Each year, thousands and thousands of students challenge themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic competitions. And each year it seems that more and more student competitions are coming out in science, technology, engineering, and math, but also writing, literature, critical thinking, problem solving, debate, and many other fields. This makes it more difficult to understand where to put your time in pursuing academic competitions. With limited time and limited resources it can be hard for parents, educators, and students to know which competitions to take on or even what educational competitions are out there!

At the Institute of Competition Sciences we try to make it easy for parents, educators, and students to navigate the world of academic competitions. We track competitions and try to stay up on their deadlines and information so you have a comprehensive source to understand what you want to do when. The list below describes many competitions in the STEM arena; however, even this massive list just touches on what’s actually available. For the best information, we recommend searching for competitions using our online database. This lets you filter competitions based on specific keywords or eligibility criteria to find just the ones you are interested in. This will be the best way to navigate the complex industry of academic competitions.

Also, make sure you get your own free ICS account so you can track and follow the competitions that are interesting to you! But, if you just want to do a quick read through some of the top competitions that are out there, check out our list below.

Groups of STEM competitions: Science Fairs and Research Competitions, Robotics and Engineering Competitions, Math Competitions, Coding and App Competitions, STEM Bees and Bowls, and general STEM related competitions.


Science Fairs and Research Competitions


Google Science Fair, This online science competition is open to students between the ages of 13 and 18 from anywhere in the world, working alone or in teams. Google is looking for extraordinary ideas, and they are eager to see what youth come up with. This is a great opportunity for teenagers to explore ideas they’re passionate about, learn about science, and maybe produce a world-changing idea.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/google-science-fair/


Regeneron Science Talent Search, The Regeneron Science Talent Search (formerly Intel STS) is the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors. Since 1942, the Science Talent Search has provided a national stage for the country’s best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/regeneron-science-talent-search-sts/


Broadcom MASTERS, Targeted at middle school students in grades 6th-8th, the Broadcom MASTERS is a national science, technology, engineering, and math competition that encourages the nation’s young scientists, engineers and innovators.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/broadcom-masters/


Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, High school students may apply to compete for scholarships and recognition by present­ing the results of their STEM projects before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits and networking benefit participating students. JSHS regional symposia are held at 48 nationwide university campuses and serve students in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the DoD Dependents Schools, Europe and Pacific.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/junior-science-and-humanities-symposium/sw-region-junior-science-humanities-symposium-jshs/


Stockholm Junior Water Prize, This international competition, modeled after the adult Stockholm Water Prize, encourages enthusiasm in today’s youth about water issues and builds an international community of young scientists bonded together for the water environment. High school students who have conducted water-related science projects are encouraged to apply for the opportunity to share their research and win a $10,000 scholarship. Projects should be aimed at enhancing the quality of life through improvement of water quality, water resource management, or water and wastewater treatment. The projects may explore water issues on a local, regional, national, or global level using a research-oriented approach.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/stockholm-junior-water-prize/


iGEM, The iGEM competition is an annual, world-wide, synthetic biology event aimed at undergraduate university students, as well as high school and graduate students. Multidisciplinary teams work all summer long to build genetically engineered systems using standard biological parts called BioBricks. iGEM teams work inside and outside the lab, creating sophisticated projects that strive to create a positive contribution to their communities and the world.

Who: High School, Undergraduate, Graduate

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/igem-genetically-engineered-machines/


BioGENEius Challenges, compete on an international stage with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world. Students are challenged to develop scientific research projects in three overarching areas, Global Healthcare, Global Sustainability, and Global Environment. Then students present their work to industry innovators currently transforming the scientific landscape.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/biogeneius-challenges/



Robotics and Engineering Design Challenges


FIRST Competitions, unless you’ve been under a rock the last 10 years, you’ve probably heard of FIRST. Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Although the Robotics Competition is for high school students, FIRST also includes other competitions for elementary and middle school students.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school

Learn more and follow these competitions on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/first-robotics-competition/


