From solving complex algebra problems to investigating scientific theories, to making inferences about written texts, problem-solving is central to every subject explored in school. Even beyond the classroom, problem-solving is ranked among the most important skills for students to demonstrate on their resumes, with 82.9% of employers considering it a highly valued attribute. On an even broader scale, students who learn how to apply their problem-solving skills to the issues they notice in their communities – or even globally –  have the tools they need to change the future and leave a lasting impact on the world around them.

Problem-solving can be taught in any content area and can even combine cross-curricular concepts to connect learning from all subjects. On top of building transferrable skills for higher education and beyond, read on to learn more about five amazing benefits students will gain from the inclusion of problem-based learning in their education:


  1. Problem-solving is inherently student-centered.

Student-centered learning refers to methods of teaching that recognize and cater to students’ individual needs. Students learn at varying paces, have their own unique strengths, and even further, have their own interests and motivations – and a student-centered approach recognizes this diversity within classrooms by giving students some degree of control over their learning and making them active participants in the learning process.

Incorporating problem-solving into your curriculum is a great way to make learning more student-centered, as it requires students to engage with topics by asking questions and thinking critically about explanations and solutions, rather than expecting them to absorb information in a lecture format or through wrote memorization.


  1. Increases confidence and achievement across all school subjects.

As with any skill, the more students practice problem-solving, the more comfortable they become with the type of critical and analytical thinking that will carry over into other areas of their academic careers. By learning how to approach concepts they are unfamiliar with or questions they do not know the answers to, students develop a greater sense of self-confidence in their ability to apply problem-solving techniques to other subject areas, and even outside of school in their day-to-day lives.

The goal in teaching problem-solving is for it to become second nature, and for students to routinely express their curiosity, explore innovative solutions, and analyze the world around them to draw their own conclusions.


  1. Encourages collaboration and teamwork.

Since problem-solving often involves working cooperatively in teams, students build a number of important interpersonal skills alongside problem-solving skills. Effective teamwork requires clear communication, a sense of personal responsibility, empathy and understanding for teammates, and goal setting and organization – all of which are important throughout higher education and in the workplace as well.


  1. Increases metacognitive skills.

Metacognition is often described as “thinking about thinking” because it refers to a person’s ability to analyze and understand their own thought processes. When making decisions, metacognition allows problem-solvers to consider the outcomes of multiple plans of action and determine which one will yield the best results.

Higher metacognitive skills have also widely been linked to improved learning outcomes and improved studying strategies. Metacognitive students are able to reflect on their learning experiences to understand themselves and the world around them better.


  1. Helps with long-term knowledge retention.

Students who learn problem-solving skills may see an improved ability to retain and recall information. Specifically, being asked to explain how they reached their conclusions at the time of learning, by sharing their ideas and facts they have researched, helps reinforce their understanding of the subject matter.

Problem-solving scenarios in which students participate in small-group discussions can be especially beneficial, as this discussion gives students the opportunity to both ask and answer questions about the new concepts they’re exploring.


At all grade levels, students can see tremendous gains in their academic performance and emotional intelligence when problem-solving is thoughtfully planned into their learning.

Interested in helping your students build problem-solving skills, but aren’t sure where to start? Future Problem Solving Problem International (FPSPI) is an amazing academic competition for students of all ages, all around the world, that includes helpful resources for educators to implement in their own classrooms!

Learn more about this year’s competition season from this recorded webinar: and/or email to get started!

June 5th-9th, over 1,600 students from elementary to high school gathered both in-person and virtually at Future Problem Solving Program International’s (FPSPI) International Conference to compete in variety of challenges addressing antibiotic resistance. Our very own CEO, Josh Neubert, even attended to check out some of the amazing work done by FPSPI students and present during the opening ceremony. We wanted to give a huge shout out and congratulations to the many talented students who participated!

FPSPI is all about emphasizing the importance of creative and critical thinking and decision-making by teaching students how to approach problem-solving – not telling them what to think. Through FPSPI competitions, students learn and practice a clear and logical approach that they can use in any type of creative problem-solving scenario throughout their lives. From environmental and social issues, to travel, technology, and medicine, FPSPI has covered a wide range of interesting and relevant topics that students can really explore and take ownership of.

The IC 2022 Future Scene challenged students to come up with new ways to detect environmental pollution and reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria circulating through water and soil in Tasmania’s cherry orchards. Their projects address concerns the Tasmanian government may have about the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria during farming, all while considering the importance of cherry yield for the Tasmanian economy.

