Sustainability is central to all engineering projects and is becoming even more critical as our concern for environmental health is exacerbated by climate change and the need to produce “green” energy and conserve precious resources. Our global environment and economy are so inextricably intertwined that engineers must consider environmental impact in every financial decision they make, which is why the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University is committed to providing engineering students with the resources they need to address this challenge.

Given the growing importance of sustainability, it’s no wonder that undergraduate students in all fields of engineering who can highlight their experience solving environmental issues will be in the highest demand. If you are or know an undergraduate-level engineering student who wants to gain this valuable experience and, at the same time, make a real environmental difference, the WERC Environmental Design Contest might just be the perfect competition to foster an understanding of environmental issues!

The WERC Environmental Design Contest was founded over three decades ago by New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering, creating an opportunity for college students that has led to careers in academia, major engineering firms, and government agencies such as the EPA. Engineering professionals who have participated in the WERC competition have called it “an engineering education opportunity of a lifetime.” Modeled after an engineering Request for Proposals (RFP), this competition asks students to spend 3-6 months as “professional engineers,” creating a complete engineering design, including bench-scale testing and a business plan for full-scale implementation. It also gives students the chance to pitch their business plans during an exciting event called “Flash Talks”, a Shark-Tank-inspired setting where students give a 3-minute pitch of their designs to judges who pose as “investors.”

The contest culminates with oral presentations and bench-scale demonstrations in Las Cruces, NM, April 16-19, 2023. Winners are eligible for an award pool of $30,000 for their solutions, and top papers are published in IEEE’s Xplore journal. As an amazing bonus, students competing in the WERC Environmental Design Contest have the opportunity to meet with academic, government, and industry experts, providing them with valuable networking contacts to advance their research and potential career opportunities.

In 2022, a student reflected, “The interaction with the judges made this an even greater learning experience that we will carry into our careers. They helped us understand practical limitations and issues based on their real-world experiences.”

For the 2023 competition, students can choose from six project topics – “tasks” – all of which are designed by businesses and organizations with an immediate interest in competitors’ solutions to real-world problems. There are tasks for most fields of engineering. A seventh open task is also available for teams who want to select their own challenge to solve. The tasks this season are:

  • Beneficial wastewater reuse for rural communities
  • Vehicle-to-grid resiliency
  • Reducing water loss in mine tailings facilities
  • Detecting microplastics in reservoirs
  • Ammonia recovery from produced water
  • A NASA task – to be determined
  • Open task

How to Get Involved

Interested in the WERC Environmental Design Contest? Check out their guidelines to see if you or your team would be eligible. Sign up for their informational webinar on either July 20, 2022, or August 10, 2022 at 12:00PM Mountain Time to learn more about how to get started!

Informational webinars are 45 minutes long and give future competitors an introduction to the contest and the “hows” and “whys” of getting involved. Faculty, government, and industry speakers will be present to explain how the tasks are developed, how teams receive mentoring from professional engineers, and strategies for participating in the competition!

Register for July 20th

Register for August 10th

As the education system pushes to add science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, to the curriculum, we must remember the importance the arts play in a child’s development and success into adulthood.


According to the business resource Inc., 73% of employers in today’s workforce want to hire someone with strong written and communication skills.


With writing skills being a top priority, the question then becomes, how do we encourage students to foster a love of the arts alongside increasing their skills in STEM?


A great way to encourage both the arts and STEM education while also building a strong work ethic and life skills is participating in one of these 10 environmental writing contests.

Nicodemus Wilderness Project Apprentice Ecologist Awards

This program has received many awards for its economic impact, and the skills it teaches its participants are noteworthy too. Students who participate in the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative will get the chance to improve the environmental or social well-being of their own community. Its design is unique because it allows students to assert their leadership skills in an area that means the most to them – whether that’s their local wildlife, education, or community activism.


Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

In this competition, teens in 7th – 12th grade can apply in 29 different art and writing categories. Student submissions are scored on their originality, technical skills, and their personal vision or voice. This gives participants the freedom to think outside the box and truly artistically express themselves.


Tunza Eco Generation Environmental Essay Competition

This competition is all about encouraging young people to think about the natural world’s importance. Students will complete an original work of writing that conveys their perspective on mother nature and how they believe we can improve our care for the planet.