Botball, The Botball® Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition, and serves as a perfect way to meet today’s new common core standards. In Botball, the robots are always autonomous! Botball gives students the tools to develop sophisticated strategies using artificial intelligence with embedded systems. Students will learn to program their robots in advance using C, C++, and Java and then compete in tournaments to see how their robots perform against others.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/botball/


Junior Solar Sprint, JSS is an educational program for 5th through 8th grade students with the goal of creating the fastest, most interesting, and best crafted solar-vehicle possible. Students will design, build and race solar powered cars using hands-on engineering skills and principles of science and math, develop teamwork and problem solving abilities, investigate environmental issues, and gain hands-on STEM skills.


Best Robotics Competition, The Best Robotics Competition challenges students to design robots that perform on a specially designed field with obstacles and tasks in a tournament style setting. New educational theme/challenge and field each year. The challenge and field are kept secret until Kick Off Day.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/best-robotics-challenge/


Vex Robotics Competition, the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program globally with more than 18,000 teams from 40 countries playing in over 1,350 competitions worldwide. Each year, an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete year-round.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow the Vex Competitions on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/vex-robotics-competition/


Zero Robotics, Zero Robotics is a robotics programming competition where the robots are SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the International Space Station. The competition starts online, on this website, where teams program the SPHERES to solve an annual challenge. After several phases of virtual competition in a simulation environment that mimics the real SPHERES, finalists are selected to compete in a live championship aboard the ISS. An astronaut will conduct the championship competition in microgravity with a live broadcast!

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow Zero Robotics on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/zero-robotics/



Mathematics Competitions


Modeling the Future Challenge, The Modeling the Future Challenge asks high school students to use mathematics and real-world data to predict how a new technology could change the future! The Challenge helps students learn data analytics, mathematical modeling, and actuarial science. By competing in the MTF Challenge students learn to analyze data and create mathematical models to predict what will happen in the future based on that data. Each year a technology theme is selected in which students identify and characterize one way they think the technology will change the future.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow the Modeling the Future Challenge on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/2018-19-modeling-the-future-challenge/


American Mathematics Competitions, the Mathematics Association of America hosts 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).

Who: middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-mathematics-competition-10/


American Regions Math League, ARML is the World Series of mathematics competitions. The contest is written for high school students, although some exceptional junior high students attend each year. The competition consists of several events, which include a team round, a power question (in which a team solves proof-oriented questions), an individual round, two relay rounds (in which a contestant solves a problem and passes his/her answer to another team member, who uses this answer to solve another problem), and a super relay.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-regions-mathematics-league/


AoCMM Math Modeling Competition,  The AoCMM math modeling competition for high school and college students provides the perfect opportunity to use your interest and skills in math modeling in a friendly competitive environment. Along with the development of skills in networking, communication, and teamwork,  there are plenty of prestigious prizes to be won! Additionally, constructive feedback from our judges is designed to help you continue to extend your skills personally and for potential careers. Furthermore, this competition is ideal for people with any level of math modeling experience!

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/aocmm-math-modeling-competition/


Caribou Mathematics Contest, The Caribou Mathematics Competition is a world-wide online contest that is held six times throughout the school year. Each of these days, five contests are offered, one for each of the grade levels 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 and 11/12 and each one in English, French and Persian. The Caribou Cup is the series of all Caribou Contests in one school year. Each student's ranking in the Caribou Cup is determined by their performance in their best 5 of 6 contests through the school year.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/caribou-mathematics-competition/


Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament, one of the largest and most prestigious high school competitions in the world. Each tournament draws close to 1000 students from around the globe, including top scorers at national and international olympiads. HMMT is entirely student-organized, by students at Harvard, MIT, and nearby schools, many of whom are HMMT alumni themselves.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this tournament on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/harvard-mit-mathematics-tournament/


MathCounts Competition Series, the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series is a national program that provides students the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers. The Competition Series has 4 levels of competition—school, chapter, state and national. Each level of competition is comprised of 4 rounds—Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Round. Altogether the rounds are designed to take about 3 hours to complete.