During the International Conference (IC) students were recognized in the following categories:

PAP (Presentations of Action Plan)

Students from all divisions – Junior, Middle, and Senior – developed their PAP submissions in response to the IC 2022 Future Scene. Check out the presentations from one of the first-place teams at time stamp 42:00 during the IC Awards Ceremony video. This team’s plan involved killing bacteria with rays of UV light from Drone UV admitters (DUV) on a predetermined flight plan!

Multi-Affiliate Global Issues Problem Solving Competition (MAGIC)

The MAGIC contest took place on-site during the International Conference, which allowed students from around the world to collaborate with one another. Competitors were randomly assigned to teams based on division and worked together with other students from different states and countries to complete a handwritten booklet (similar to the Global Issues Problem Solving competition). The MAGIC booklet included eight challenges, eight solution ideas, and a shortened grid for students to complete within two hours.

Scenario Performance (ScP)

Students competing in the Scenario Performance category developed and acted out stories based on their future projections about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Their performances were evaluated based on their storytelling technique, audience awareness, use of voice, development of story, characterization, creative and futuristic thinking, and overall connection to the topic.

Scenario Writing (SW)

Scenario Writing competitors also got creative by writing original futuristic short stories about their projections about the same topic. Their written works were assessed on creative and forward thinking, idea and character development, style/voice, mechanics, research, and how well they were able to entertain and inform the audience about antibiotic resistance in their Future Scene.

Community Problem Solving (CmPS)

The 361 students who took part in the Community Problem Solving competition addressed an area of concern from their own communities. By providing a framework to move beyond traditional service learning, students apply the problem-solving process to identify and address local, state, national or global issues that result in measurable outcomes. On-site students prepared their displays for evaluation at the International Conference.

Global Issues Problem Solving (GIPS)

The Global Issues Problem Solving category allows both teams and individuals to respond to the Future Scene using the Six-Step Process. 835 students completed in-depth research about Antibiotic Resistance before the competition started.  Students involved in GIPS practice powerful problem-solving skills that engage their critical and creative thinking. Hundreds of creative solutions were presented on to address the Future Scene! Check out the final results of each competition here.

Want to get involved in future FPSPI competitions? Parents, educators, and students from all around the world are invited to participate in categories like the ones from the 2022 International Conference! Learn more about the different types of competitions here, or find an FPSPI Affiliate to get started.

Each year, students in grades 4-12 around the world convene at Future Problem Solving Program International’s (FPSPI) International Conference to take part in events and workshops, brainstorm scenarios, collaborate with groups to complete creative problem-solving exercises, and learn from experts during presentations and Q&A sessions.

Additionally, Community Problem Solving competitors have the chance to showcase their projects from the past year both in-person and online, displaying and celebrating their solutions to issues facing their local communities.

This year, over 1,800 brilliant young minds will be attending the hybrid event beginning on June 9th, 2022 to tackle an important challenge facing the future of global health care – antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria undergo mutations that render antibiotic medicines ineffective against them. This means that doctors must continuously develop new drugs to treat patients with resistant infections, as well as to preserve the usefulness of existing antibiotic drugs.

There are many factors that contribute to the rising emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including over-prescription of antibiotic drugs, environmental pollution and poor pollution controls, agricultural misuse, and poor patient adherence to treatment instruction. Today, antibiotics are not only in medications, but also in food sources and plastics, creating more and more opportunities for antibiotic resistant microorganisms to develop.

In the United States alone, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur every year, leading to over 35,000 deaths. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only contributed to creating conditions that may have reversed our progress on antibiotic resistance. Staffing shortages, record high numbers of patients, and longer hospital stays during the pandemic have led to increased difficulties implementing infection control practices.

The World Health Organization warns that, “While there are some new antibiotics in development, none of them are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Given the ease and frequency with which people now travel, antibiotic resistance is a global problem, requiring efforts from all nations and many sectors.”

FPSPI Global Issues Problem Solving and Scenario competitors will have the chance to tackle this incredibly relevant and important issue during the International Conference by researching all aspects of antibiotic resistance in preparation for challenges where they will need to analyze and address futuristic scenarios centered around the topic. Winners will be announced during the awards ceremony on June 12th, 2022.

To learn more about FPSPI’s International Conference, check out the readings, schedule, and more here.  To learn more about the antibiotic resistance topic, check out FPSPI’s video and resources here.

Stay tuned for more updates about the amazing work FPSPI students are doing with their research and writing during the 2022 Hybrid International Conference!

If there is one thing we all have had in common in recent times – it’s change. Around the globe, individuals, communities, and societies continue to feel the lasting impact of COVID-19 on mental, financial, and physical health, but students taking part in Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) have met these challenges with innovative solutions that are not only changing lives for the better, but also changing the world.

