When people think of NASA the first things that come to mind are usually rockets and robots; however, NASA works on so many incredible areas of technology development that most of us don’t associate with the high tech space exploration administration. From advancing crop science that helps farmers increase their yields to improving how biomedical researchers can grow human tissues, NASA researchers have their hands in nearly every industry here on Planet One. And luckily, there are great ways for students to get involved and get recognized by NASA!

We’re fortunate to be living in the Artemis era, as second golden era of space exploration where NASA has a prime directive to return humans to the Moon and push on to Mars! Right now, excitement about space is growing faster than a speeding neutrino! The recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the development of new commercial space stations, the discovery of Earth-like exoplanets, the launch of commercial astronauts and (soon!) sending crewed missions to the moon! There’s never been a better time to get involved in space programs than right now.

But how do you get started? How do you get recognized by NASA. I mean, those people are wicked smart! If you’re a student in high school or college and you want to work at NASA helping to advance any of the amazing projects on the horizon, it might seem a little daunting to even know how to begin. Well, NASA, and a bunch of supporting organizations have tons of amazing competitions and contests that students can participate in.

These student competitions, contests, challenges, and prize programs are amazing ways to get recognized by and connected with NASA. Not only that, their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focus, helps students prepare for a wide array of college and career opportunities. So if you want to get recognized by the smarty pants at NASA, you might want to start here. We’ve compiled a list of our top competitions that can help you get connected with NASA!


1.   Plant the Moon and Mars Challenge

Age Range: Elementary, Middle, High, and College

Tags: Citizen Science, Science Fair, Agriculture, Botany, Lunar Exploration, Mars Exploration, Life Support, Mission Design.

This STEM competition challenges teams of up to 10 students to see who can grow the best crops in Lunar or Martian regolith! It combines agriscience, farming, and botany with space exploration, planetary science, geology, and NASA mission technology development. Teams receive 5kg packs of simulated regolith painstakingly engineered by the University of Central Florida’s Exolith Laboratory to be as close to the real thing as possible. Through an 8 week grow period, students conduct their own experiments to test out which types of crops grow best with which types of fertilizers added to the simulated regolith.

Students get connected with NASA researchers, botanists, and university academics to learn how NASA is helping to advance crop science for space exploration and for the agriculture industry here at home. Anyone interested in testing out their hand at being an astrofarmer, check out this citizen science competition!

Learn more: https://plantthemoon.com/


2.   Lunabotics

Age Range: College

Tags: Robotics, Mining, Lunar Exploration

LUNABOTICS is a STEM competition for college students that supports NASA’s lunar technology development by focusing on lunar construction with a challenge to build robots to simulate building a section of a berm on the lunar surface. On the lunar surface, a berm would surround lander launch and landing pads to prevent dust and debris from spreading onto habitats and experiments during.  The challenge provides students exposure to NASA’s systems engineering process: design, develop and evaluate robots, and an opportunity to be involved in a challenge with other community colleges, colleges/universities at KSC. The teams will also perform public outreach, submit systems engineering papers and present and demonstrate their work to a NASA review panel.


3.   Human Exploration Rover Challenge

Ages: High, College

Tags: Rovers, Lunar Expedition

This STEM competition for high school and college students tasks teams to design, develop, build, and test human-powered rovers capable of traversing challenging terrain and task tools for completion of various mission tasks.


4.   International Space Settlement Design Competition

Age: high

Tags: Space Exploration, Mission Design, Habitats, Engineering

Through these hands on students competitions, teams of high school students adopt positions within a simulated professional workplace setting related to a future space settlement scenario. They are mentored by industry professionals as they work to deliver solutions to simulated futuristic aerospace engineering scenarios. Students gain a deeper understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) – specifically their application in the industries of today and tomorrow –providing them a platform to pursue careers in aeronautical, and other, fields and disciplines.


5.   Spaceport America Cup

Ages: college

Tags: Rocketry

The Spaceport America Cup is the world’s largest Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry teams. With over 120 teams from colleges and universities in twenty countries, the competition continues to grow every year. Students launch solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes of 10,000 and 30,000 feet. A great way for college students to connect their STEM skills with NASA launch goals!