Who: Middle school students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/mathcounts-competition-series/


Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge, an Internet-based applied math competition for high school juniors and seniors known for inspiring them to pursue STEM majors and careers. Working in teams of three to five, participants solve an open-ended, math-modeling problem focused on a realistic issue – in 14 hours. The contest, organized by Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and sponsored by leading software developer MathWorks, is free and open to all U.S. students and will award top teams this year with $100,000 in scholarships toward the pursuit of higher education.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this contest on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/mathworks-math-modeling-challenge/


COMAP High school Mathematics Contest in Modeling, work as team members in a contest that will stimulate and improve their problem solving and writing skills. This competition takes place with your teams-consisting of up to four students-working on a real-world problem for a consecutive thirty-six hour period. Teams are allowed to work on the contest problem at any available facility and then submit their Solution Papers to COMAP for centralized judging.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this contest on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/high-school-mathematics-contest-in-modeling/



Coding, Apps, and Video Game Development Challenges


STEM Video Game Challenge, This national competition motivates interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games.

Who: Middle and High School students.

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-stem-video-game-challenge/


Congressional App Challenge, high school 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.


American Computer Science League, ACSL organizes computer science contests and computer programming contests for elementary, junior, and senior high school students. Each year of the contest, ACSL will send each team advisor an ACSL Category Description Booklet. The booklet contains the rules for each category and some sample problems and solutions. Team advisors will use the booklet and other sample problems to prepare students for the short answer test.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/american-computer-science-league/


CyberPatriot, At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.

Who: Middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/cyberpatriot/



Quiz Bowls, Bees, and Knowledge Competitions


Future Problem Solving Program Challenges, What is FPSPI? Future Problem Solving Program International provides the tools and strategies students need to face the challenges of today and the future. FPSPI is a dynamic international program involving thousands of students annually from around the world. Developed in 1974 by creativity pioneer Dr. E. Paul Torrance, Future Problem Solving (FPS) provides competitive and non-competitive components for today’s curriculum via a six-step model which teaches critical and creative thinking, problem solving, and decision making.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow the FPSPI Challenges on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/future-problem-solving-program-global-issues-problem-solving/


Genius Olympiad, an international high school project competition about environmental issues. It is founded and organized by the Terra Science and Education and hosted by the State University of New York at Oswego. GENIUS Olympiad will host projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus: Science, Visual and Performance Arts, Business, Writing, and Robotics. Projects in each category take different forms, but all fall within the environmental issues themes.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/genius-olympiad/


Science Olympiad, Science Olympiad's ever-changing line-up of events in all STEM disciplines exposes students to practicing scientists and career choices, and energizes classroom teachers with a dynamic content experience.

Who: elementary, middle, and high school students

Learn more and follow science Olympiad on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/science-olympiad/


Physics Bowl, Each year, approximately 10,000 students take a 40-question, 45-minute timed, multiple-choice test under their school’s supervision. Exam questions are based on topics and concepts covered in a typical high school physics course.   To enhance the distribution of awards, Division I is for first-year physics students and Division II is for second-year physics students.

Who: High school students

Learn more and follow the Physics Bowl on your ICS Account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/physicsbowl/


You Be the Chemist, The Challenge begins with students completing the Challenge Qualifier, a short multiple choice test provided by CEF and administered by educators and/or Organizers. Based on student participation in a Local Challenge site and/or state, a select number of students will advance to the next level of competition. Local and State Challenge competitions operate in a quiz bowl format with several rounds of multiple choice questions. Questions are displayed to both the participants and audience on a screen, then students use electronic response devices to indicate their answers. Students participate individually in the Challenge competitions.