The FPSPI is a dynamic international program focused on empowering students around the globe to become better creative and critical thinkers, problem solvers, and decision makers. Students can be a part of programs ranging from Global Issues Problem Solving and Community Problem Solving, to smaller scale in-classroom assignments like Scenario Performance, where they develop a story about their future projections; Scenario Writing, where they write an original work of fiction about their future projections; and Action-Based Problem Solving, where teachers work with their students to solve a creative problem.

From civic and social issues to environmental and health concerns, FPSPI participants have enacted programs and initiatives to combat the most pressing issues in their communities, and we are excited to share some of the greatest success stories from the 2021 Virtual International Conference! Read on to learn more about the ways Future Problem Solving students have changed the future.


Young Minds Making an Impact

From grades 4 to 6, Junior Division participants are the youngest FPSPI competitors, but their projects work to solve issues we all can relate to. In Australia, for example, one team founded The STRESS (Students Teaching Resilience to End Significant Stress) Project, a group that works to build resilience and coping mechanisms to better deal with stress in their school community.

Young innovators in Singapore also focused on bolstering important emotional and psychological skills in the form of empathy after they noticed that this important emotional intelligence (EQ) skill has been on the decline for over a decade. Students in Florida also helped mend loneliness among assisted living residents during the pandemic by hosting activities over Zoom with their S.M.I.L.E. (Students Making an Impact on the Lives of Elderly) program.

Beyond helping people cope with mental health issues and build more positive relationships, Future Problem Solving participants in Texas worked to:

– Address the oil industry crisis in their home state by holding a monthly farmer’s market to boost the local economy.

– Reduce school food waste by creating their own composting program!

Local Heroes

Middle Division champions (those in grades 7 to 9) delved deep into some of the most prevalent issues in their cities, counties, and even countries. Some teams tackled COVID-19 related problems like social and educational isolation with solutions like:

– The Big Sisters program in Australia, dedicated to interacting with younger students to help their emotional well-being.

Project Everyone in Florida, which created opportunities for all students – remote, in-person, and hybrid – to participate in the social activities that are so central to academic life.

Also in-tune with the importance of their education, Project REMOTE (Reimagining Educational and Meaningful Opportunities To Engage) in Massachusetts helped Canton learners gain access to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) resources.

Other students focused on environmental and health concerns with projects like:

– Florida’s O.C.E.A.N. (Operation Conserve Earth’s Aquatic Nature) designed to educate the community and reduce harm to aquatic ecosystems.

– Turkey’s team of “Climate Protectors”, who aimed to spread awareness of the causes and consequences of climate change.

– The “Don’t JUUL, It’s Not CUUL” project in Minnesota, which advocated for stricter regulations and more consumer education to reduce vaping among teens.

Providing Hope, Healing, and Mental Health

FPSPI competitors who gained recognition in the Senior Division, for students in grades 10 to 12, looked to improve the future by positioning individuals and their families for success.

Project HYPE (Helping Youth Pursue Education) in California helped provide education resources to low income students in San Diego.

BY2 Be Yourself Brand Yourself in Florida taught young people how to leverage social media for positivity and networking.

Operation HOPE in Kentucky combatted poverty by distributing care boxes and improving agency communication.

Internationally, Project Helios in Singapore worked with Singapore Association of Mental Health to combat mental illness, and Project Integrate in Singapore improved the lives of migrant workers with virtual lessons and other resources.

However, with so much room for creative problem solving in Future Problem Solving Program International, other winners devised solutions for a wide variety of global issues.

– Project Curae in Singapore aimed to dismantle the stigma surrounding dementia.

Project Yes, Learn! In Texas provided virtual camps during school breaks for students.

Raising Awareness About Earthquakes in Turkey helped raise awareness for earthquake safety.


Interested in learning more about how students are changing the future through Future Problem Solving Program International? Find out how to get involved, support the mission, or use FPSPI to supplement your classroom activities here: Future Problem Solving Program International (


If you’ve ever dreamt of running your own startup or creating innovative products to make the world a better place, you’re in great company. From ed-tech innovators and sustainable developers to small business owners and industry influencers, entrepreneurs are helping to shape the future. But entrepreneurs aren’t made overnight. Entrepreneurial skills need to be fostered and academic competitions are a great place to start. So what does it take to be an entrepreneur? 