6.   The American Rocketry Challenge

Ages: middle, high

Tags: Rocketry

The American Rocketry Challenge is the world’s largest rocket contest with nearly 5,000 students nationwide competing each year. The contest gives middle and high school students the opportunity to design, build and launch model rockets and hands-on experience solving engineering problems. This STEM competition for students is a sure way to get NASA to recognize your students’ work!


7.   NASA Student Launch Competition

Ages: middle, high, college

Tags: rocketry

NASA’s Student Launch is a research-based, competitive, experiential exploration activity. It strives to provide relevant, cost-effective research and development of rocket propulsion systems. The student competition provides science, technology, engineering, and math skills for students that are directly relevant to NASA. This project offers multiple challenges reaching a broad audience of middle and high schools, colleges, and universities across the nation.


8.   Micro-G Next

Ages: college

Tags: science, research, microgravity, Neutral Buoyancy

Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams encourages undergraduate students to design, build and test a tool or device that addresses an authentic, current space exploration challenge. The challenge includes hands-on engineering design, test operations and public outreach. Test operations are conducted in a simulated microgravity environment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas.


9.   NASA BIG Idea Challenge

Ages: college, graduate

Tags: robotics, rover, space exploration

The 2022 BIG Idea Challenge provides undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to design, develop, and demonstrate robotic systems with alternative rover locomotion modalities for use in off-world extreme lunar terrain applications. A panel of NASA and industry judges selected seven innovative ideas from the academic community for a wide range of alternative rover locomotion modalities to either enhance or replace traditional wheeled mobility systems that can expand our access to extreme terrain on the Moon and (later) on Mars.


10. Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE)

Age Range: High, College

Tags: Lunar Exploration, Programming, Satellites,

Inspired by NASA’s Apollo Moon landings over 50 years ago, the Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE) will be a catalyst for a new generation of space missions and explorers. This scientific and technological mission to the Moon will deploy 500 LunaSats to the lunar surface to conduct local and distributed science missions. LunaSats are tiny spacecraft with an integrated sensor suite that will be programmed by teams of students all over the world for a mission of their own design. These teams will be mentored by GLEE program staff through the programming, test, launch, and data gathering process. GLEE will be free to all teams that are selected for participation. From hands-on activities to a global citizen science network, GLEE is the next step to inspire and engage the world in a truly global mission to the Moon.


11. International Space Apps Challenge

Ages: high, college, graduate, professional

Tags: coding, programming

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge (Space Apps) is an international hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and others in cities around the world, where teams engage the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space.

Each October, over the course of two days, Space Apps brings participants from around the world together at hundreds of in-person and virtual local events to solve challenges submitted by NASA experts. After the hackathon, project submissions are judged by space agency experts and winners are selected for one of 10 Global Awards. Space Apps provides problem-solvers worldwide with NASA’s free and open data, giving teams the opportunity to learn how to use these resources to solve each year’s challenges.


12. Zero Robotics Competition

Ages: Middle, High

Tags: Robotics, Microgravity, International Space Station, Coding, Programming

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!


13. NASA AstroPhoto Contests

Ages: Elementary, Middle, High, College, Graduate

Tags: Photography, science, astrophotography, data science

NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges include two challenges: the MicroObservatory Challenge and the NASA Data Challenge. Teams entering either challenge could be selected by NASA’s Universe of Learning team as a standout entry for feedback from NASA scientists! In the MicroObservatory Challenge, students capture their own real-time telescope image of the Carina Nebula, and process it with MicroObservatory’s JS9‑4L tool. Then student teams consider how the image of the Carina Nebula that they processed compares to an image of the Carina Nebula processed by NASA. In the NASA Data Challenge, student teams select any of NASA’s images of Eta Carina & the Carina Nebula and process them with MicroObservatory’s JS9‑4L tool. Then students use all the techniques they’ve learned with MicroObservatory to process real NASA data and create their best image.


14. Space Entrepreneurs Academy

Ages: high, college

Tags: technology, research, science, entrepreneurship, mission design,

This high school and university student education program combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with the excitement of commercial space entrepreneurship. The Space Entrepreneurs Academy (SEA) engages students in a wide array of aerospace topics through a unique library of diverse video interviews and custom tutorial videos from industry executives, academic researchers, and government leaders. The SEA provides an innovative digital learning opportunity to engage students in the STEM concepts behind commercial space entrepreneurship and encourages critical thinking about the future of the aerospace industry.