Young Reporters for the Environmental International Competition

This competition is unique in that it allows students to think about the environment on a global scale. Participants submit their most inspiring entries surrounding the theme of littering less. Winners of each national competition will then get to compete against one another in the international finals. These winners will gain global recognition for their creative thinking and environmental problem-solving—what a great way to start a student’s resume off right.


Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature

This competition inspires students to get creative and develop an original literary masterpiece. Whether they are into mysteries, thrillers, or dramas, students can write a story that interests the reader and promotes environmental and animal protection.


The Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing

Participants in this writing competition must write a book that inspires its readers to explore the great outdoors and respect the world we live in. For students who dream of writing their own books one day, this is a great place to learn the process and understand the work that goes into writing an inspiring piece of literature.


Gingko Prize for Eco poetry

This international competition helps demonstrate the power poetry can have in inspiring a better world. Participants will create an original poem that highlights the natural world and raises awareness of various environmental issues.


PEN Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction

If your student is into fiction, this is a great competition for them to participate in. This organization believes in inspiring students to consider writing fiction as a career by demonstrating to them the power their fictional stories can have on social justice and their own community’s culture and politics. This competition is an excellent balance of inspiring students to find a love of writing and making a difference on issues that are impacting their communities.


Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Student Contest

This platform is designed to teach students about the issues plaguing our oceans through art and creative communication. Participants will also get the opportunity to explore how what happens to our oceans impacts the rest of the world and what action we can take to make a difference.


River of Words Contest

This competition is a beautiful blend of science and art for students to explore. Students are free to create an original poem or work of art that demonstrates a respect for the environment and teaches about a specific region.


Whether your student is interested in the oceans, making an environmental impact, or advocating for social justice issues in their community, competing in one of these writing competitions will inspire them to action.


These competitions will reinforce the STEM learning happening in the classroom and teach students the importance of the arts and creative communications to impact the world around them. Combining STEM skills and the ever-important writing skills is a great way to help students get ready for college and successful careers.

Interested in one of the exciting competitions above? Head to our competitions page to see what academic competitions are coming up. Set up your account to follow competitions that excite you and stay up-to-date on all the news with academic competitions.

Are you interested in more than one academic competition? Upgrade to a premium account so you can track your progress in competitions, get insider information on academic competitions, access the ICS competitions concierge, and gain exclusive discounts on ICS-managed programs.”









In school we learn about the water cycle, ecosystems, weather, climate change, and many other aspects of our global environment. We learn about plants, animals, and all kinds of critters that inhabit the Earth with us. However, rarely do our students get the chance to really learn about how humans ourselves are affecting the planet; changing it in ever increasing ways. With over 7 billion people on the planet and a projection to hit 10 billion by 2050, humans may be one of the most important factors in affecting our global environment.

Unfortunately, most teachers don’t have a good opportunity to engage their students in learning much about this critical piece of environmental education. Many schools don’t have the resources or knowledge on how humans actually are impacting our environment. Luckily, this is where extra-curricular competitions like the World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest (W7B) step in and fill the academic-gap.

The World of 7 Billion contest provides both teachers and students with resources to help get started learning about these topics. Competitions like W7B are helping teachers incorporate critical lessons into their classrooms and beyond. W7B alone provides elementary, middle, and high school lesson plans covering everything from carbon emissions to ocean acidification to fertility rates and life expectancy in developing nations. But it’s more than just lesson plans, competitions also provide real money to students and teachers. The World of 7 Billion includes awards up to $1,000 for the best video submissions in each category, and provides over 70 awards in total each year!

How are we changing animal habitats? How are we changing environment to meet our energy needs? How are we changing our own ability to provide environmental, social, and economic security to our ever increasing population? These are three questions that this year’s contest is challenging students to learn about and present their own exciting videos detailing how population change is having an impact.

W7B is just one of an expanding array of environmentally themed competitions that are playing a bigger and bigger role in helping engage students in environmental education topics that are getting less and less time in the formal classroom. If you want to make sure your students are getting a healthy dose of environmental, social impact, and global change education don’t miss out on all of these opportunities. You can find a full list of environmentally related competitions in our ICS database here. But be sure not to miss the World of 7 Billion that is open for submissions now through February 28th, 2019.