Be resilient
“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” Angela Lee Duckworth, founder of CharacterLab

All of the good ideas in the world won’t amount to anything without hard work and the ability to recover when you fail. Competitions like FCCLA Knowledge Matters Virtual Business Challenge and InvenTeams High School Invention Grants offer the opportunity to dive in headfirst and prove that you’re willing to put in the work.

Think creatively
“Creativity and innovation are about finding unexpected solutions to obvious problems, or finding obvious solutions to unexpected problems.” Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer of AKQA

Entrepreneurs need to be able to see the world and its problems in an entirely new way. Competitions like the Technovation Challenge and the Conrad Challenge foster creative thinking and encourage students to push their inventive limits.

Take risks
“Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.” Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks

Entrepreneurs are nothing if not risk-takers. Believing in your ability to create valuable and new to put out in the world takes guts. Join competitions like the Modeling the Future Challenge and Diamond Challenge to build your risk-taking fortitude.

Build relationships
“Focus on the importance of forging a long-term relationship, whether with colleagues, partners, or customers.” Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder of

An often forgotten aspect of entrepreneurship is the necessity of building strong relationships. No one, not even the most successful and iconic titans of business got to where they are alone. The teams you form, the colleagues you support, the friends who you reach out to for help. Those are the people who will help you on the way to your dream. Team competitions like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and DECA Competitive Events are a great way to start making connections that will last a lifetime.

Entrepreneurship Competitions for High School students
Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Competition – virtual high school entrepreneurship competition
Conrad Challenge –  innovation/entrepreneurship competition for teams of students aged 13-18
Diamond Challenge – high school team business innovation competition
FCCLA Knowledge Matters Virtual Business Challenge – high school virtual business simulation
Future Business Leaders of America – skills and career development events for individuals and teams
Genius Olympiad: Business – international high school project competition
InvenTeams High School Invention Grants – high schoolers can receive up to $10,000 for invention
Junior Academy – innovative solution challenges for students aged 13-17
Modeling the Future Challenge – math modeling, data science, and risk analysis challenge
Paradigm Challenge – competition real-world problem-solving competition for students aged 4 to 18 
Technovation Challenge – tech-based team competition for girls ages 10 – 18
World Series of Innovation – global, online innovation competition for ages 13-24
Youth Service America: Everyday Young Heroes – challenges based on Sustainable Development Goals 

There are also many ways to learn more about entrepreneurship and meet like-minded peers. Be sure to check out some of these youth entrepreneurship programs:
Acton Children’s Business Fair 
Beta-Bowl | Youth Entrepreneurship
Junior Achievement Be Entrepreneurial
LaunchX – Young Entrepreneurs Program 
Venture Lab
Young Entrepreneurs Academy 
Youth Entrepreneurs 

Find more entrepreneur-focused competitions in the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) database. Don’t forget if you upgrade to a premium account you’ll get additional tools to help track your progress in competitions and get special discounts on ICS-managed programs!

Do your students have a mind for business? A potentially awesome idea for a startup? Maybe they just want to learn how to take on marketing campaigns, go through a product design process, or bulk up their problem solving skills. While some students may be able to jump right into launching their own entrepreneurial venture, most will need a little guidance. That’s where academic competitions can help. The best competitions are designed to not only motivate students to want to learn, but they also provide the framework to help them build their skills in ways they just can't do in the traditional classroom.

Entrepreneurial competitions give K-12 students an opportunity to learn real-world business, marketing, product design, and communication skills to help them succeed as they explore the wild west of entrepreneurship. Competitions provide great opportunities for students learn the best practices in startup entrepreneurship and even provide opportunities to raise some funding for their ventures or scholarships for college.

There are many entrepreneurial competitions around the world each year. So how do you know which ones are right for your students? While the base focus is on entrepreneurship, the topics can vary from consumer products, to sustainability and innovative technology and everything in between. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top entrepreneurial competitions for K-12 students. While most of these competitions are focused on the high school level, some have opportunities for younger or older students to get engaged as well.


Entrepreneurial Competitions

Explore our list below to learn more about the variety of competitions that will fit your students' interests and strengths. You can also browse through our expansive online competition database, which enables you to search and follow every type of competition like art, energy, and global affairs to name a few.


Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow

This competition is for high school students to develop their own creative, well-researched solutions for a more sustainable future.



Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Competition

As the largest student-run entrepreneurship competition, high schoolers are required to pitch original business plans to local entrepreneurs.



Conrad Challenge

Students create sustainable solutions for different sectors of the world, including Aerospace & Aviation, Cyber-Technology & Security, Energy & Environment, Health & Nutrition, and Smoke-Free World to create a better future. The competition is for middle and high school students.