Who: elementary and middle school students

Learn more and follow You be the Chemist on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/you-be-the-chemist-challenge/


National Science Bowl, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® is a nationwide academic competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science and mathematics. Middle and high school student teams from diverse backgrounds are comprised of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an advisor and coach. These teams face-off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format, being tested on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy, and math. Beginning in January 2018, more than 9,000 high school students and 4,500 middle school students will compete in 65 high school and 50 middle school regional Science Bowl tournaments.

Who: middle and high school students

Learn more and follow the Science Bowl on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-science-bowl-us-dept-of-energy/


National Ocean Sciences Bowl, an academic competition and program that addresses a national gap in environmental and earth sciences in public education by introducing high school students to and engaging them in ocean science, preparing them for ocean science-related and other STEM careers, and helping them become knowledgeable citizens and environmental stewards. The NOSB’s focus on ocean science education is important. Humans rely on a healthy ocean for oxygen, resources, jobs, and more. Our future leaders must be knowledgeable about ocean issues. The ocean is an ideal interdisciplinary teaching tool for science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) that puts study in a real world context.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow NOSB on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/national-ocean-sciences-bowl/



Other STEM Related Competitions


eCYBERMISSION, For sixth to ninth grade students, eCYBERMISSION is a web-based STEM competition that enables all students to recognize real-life applications of STEM. Teams of three or four students are instructed to ask questions (for science) or define problems (for engineering), and then construct explanations (for science) or design solutions (for engineering) based on identified problems in their community.

Who: middle school and high school freshmen

Learn more and follow this challenge on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/ecybermission/


ExploraVision, a science competition that encourages students to study a technology of interest and predict what it might look like 20 years from now. Students are encouraged to work in groups of 2-4 students and must be sponsored by a teacher.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/exploravision/


Destination Imagination, open to all kindergarten through university level students worldwide. Students form teams of up to 7 members, select their preferred Challenge and work together to develop a solution to the Challenge. Each team has at least one Team Manager (often a parent or teacher) who helps keep the team on track, but does not assist or interfere with the team’s project. Destination Imagination offers seven engaging Challenges in STEAM education: Technical, Scientific, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Engineering, Service Learning and Early Learning.

Who: elementary, middle, high school, and undergraduate students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: http://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/destination-imagination


Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge, students identify a solution to an everyday problem that directly impacts them, their families, their communities, and/or the global population. The idea must be a new innovation or solution, and cannot simply be a behavioral change or a new use for an existing product. The student must create a one- to two- minute video that explains the problem and how it impacts them, their families, their communities and/or the global population; describes a new innovation or solution that could impact or solve the problem; explains the science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics behind their innovation; and illustrates how their innovation could both address the everyday problem they've identified and have a broader impact locally or globally.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/discovery-education-3m-young-scientist-challenge/


DNA Day Essay Contest, This contest hosts a question each year that aims to cover a current topic in genetics that may not be covered in biology class. Students are encouraged to work with their science and language arts teachers. Essays should be 750 words maximum. Winners and honorable mentions are announced on DNA Day, April 25, 2019. This contest is open to students in grades 9-12 worldwide and asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. Essays are expected to be well-reasoned arguments indicative of a depth of understanding of the concepts related to the essay question.

Who: high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/dna-day-essay-contest/


Engineer Girl Essay Contest, Every year, the EngineerGirl website sponsors a contest dealing with engineering and its impact on our world.  Usually the announcement is posted in the fall with judging and winners announced in the spring or summer. Each year the topic of the contest changes.

Who: elementary, middle and high school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/engineer-girl-essay-contest/


Future City Competition, this challenge asks students how can we make the world a better place? To answer it, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics include stormwater management, urban agriculture, and green energy.

Who: Middle school students

Learn more and follow this competition on your ICS account: https://www.competitionsciences.org/competitions/future-city/



Even though this is a MASSIVE list of educational competitions in the STEM arenas, it is not complete. There are hundreds of STEM related competitions. Some in robotics and engineering, some taking the form of bees or bowls, some asking students to submit videos or essays about STEM, and some in just about every area of STEM you could be interested in. The Institute of Competition Sciences does the best we can to keep track of all of these competitions and their deadlines for you; but even we can miss some things. If you come across a competition that is not on our lists that you think should be, or if there is information that is incorrect, please let us know!

