3-12. The next contests are on October 14 and 15. 

Continental Mathematics League – School-based math meets open to students in grades 2 – 12. The next meet is on November 5.

Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament – Biannual high math school competition. Registration for the November contest is September 1 to October 16.

High School Mathematics Contest in Modeling – Team applied math modeling contest held from November 4 – 17. The registration deadline is November 4.

Math Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools (MOEMS) – School-based series of math contests held between November and March for students grades 4 – 8

MATHCOUNTS Competition Series – School-based middle school math competition. The registration deadline is December 1.

MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge – Internet-based applied math competition for 11 and 12 graders. Registration opens in November.

Modeling the Future Challenge – a math-modeling competition that incorporates risk-management, analytical and critical thinking skills, and independent research. Registration is open from September 14 to November 16.

Quiz Bowl and Exam Competitions

International Olympiad in Informatics – High school informatics competition. Students complete competition tasks between September and December to qualify to represent their country in the international event.

National Science Bowl – US Dept of Energy – Science and math competition for middle and high school students. Registration for regional competitions opens on October 1.

USA Biology Olympiad – Biology competition open to high school students. School registration begins on September 14.

You Be The Chemist Challenge – Academic competition for students grades 5-8 held at the school, local, state, and national levels. Registration is open between September 28 – December 31. 

Research Competitions

GENIUS Olympiad – High school competition with an environmental focus. Students develop projects in 1 of 7 categories: Science, Writing, Business, Robotics, Art, Music, and Short Film. The application opens on December 1.

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium – Independent research challenge for high school students. Regional symposia are hosted around the country and begin accepting applications in the Fall.

Regeneron Science Talent Search – National science competition for rising 12th graders. Accepting applications through November 12.

Tech and Cybersecurity Competitions

American Computer Science League –  Computer science contests for junior and senior high school students. The next contest is on Friday, December 18. See full schedule contest schedule at https://www.aux.acsl.org/schedule

CyberPatriot – Online cyber defense competition open to teams of K-12 students. The deadline for team registration is on October 15.

Imagine Cup (Microsoft) –  Global team computer science competition open to students over the age of 16. Accepting applications now. 

National Cyber League – Cybersecurity competition for high school students. Registration is open now for fall challenges.

Technovation Girls – Free technology-based team competition for girls ages 10 – 18. Registration opens in mid-October.

Don’t forget to use the online ICS database to discover new STEM competitions and stay up to date on the competitions you are interested in! Upgrade to a premium account for additional tools to help you track your progress in competitions and get special discounts on ICS managed programs!