Cooper Hewitt National High School Design Competition

Students create a solution to a unique scenario focusing on humanitarian issues such as improving access to healthy, fresh foods in disadvantaged communities. For high school students.




DECA Competitive Events

DECA holds a variety of competitive events, including the DECA Idea Challenge, FIDM Challenge, and Stukent Social Media Challenge for students to show their knowledge and abilities to create innovation solutions to challenges.


Diamond Challenge

Students from around the world learn about the principles of entrepreneurship while growing their own ideas and putting them into action. Open to high school students.


FCCLA Virtual Business Challenge

Students are tested on their financial literacy skills in a variety of categories. Only high school students who are affiliated with the FCCLA are eligible to participate.



Genius Olympiad: Business

Students create a social responsibility plan for a business to raise environmental awareness and forge a positive relationship with the surrounding communities. For all students grade 8-12.



National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

Students demonstrate their entrepreneurial strengths and command of the field as they present and defend their business ideas to judges. Students start at their school level, continue to compete at regionals, and then the top teams are brought to a national summit.



Paradigm Challenge

Individual students or groups work to create original ideas for reducing waste in their home, community, and the world. Students 4-18 may participate.




The SAGE USA and SAGE Global competitions train high school students on being sustainable entrepreneurs. Students propose sustustainable business plans and compete at their regional level to be invited to the SAGE Global event held at a different location each year. 


Technovation Challenge

Technovation encourages young girls to participate in developing and applying the necessary skills to solve real-world issues with technology. Female students who are ages 10-18 can participate.


The Green Idea

Held in Sweden, this is a competition where students of any age create ideas and startups that to more sustainable society.



World Series of Innovation

A business challenge for students to pitch their entrepreneurial solutions for real problems that follow the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For students 13-24.



In 1956, William Shockley moved to Mountain View, California, where he founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory - one of the earliest computer technology companies. Shockley was unique in his designs in that he believed that silicon was a better material for making transistors - during the time, germanium was the common material. Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory's research led to breakthroughs in silicon transistor technology. In 1957, some of Shockley's employees left the company to form Fairchild Semiconductor. Two of these original employees of Fairchild Semiconductor, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, went on to found Intel in 1968. And the rest is as they say, history. Silicon became the base of all transistor technology, and Silicon Valley was born as the leading technology hub in the world.

Today, Silicon Valley is far more than just a place where computers and silicon chips are made. Silicon Valley has become eponymous with American innovation and entrepreneurship. It has led to just about every other major metropolitan area trying to replicate the success of the valley. In more recent decades, the US entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown across the country, peaking in 2006 with 715,734 new startups launched, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Then the Great Recession of 2007-2009 put a dramatic dent in the meteoric rise of the startup ecosystems. Since then, the number of startups launched each year has been back on the rise, nearly reaching the 2006  high with 679,072 startups launched in 2015; however, there remain troubling signs for American entrepreneurship.

First, while the number of startups being launched each year has risen since the great recession, the number of jobs per startup has not. In fact, ever since the dot com bubble burst in 1999/2000, jobs per startup has been declining, bottoming out in 2010 at around 4.5 jobs per new startup launched, and showing no signs of going back up. What does this mean? There are many interpretations, but it may be one sign, that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the United States is not going to be the economic powerhouse that many expect it to be in the coming decades.

One other troubling sign for American entrepreneurship is from the recent Gallup Hope Index. According to this poll, in 2016 we hit an all time low of only 27% of high school students (grades 9-12) having plans to start a business. This is down from recent years where the number was in the mid to low 30% range. But when you ask the younger generation (fifth to eighth grade) over half want to start a business, the response has been 50 to 55% consistently.

This difference in ambition between age groups has existed for as long as Gallup has taken the poll. Over 50% of younger (middle school age) students have responded positively to starting their own business, while by the time they reach high school, that number decreases to the lower 30% range, and now is down to the upper 20% range. What is unique in the most recent 2016 poll, is the extent of that difference. Never before has the Hope Index been less than the mid 30% of high school students wanting to start their own business. The most recent number is a full 7 points off of the previous average of 34%.

So, what’s happening here? Are students losing that desire and ambition once they get an inkling of how much work it is going to take? Or are they simply moving on to other interests? Whatever the case may be, if the American educational system doesn’t figure out a way to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive in today’s youth, others may take over as the world’s top innovation space for the next generation of world-class entrepreneurs. And in fact that’s what many are trying to do.