And make sure to get you ICS account so you can track and follow the competitions that are important to you!

Earlier we posted about “creative” competitions that had winter and spring registration or submission deadlines. Today we wanted to highlight some of the STEM competitions that are still open for students to get involved. Many of the big STEM competitions you’ve probably heard of require early participation in the school year. Programs like the big science fairs, science olympiad, and robotic competitions often require students to start early in the year in order to be eligible for any of the spring tournaments. However, some of the lesser known STEM competitions have submission opportunities well into the spring semester. Here’s a short list of a few we know about that might be interesting for you or your students to check out in the new year! And of course, don’t forget to take a look through our whole database of STEM competitions for other ideas!


You Be the Chemist – this competition helps students learn all about chemistry. Registration of schools is due by January 22, 2019.

AAPT High School Physics Photo Contest – submit your photos of a physical phenomenon! Submissions open March 1 through May 15, 2019.

BotBall – this autonomous robot competition is great for students to learn coding, robotics, and engineering. Registrtaion is conducted at different times for different regions, but it is typically open through the winter months.

DNA Day Essay Contest – in this program students have to write an essay about important concepts in genetics! Submissions generally open in early January and will run through March 8th, 2019.

Engineering Girl Essay Contest – this twist on the typical STEM competition asks students to submit a fictional story involving an engineering girl! Submissions due February 1, 2019.

Exploravision this is a great future-looking challenge for students interesting in learning about new technologies! Submissions are due February 8th, 2019.

World of 7 Billion Video Contest – an opportunity to learn about how population change affects our globe. Submissions due February 28th, 2019.

Purple Comet Math Meet – an international math contest for middle and high school students. Next contest begins April 2nd, 2019.

Each year, major sports franchises look to pick up the hottest new players from high school and college teams. This past season, we saw some truly amazing rookie performances. In fact, the 2016-17 athletic seasons played host to some of the greatest rookie performances of all time. There is always conjecture about who should take the top spot and be recognized as “Rookie of the Year,” but every year there are a few who stand out. Here some of the top rookies from the latest sports seasons:

Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys (National Football League). With unrivalled speed, power, vision, elusiveness and skill, Elliot spearheaded the Dallas Cowboy’s superlative offense. With 322 carries, he was able to charge for 1631 yards at an average of 5.1 yards per carry and score 15 touchdowns. His amazing rookie season saw him earn Pro Bowl honors and take out the 2016-17 NFL rushing crown.

Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball). Turner has fast become one of the most effective and powerful hitters in the MLB and transformed the Nationals offense into one of the most revered in the competition. He finished the season with a .342 batting average, .37 OBP, .567 slugging percentage, with 13 home runs, 14 doubles, 8 triples and 33 stolen bases.

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks (National Basketball Association). Brogdon’s efficiency, reliability and accuracy has received much praise across the NBA. With 767 points, 113 turnovers, 84 steals, 317 assists, 213 rebounds and a free throw percentage of .865%. Brogdon’s 2016-17 season will unquestionably be remembered in the years to come as one of the great rookie performances.

Given that every year athletic competitions look to the up-and-coming rookies to see who will be the big stars in the future, we thought, why don’t we do this with Academic Competitions as well? We want to know who will be the next great engineers, scientists, and innovators. Who are the hot robotics teams coming up? Who can present the best debate arguments? Who can engineer the best new vehicles? Companies in every industry want to hire the best and the brightest, so let’s take a look at the rising stars in Academic Challenges!