Each year, the academy concludes with a pitch competition presenting innovative new ideas for commercial space businesses from the top students around the world. Students completing the Space Entrepreneurship Academy are trained on a unique combination of entrepreneurship and aerospace content, gaining skills to help them bolster the rapidly growing workforce and launch the next wave of innovative aerospace products, services, and businesses.

The Space Entrepreneurs Academy opens in the fall of 2022. To receive information about this competition make sure you are registered on the ICS platform.



Find out more about these and hundreds of other competitions for students on the Institute of Competition Sciences platform! Join us as a featured member to get access to special discounts, unique competition opportunities, and to get an insider advice on how to succeed in all kinds of academic competitions.

Signup for your insider account at: www.competitionsciences.org

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on the moon, the Plant the Moon Challenge is the closest you can get right here on the Earth! In this competition, you’ll get hands-on with lunar simulant and discover what it takes to feed NASA astronauts on long-duration lunar missions. You’ll explore the question of can we grow enough crops on the lunar surface without having to take everything from the Earth? 

Plant the Moon Challenge

Sending Artemis to the Moon

NASA recently launched the Artemis program, fittingly named after Greek god Apollo’s twin sister, pledging to land the first woman on the moon by 2024 and to embark on sustainable exploration of the lunar surface by 2030. These moon explorations are preparation for future expeditions to Mars.

A key component of sustainable exploration is the ability of astronauts to grow their own food on long missions. In the decades since the Apollo mission, researchers have developed lunar soil simulants that mimic the chemistry, composition, and physical characteristics of the actual soil found on the moon’s surface. Lunar simulants allow researchers to test plant growth in agricultural conditions similar to what astronauts will face on future long-term lunar missions and determine if lunar soil can support crops.

What Grows on the Moon?

In the Plant the Moon Challenge, students become the investigators as they determine how best to grow plants on the moon. Working in teams of up to 10, participants will receive lunar regolith simulant from the University of Central Florida’s CLASS Exolith Laboratory and a project guide from the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS). Because the Moon is completely sterile of any biologic components, students will need to explore what must be added to the lunar soil in order to allow crops to grow! Mass, grain size, water requirements, and other physical properties of the experiment will be important.

Students will design and implement their own projects testing variables related to plant growth in lunar simulant soil. Winning projects will be selected by NASA scientists and ICS scientific evaluators. The competition is open to individuals and teams of students from grade 6 to university level from around the world.

Plan the Moon is hosted by the ICS and premium account holders receive a 10% discount on the entry fee! Registration is open November 15 – January 15.

For questions about Plant the Moon, contact info@competitionsciences.org



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.

Science competitions are blowing up all across the globe. Students from nearly every nationality participate in major science competitions every spring. In 2017 over 4 million K-12 students competed for over $8,000,000 in awards just in STEM competitions! And it's only getting bigger. At ICS we track hundreds of STEM focused competitions. There are programs for every interest from environmental conservation to rocketry to city planning! You can find the competitions best suited for your skills and interests on our ICS database here.


Spring time is when many of the big science competitions have their final tournaments, fairs, and presentations. We compiled this list of when some of the big ones are happening, and we'll be following the action closely to report on which schools are rising to the top of the STEM leaderboard after each competition. Here's what's coming up in the big science competitions:


ISEF 17-May Public day Exhibition of Projects
Regeneron Science Talent Search 11-Mar Public exhibition of awards
Discovery 3M Young Scientist 19-Apr Deadline to Submit Entries
Science Bowl April 26-30 National Competition
Ocean Sciences Bowl April 19-22 National Finals
Science Olympiad May 18-19 National Tournament
iGEMS 16-Feb Early registration deadline (final reg deadline is April 30th)
BioGENEius June 4-7 International final competition


We'll follow up on this post as new award winners are announced to update the leaderboards! 


By now, most of us know that when it comes to getting into a good college it takes more than just making the grades and a high SAT score. Colleges like to know that there is more to you than just how well you can take tests. They want to see what kind of person you are and know well you can work under pressure. Can you think on your feet? How good are your problem-solving skills? What it really boils down to is this— are you a well-rounded person who can think? Can you problem-solve the challenges that are likely to come your way?