Competitions Drive the Startup Ecosystem

One of the major ways that countries spark entrepreneurial interest in students and the next generation of business leaders is through competitions. Business Plan and Business Case competitions have proliferated across the US and through many universities world-wide. You can’t search for a university’s business school without hearing about their student pitch competition, or accelerator. In fact, many startups get their beginnings through these business pitch contests. Just about every major business school or university in the United States now has a student entrepreneurship competition. For example, you may have heard of the Rice Business Plan Competition, The MIT Clean Energy CompetitionNYU Stern New Venture and Social Venture Competitions, Harvard Business Plan CompetitionMIT $100k Entrepreneurship Competition, or the Wharton Business Plan Competition among hundreds of others.

We may expect with the head start in entrepreneurship the United States has had, that we should also have the largest student pitch competitions. And while these university competitions have hefty awards and a fair number of student competitions (The Rice Business Plan competition boasts $1.3 Million in cash and prizes to winning teams), unfortunately, this doesn't come close to the sheer number of participants in the largest competition who are now learning how to build their own startups. So who’s the biggest? Probably not who you would expect.

Launched only three years ago in 2015, the “China College Students' Internet Plus Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition” dominates over other student entrepreneurship competitions across the globe. With more than 1.5 million students from 2,241 universities and colleges participating (according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua), this Chinese competition is far and away the largest entrepreneurial competition by participation.

In Wait a minute—China and entrepreneurship? Since when did communism support so much entrepreneurial freedom? While the two concepts may not align in theory, the Chinese government seems to have realized that a national push for entrepreneurship is good for their economy. That has translated into massive government support for entrepreneurship along with support from its universities.

According to the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, whatever the government and colleges have been doing is working. From 2011 to 2017, the number of students starting a business upon graduation in China has risen from 1.6 percent to 3.0 percent. In 2017 that meant about 200,000 new Chinese entrepreneurs entered the economy upon graduation.

"Peking University cultivated my entrepreneurship. And central government policy supports an environment favorable for making innovations," says Dai Wei, the founder and CEO of Ofo, a bike-sharing company that raised over $700 million in funding in July (Xinhuanet). The Chinese government has impressed upon educators the need to be better and to even put their theories and teaching into practice. Teachers are even being encouraged to turn their research into a product and start their own businesses.

How successful China’s entrepreneurial push will be remains to be seen, but if nothing else, it shows that there is a strong interest from China in encouraging the next generation of home-grown global business leaders. The launch of a national entrepreneurial pitch competition for college students demonstrates a strong, central drive to accelerate new entrepreneurial leaders. And the numbers are in China's favor. With nearly three times the number of students in colleges in China versus the United States, this may be an entrepreneurial machine in the making.

The Chinese government has only recently shifted the economy to one driven by consumer spending. So, the concept of entrepreneurship is a relatively new one for them. Does this mean that Chinese entrepreneurial growth is only beginning? We will have to wait and see how this competition expands over the years, and what that means for the Chinese startup economy. What we can take away from all of this for the United States is that perhaps the idea of a national entrepreneurship student competition and overarching economic initiative is not such a bad idea. Could a coordinated national youth entrepreneurship competition turn around the downward trend in entrepreneurial interest seen in the Gallup Hope Index? It may be time to try. Youth entrepreneurship in the United States is still strong, but there are troubling signs on the horizon and there are strong competitors coming up who want to take the reins on the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. It will be an interesting competition in and of itself to see who will maintain the global entrepreneurial leadership in the years to come.

Companies are always looking for the best and brightest to join their ranks. But only a few standout applicants get the jobs. Even fewer get hired or promoted to positions of leadership. For the up-and-coming business leaders just graduating college, it’s going to be a tough road ahead to find the position that is perfect for you.

If you’re coming out of college looking for a job in the business management or leadership sectors, or even if you’re in high school and looking to get into college or grad school, you need more than just good grades and a good resume to get recognized. Companies and colleges alike look for examples of your experience that showcase how you’ll do in competitive situations.

Do you know how to manage a team? Can you handle tough negotiations with clients? How will you respond when something doesn’t work the way you expect it to? These are all the kinds of questions businesses are going to want to know the answers to in order to give you the job. And you’re going to need to demonstrate your expertise in these areas. This is where business competitions play an increasingly important role for business schools and corporations.

College coaches can see athletes play for years before making a scholarship offer. By seeing him/her grow and perform over time, they can get a pretty good idea whether a player’s talents will translate to the college or professional level.

Well, now employers are starting to scout candidates who are testing their business acumen in much the same fashion. As a high school or college student, how can you really get noticed for the career in business or entrepreneurship you want?