To start out, ICS reviewed the Human Exploration Rover Challenge from NASA – an engineering design and performance competition for high school and college students. NASA needs the top scientists and engineers to join their ranks as they look at the future of space exploration – especially plans to go to Mars! So they’re very interested in where the next top young engineers and rover designers are. The 2017 season of this challenge certainly left us all in awe of one new upstart team.


Rookies Continue a Three-Year Rover Engineering Dynasty for Puerto Rico!

One rookie performance that by and large went unnoticed in the 2016-17 seasons was that of the Ramon Quinones Medina High School in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. This challenge requires students to design and build their own rover that is human-powered and able to carry two students over a half-mile obstacle course of simulated extra-terrestrial terrain made up of craters, boulders, ridges, inclines, crevasses and depressions. Puerto Rican teams have dominated the High School division of the Rover Challenge for the last 6 years – taking home first place for the past 3.

In 2017, it looked like the two-year champions would be taken out after some strong performances from other teams bested the performances from Puerto Rico’s traditional winners. Then one unexpected rookie team came through with a gutsy and determined performance to preserve the Puerto Rican dynasty!

In the first round, the experienced Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology team, from Reno, Nevada clocked an impressive circuit time of 5:09, sending them straight to the top of the standings after the first runs were completed (each team gets two attempts in this challenge, and the fastest time wins). It seemed that the Puerto Rican dynasty would finally come to an end as none of the teams were even close to this time.

Ramon Quinones Medina High School’s first run was a disaster; they weren’t even able to clock an official time for the run due to setup problems. However, as they sat poised at the start line for their 2nd run, they were surely as determined as ever to make this last shot count. Their incredible second run, must have stunned all spectators and competitors as they seemed to fly over and around the obstacles clocking an impressive time of 4:12. Nearly a minute faster than the Round 1 best time! As the remaining teams clocked in their times, even the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology wasn’t able to beat it and Puerto Rico once again held on to the championship, although through a completely unexpected turn of events!

With Puerto Rico taking such a dominant position in the challenge for the past 6 years, we have to ask, what is the secret of their success? According to NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center Education Specialist Diedra Williams, “they network, they support one another, they train together… It's hard for some teams traveling from far away to raise sizeable cheering sections to come with them. The teams from Puerto Rico get around this problem by rallying to support each other -- playing music, singing and rooting for their new competitors just as enthusiastically as the veterans. That positivity and energy definitely is reflected in their performances." Crowd support and high morale seem to be one key factor in addition to the team's technical skill.

In fact, Puerto Rico dominated the Human Exploration Rover Challenge in both divisions this year. The US territory took 1st and 3rd place finishes in both the High School and Collegiate Divisions.

High School Division

  • First Place: Ramon Quinones Medina High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, with a time of 4 minutes, 12 seconds
  • Second Place: Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology of Reno, Nevada, with a time of 5 minutes, 9 seconds
  • Third Place: Teodoro Aguilar Mora of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, with a time of 6 minutes, 20 seconds

College/University Division

  • First Place: University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 1, with a time of 4 minutes, 21 seconds
  • Second Place: Rhode Island School of Design of Providence, with a time of 6 minutes, 45 seconds
  • Third Place: University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, with a time of 7 minutes, 14 seconds

The rookie team at Ramon Quinones Medina High School pulled out a victory at the last minute; extending the Puerto Rican dynasty for a third year. Their amazing performance certainly lifted this rookie team up to be a contender for best rookie performance of 2016-17 in our world of Academic Competitions. They will be a source of inspiration for rookie engineering teams all over the world for next April’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge!

The next NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge will take place in April, 2018. Perhaps we will see another strong performance from this year’s rookies at Ramon Quinones Medina High School. Or maybe we will see a new set of rookies stand out. Be sure to tune in as the next wave of young engineers, their teams, and supporters descend upon Rocket City (Huntsville, Alabama) this coming spring.

If you think your school might have the next great Rookie Team for the challenge, don’t miss out, you can still register new teams by contacting NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center Academic Affairs Office at: MSFC-RoverChallenge2018@mail.nasa.gov