Luckily, this is where academic competitions really stand out. Science fairs are the standard STEM based competition that just about every middle and high school is involved in one way or another. At one point, nearly every student completes a science fair project these days. However, just like quarterbacks, pitchers, and sprinters, academic athletes shouldn’t just go out and jump into these competitions without preparation. To perform well takes meticulous training, careful preparation, and a lot of planning. So we put together four helpful tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your next round of science fairs! Following these tips can help you get jump-started and lead to a dramatic rise in your academic performance so that you will be the one getting noticed for future college and career opportunities.


First of All, Be Proactive.

If there is one thing that most of us mere mortals are prone to doing, it’s failing to realize when we need help. Youth are notoriously bad at this. When we’re young we want to prove that we can do it all on our own. We don’t realize that even the smartest among us need a helping hand. And when we’re young, having the right mentor can be the difference between just completing a competition, and getting to nationals. Mentors help us get over hurdles that we didn’t even know where there.

So the question is, how do you find the right mentor? Can’t our teachers be our mentors? Often-times yes. High School educators or local college or university professors can be great mentors. But students have to be proactive in seeking them out. Our educators are swamped with things to do. And if it looks like they just won’t have the time or ability to be a good mentor to you or your team, go beyond the school. There are many non-profit organizations in the STEM fields that are focused on providing quality mentors from STEM industries. According to the science education organization Science Buddies, 85% of all Science Talent Search participants had to find their own mentors.

So don’t wait for your teachers to dive in, be proactive and search out your own mentors. Check out the Science Buddies article for some more details on where you can go, but to start out with, your local college or university is a great place to begin. The professors there are usually very excited to help their local high school students, or if they don’t have the time themselves, they will know who can.


Be Different.

There are a lot of great science projects out there that have been done again and again. Simply putting a new twist on the old volcano top project won’t get you into the winners circle at any meaningful level. If you really want to have a great shot at winning, come up with something new and different, or make sure you really have a unique addition to a standard project. If you go with the table top volcano project, make sure you have new research on a specific structure of the volcano that could add to our understanding of their explosions. Or that you have examined specific ways to stop or modify lava flows. Even the old-school projects can lead to great success, but you have to be different, unique, and detailed! If you can, come up with a project that is something the judges haven’t seen before or haven’t seen much of. They will be more likely to remember your project than someone else’s they’ve seen done a hundred times. When they are trying to decide who the winners are, it helps to be memorable.


Be Interested!

Passion is the buzzword on everyone's lips when it comes to career success and happiness. You have to be passionate about your job. One of the most famous quotes about this is from the #1 all-star of science, Albert Einstein. He said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” So take it from uncle Al and be passionately curious.  This goes the same for your science fair project. Someone could suggest or you could find a project that is fresh, complex, and challenging but if it doesn’t interest you, you need to move on. It may be the kind of subject material that winning projects are made of. But if you are not interested in it yourself, your project will suffer. Don’t let someone else choose your science fair project! It has to come from you.

When it is something that you are interested in, you attack the project with more intensity. You put forth more effort into testing your theory than you realize simply because you like what you are doing. When it comes time to present your project, you will do so with more vigor because you are invested in it. That passion will be apparent to the judges, and it will make you and your project appear more interesting and more likely to win. Check out this article from the Huffington Post if you want more quotes from some of the most successful people in the world on how they view passion as the most important part of their careers.


Be Specific!

Make sure you don’t choose a topic that is too open-ended or broad. An open-ended project may seem interesting enough, but the judges will want more than just your surface level data. They are going to want a definitive conclusion; not just a statement that “more research will be necessary.” Science fair projects should be able to have discovered something, even if you think it is very small and trivial, make sure you have some specific key findings at the end.

Stay organized, stay with it, and see it through to the end: If you are unorganized, you will have a hard time realizing everything that you know and keeping track of it. It will be just as hard to know what you need to find out and should be looking for. Nothing will be more frustrating than realizing you just repeated something because you couldn’t find your original results.

The best projects will not be easy. They will challenge you and you will have moments where it will look like you have failed. But the judges will appreciate your persistence. Just because the first 25 trials were failures doesn’t mean No. 26 will not be right. Judges look for specifics. They want to see that you have been able to understand your project and the topic better than anyone else.


So take these tips home and remember: Be Proactive, Be Different, Be Interested, and Be Specific to tackle your science fair project and have the best shot at getting to the top.