ICS tracks hundreds of competitions that can help you showcase your business skills, but we figured we would highlight just a few here to help you get going. By participating in these academic competitions, you’ll gain a leg up on your competition. CEOs and hiring managers will get a better idea of who the entrepreneurs and business leaders of tomorrow will be by looking to these competitions. And you’ll be better positioned to become the next #1 hire on their list! So go ahead, get in the business arena by checking out these competitions:

DECA Competitive Events

DECA describes what it does as preparing “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. Events are preceded by a course of instruction first ensuring that the participants have had access to the information they need to excel at the competition(s) they enter.

Competitions will cover a broad range of skills related to business management and administration, entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, hospitality and tourism, and personal finance.

The Virtual Business Challenge will give participants a chance to put their knowledge and skill set to use in real world scenarios related to the industry they have selected (fashion, retail, restaurant, sports, accounting, hotel challenge, and personal finance).

Figuring out who wins—and who companies should keep an eye on—is easy. The winner in the retail, restaurant, sports, and fashion challenges will be whoever earns the most profit after one virtual year. Profit will factor into deciding the winner of the hotel challenge, but so will customer and employee satisfaction. The personal finance challenge winner will be determined by highest net worth. The accounting competition will involve recognizing issues quicker than other teams.

What better way can there be for an employer to gauge a person’s potential than to see it in action? Dealing with issues and problems in the real world is much different than in a virtual one. But if an employer is looking for a reason to hire one person over another, virtual experience and success are better than no experience (or success) at all. If you’re interested in these industries at all, it’s time to jump into a DECA competition!


Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge

The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge gets a entrepreneurs into more specific categories. The challenge is all about devising a product or innovation, but not just any old thing people can be talked into buying.

It is geared towards coming up with something that can benefit the world. There are four categories for submissions: aerospace and aviation, cyber technology and security, energy and the environment, and health and nutrition. All of which happen to be industries with a tremendous amount of growth potential.

Over 100,000 high school students 450+ schools from around the world take part, and companies are increasingly turning to competitions like the Conrad Challenge to find their next great hires! But more importantly, of the 350 new products and innovations devised, over 20 percent are in development.

So, we are not just talking about a bunch of smart kids that came up with some interesting ideas. They came up with real, world-changing products. Joining the Conrad Challenge can help you not only land your first job, but just might help you in starting up your own entrepreneurial business!


Other ways to Jumpstart your Future.

There are many other competitions that can help business and entrepreneurially minded students in college or even in high school. Pitch Competitions abound to help students practice getting their own business plans together, but also there are business management challenges, and many others to interest students in all industries.

The Modeling the Future Challenge should be on every student’s list if they’re interested in emerging technologies that have the potential to change the future. Contests held by the American Computer Science League provide an entryway into computer science and technology companies. Students with a mind geared towards science and math have abundant opportunities in competitions. One that covers a wide breadth of STEM industries is the National Science Bowl held by the U.S. Department of Energy.

There are academic competitions that encourage students to test their abilities and knowledge in nearly every discipline. If an employer wants to know if a job candidate is motivated to test his/her limits, likes to face challenges, and is capable of adapting as needed and overcoming them, they increasingly look to academic competitions.

Don’t be left behind by just relying on your resume to get your next job, or even for your college applications. Get in the arena by participating in any of the many competitions featured at the Institute of Competition Sciences! There are hundreds of business related competitions available to students of all ages!

It’s no secret that STEM fields are a male-dominated world. Even with an increase in programs designed specifically to engage girls, they remain a small part of the overall STEM community. Girls face unique challenges in pursuing STEM projects and careers, and far too often, these systemic challenges end up turning them away from promising opportunities even though it's good for everyone to have more girls in STEM.

One strong way students have typically been engaged in STEM is by participating in academic competitions. Science fairs, Robotics Challenges, quizbowls, and more have been motivating students to pursue STEM for decades. However, with the increasing popularity of these programs, ICS had to question what kind of unique challenges girls might face in these competitions? And how do the girls that have been successful at overcoming them, do it?


But… You’re a Girl!

The short answer is... well... yes, girls do have systemic challenges to face that boys just don't. Girls are presented with unique challenges at nearly every step of a STEM competition. To understand this better, we talked to two long-time friends of ICS, budding STEM role-models, and sisters, Mikayla and Shannon Diesch.

Mikayla and Shannon grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan where they began competing and winning academic competitions across the country. They got their big start when they won the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards for the Space Nutrition category in 2010.

