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.

We all know that the season of college applications can be incredibly stressful. From deciding where to apply, to finding good recommendation letters, to writing essays, to worrying whether or not you'll actually get in, there are plenty of things keeping students and parents up late at night. Then, on top of everything, you have to wonder, how in the world are you going to pay for it all? 

According to the College Board, the average cost of annual tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Financial aid from the schools is becoming harder and harder to come by. However, academic competitions are stepping up to fill the void. In this previous post, we looked at the big science competitions and how they're helping thousands of students each year not only get accepted to, but also pay for college.

With this in mind, we wanted to research how mathematics competitions stack up. So we dug into it and identified 36 nationwide (United States) mathematics-focused competitions for high school students. We evaluated how they do in supporting our next generation of STEM leaders. For this analysis, we focused on "pure" math competitions, leaving out science fairs and other STEM research competitions that certainly include math, but have other specific topics as their main focus.

What did we find? First off, there is a new shining star among mathematics competitions. Only 14% of mathematical competitions for high school students directly offer significant college scholarships or cash awards (we defined the cutoff for this at being an award of >$1000 for the top team). The new leader among these is in its first year this fall - the Modeling the Future Challenge.

86% of the national mathematical competitions we researched included little or no direct prize money or scholarship awards for their winners. This does not mean they included no awards at all. Some have great travel opportunities for their top teams to go to international conferences or events. Many are tied into the Mathematical Association of America's network of contests leading toward the International Mathematics Olympiad. Some foundations then use student scores on these exams to provide scholarships. And for the few students that get the chance to go all the way to the international conference, this is indeed a great experience. So there certainly are benefits to these competitions.

 

 

The MTF Challenge leads the pack among math competitions providing $60,000 in guaranteed awards, and a $25,000 first place college scholarship. Not only that, but the Finalist Teams each receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York City where they participate in the Modeling the Future Symposium and meet with professional actuaries to learn how math can be applied to their future careers. 

The Modeling the Future Challenge takes students beyond the exam into real-world applied mathematics. It connects what you teach them in the classroom with actual data analysis and helps students see the true value in applying their mathematical knowledge to cutting edge technologies and careers. "The Modeling the Future Challenge echoes what actuaries do for their careers. It provides students with the opportunity to connect with what mathematics is all about," said Jason Leppin, Executive Director of The Actuarial Foundation, the non-profit behind the competition. “We want to provide life-changing scholarships for students, and demonstrate that math really can lead to amazing careers like being an actuary, which is consistently ranked among one of the top rated careers.

To win the challenge, students analyze one of the hottest technologies around - autonomous vehicles - and use mathematical modeling to determine how they expect the adoption of autonomous vehicles to change the future. Will it revolutionize how we commute to work? Will it change the way we ship our packages and goods? Will it create new opportunities in how we design our cities? Students will use math to make their own decisions on the changes they expect, based on their own analysis of real data! They’ll write this up in a brief report and have a shot at The Actuarial Foundation’s industry leading big dollar scholarships.

So, this year, rather than just putting your students through another exam, make sure they don't miss out on the chance for a trip to New York City, the $60,000 award purse, and the big scholarships available through the Modeling the Future Challenge. Their college applications and future selves will definitely thank you for it. You can register your team of students up until October 28th. Then the 1-month challenge period begins, when students can analyze the data and submit their final projects which are due November 25th!

To learn more about the challenge topic, data sources, and submission requirements check out: www.mtfchallenge.org.

 

 

The Madrid regional Spanish Mathematics Competition – leading to national May Math Olympiad and the International Mathematics Olympiad.

Early in the morning on Saturday, April 22, Spain’s capital saw thousands of madrileños gather to enjoy a highly-anticipated competition. Eager fans, trainers, and family members flocked to Complutense University for a chance to see the result of months of practice by the some of the most skilled young contestants. El Clásico (the famed match between the Real Madrid and Barcelona football clubs) was scheduled for the following day, but this spectacle sought to showcase a different sort of excellence. The crowd did not form around the soccer field, but rather the math department.

The XXI edition of the Concurso de Primavera de Matemáticas (the 21st Spring Math Competition) brought together the sharpest students from secondary schools throughout the region. Nearly 4,000 participants, ranging from 5th to 12th grade, arrived at the university at 8 AM on Saturday morning ready to tackle 25 math and logic problems in less than 90 minutes. After months of honing their problem-solving skills with practice exams, students from more than 500 secondary schools set their sights on making the list of 150 overall highest-scorers and grabbing the title of top 3 scorers in their age level. The most ambitious among the younger students looked to stand out and qualify for one of the 25 spots in the nation-wide XXIII Olimpiada de Mayo (the 23rd May Math Olympiad).

Carlos and Valentina, two of my students at IES Valdebernardo – a local high school in Spain- arrived at the Complutense with their work cut out for them. IES Valdebernardo has failed to place even one student among the top 150 scorers during the last five competitions. A quick look at results from the previous five competitions reveals the distance between Valdebernardo and the top-performers:

  • Colegio San José del Parque – At least 1 top-scoring student each year.
  • IES San Juan Bautista – At least 2 top-scoring students each year, including three years with 4 top-scorers.
  • Colégio Alemán – At least 4 top-scoring students each year, including one year with 6 and one year with 8 top-scorers.

The powerhouse of Colégio Alemán (Madrid’s German School), supported by millions of Euros in investment from the German government, offers a consistently impressive and intimidating record. IES Valdebernardo, an average public school within the community of Madrid, boasts little more than a math department excited to offer practice exercises to interested students and encourage their participation. The school lacks a well-developed blog devoted exclusively to math olympiads, a hallmark among high-achieving institutions. The disparity in resources and energy committed to the competition was noticeable between these two schools.

Carlos and Valentina seemed unbothered by this dynamic as they waited for their respective groups to start the exam. Once the doors opened, they calmly took their seats and began to grind out answers. Meanwhile, parents and teachers took in the day’s entertainment (a comedy duo of mathematicians tossing Pythagoras puns left and right). The spinning of cognitive wheels was all but audible as participants wrestled with questions on practical and theoretical algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus that would stump most educated adults (including the author).

An exhausting 90 minutes after they entered, the students emerged from classrooms and bolted for the front of the building, where official answers would soon be posted. Carlos and Valentina seemed lukewarm about their performance, opting for cautious optimism. Relieved and abuzz with excitement, the competitors compared strategies and answers, fist-pumping or groaning as the correct solutions were revealed. An especially tricky logic question concerning a girl named Alba’s collection of pyramids and prisms was the topic of much discussion for the youngest group, while the oldest students rehashed a monster problem about the graph of a parabolic function. Proud parents and teachers peppered their children with questions, the atmosphere electric.

At the end of the day, the list of winners was posted: 5 students from Colégio San José del Parque, 3 from IES San Juan Bautista, 7 from Colégio Alemán, and 0 students from IES Valdebernardo would be taking home the trophies and certificates for excellence in mathematics. Nonetheless, Carlos and Valentina cheerfully headed home. Valentina, sounding like a true purist, explained to me that she came for one simple reason: she loved math and the immense satisfaction of applying the right theorem or crafting a unique solution to a tricky problem. Having had the additional privilege of competing with the brightest young stars in the world of mathematics, Valentina was content with her performance. But fans of IES Valdebernardo are eager to see if she can knock one of the regulars from Colégio Alemán off the list of top scorers next year and replace them with “IES Valdebernardo!”