Their creation—the Solar Flare granola bar—was approved by NASA and even flown to the International Space Station for testing as an astronaut nutritional supplement. Both Shannon and Mikayla then went on to college but kept their dreams of creating a "Solar Flare" company alive. Currently, they are continuing to pursue launching Solar Flare’s mental energy bar into the working world.

Solar Flare Bar goes to Space.


“There are all different bars for dieters, and athletes needing just physical energy, but not much for those who need the mental energy for a busy day at the office.” Said CEO and Co-Founder, Mikayla Diesch. Their hopes for the next year are to fundraise and get their product out into the world. They are directing these initiatives towards start-ups and tech companies, who need this fuel for both physical and mental work.

With all of their hard-earned successes at such a young age, we were interested in their experience as girls (and now as young women) rising through the ranks of competitions to become young entrepreneurs working in STEM, and wanted to see what kinds of recommendations they had for others pursuing similar dreams with academic competitions.


The Challenge of being female.

We caught up with Mikayla and Shannon to ask about the unique challenges they faced as they participated in pitch competitions across the country. There remain many challenges unique to girls transitioning into STEM careers. From being young girls in academic competitions to young women in the field of engineering, the sisters faced hurdles on many fronts that their male counterparts simply didn’t have. Often from systemic challenges that many participating wouldn’t even recognize at first.

One of these challenges was highlighted during Mikayla’s Master’s Engineering project, where, along with her project partner (who happened to be male), she was required to present her work to a panel of judges and peers.

“No one asked me questions,” Mikayla said. “They were all directed towards my male partner. I did a lot of the design and actual building, but the judges pointed their bodies and faces towards him asking questions, while I stood there. I wasn’t acknowledged or questioned.”

To be heard, Mikayla had to be more assertive during the questioning, which can be difficult for girls. It can be awkward or even seem mean to declare your ideas, and especially objections as a female. Males often don’t have to validate their beliefs, while women need to explain why they aren’t just nodding their heads along in agreement. Many times these actions might seem pushy to most girls, but Mikayla says it was the only way for her to make her voice heard in a room that didn’t ask to hear it.

This challenge is systemic across many industries. It is especially prominent when girls are faced with competitive situations where they might be fighting for a raise, a new job, or funding for their work. However, like Mikayla says, don’t shy away from the challenge. Step into it and make sure you are heard.


One of these is not like the others.

With the increasing interest in getting more females into STEM, the industries are starting to see a rise of girls pursuing the “Geek” life. There are more programs and initiatives to get girls involved in science and math, but we certainly can do better. One area where Shannon and Mikayla think there can be a lot of impact is having female role models.

“We need more visible role models who are out there for young girls to see and say, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up,’" says Shannon. "There needs to be more visibility of women in STEM for girls starting at a young age. We need to show girls that STEM doesn’t have to be my whole life, but it can be another thing I am interested in and could do.”

The earlier girls can be introduced to female STEM role models the better. Early initiative programs are a good start, but they need to be implemented before middle or high school.

“Most of my friends realized that they didn’t like math or science in elementary school,” says Shannon. “Early action programs for girls to understand that math and science are cool and they can be good at it is important, even at the elementary level.”


Never-the-less, she persisted.

For those young female entrepreneurs starting out in competitions or hoping to make their mark in the STEM world, Mikayla and Shannon encourage one thing: be persistent.

“A lot of people are going to say no—no it’s not a good idea, no don’t invest, no it won’t work—but it takes a lot of no’s to get to the yes. You’re always going to find someone who believes in you what you’re doing and your project—even if that person pushing you is your sister.”

Girls are taught at a young age to hear “no” and accept it. Boys, however, take no and turn it into something else. Competitions can help girls learn to do the same. To step into the “no” and learn from it, to make your next shot that much better. However, competition mentors, coaches, and organizers need to be aware of some of the systemic challenges that girls still face.

Helping to make sure that a competition has female role models as well as male; making sure to ask girls the questions as well as boys; connecting girls with STEM at early ages – these are all things that can be done in competitions to make sure that girls are just as likely to catch the “geek” bug and to strive to move forward – just like Shannon and Mikayla did.

“It’s easy to get discouraged when you hear “no” or other setbacks. Girls take no, and they step away. We should teach girls that you can hear “no” and that it’s okay—it’s not the end of it,” said Mikayla.

Both Mikayla and Shannon have heard no plenty of times whether it’s because of their ideas, age, or gender. Through all of these setbacks, they persisted, competing in multiple entrepreneurial pitch competitions, working on their Solar Flare bars on weekends and summers. They never gave up, and now are preparing to launch their company and put their mental nutrition bars out on the market. They are proof that two girls competing in STEM can take these no’s and turn them into something constructive.