The future is bright for careers in tech. With job growth across the field, tech workers are in high demand. What’s more, tech careers have higher than average salaries and job satisfaction. So what can you do in a tech job? You could analyze data related to scientific research, engineer website and mobile applications, research and optimize companies’ marketing, develop video games, or work in cybersecurity for a government organization. When it comes to tech careers, the possibilities are endless.
However, tech jobs aren’t for everyone. As with any career, there are skills you need to develop in order to thrive in tech. If you’re interested in a tech career, start by practicing analytical, problem-solving, and project management skills as well as learning programming languages and common operating systems. There are many academic competitions that can help you learn and master these skills.
Competitions for a future in tech
American Computer Science League – Computer science contests for grade 11 and 12
CyberPatriot – Online cyber defense competition for teams of K-12 students
Cyber Robotics Coding Competition – Virtual 3D robotics tournament for grade 6-8
Future Problem Solving Program – Creative problem-solving competition for grades 4 – 12
Imagine Cup (Microsoft) – Global team computer science competition for students over 16
MakeX Spark Online Competition – Creative design competition for ages 6 to 13
National Cyber League – Cybersecurity competition for high school students
ProjectCSGirls – Tech and social issues focused competition for girls in grades 6-8
REACH Challenge – Team design-thinking project for middle school and high school students
STEM Fuse: Got Game Competition – Video game design competitions for grades 5-12
Technovation Girls – Free tech-based team competition for girls ages 10 – 18
Find more tech-focused competitions in the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) database. Upgrade to a premium account for additional tools to help track your progress in competitions and get special discounts on ICS-managed programs!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
What does it take to build and operate a competitive robot? Students in robotics competitions have been discovering the answer to that question for decades. There’s a reason that robotics competitions like FIRST and BattleBots were the first STEM competitions to go “mainstream.” Beyond the engineering and programming skills that they foster, robotics competitions encourage teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, and determination. Just as important, though, the competitions are really, undeniably fun.
If you’re interested in engineering, design, tech, or team sports, then you’ll love robotics competitions. Even students as young as 5 and as advanced as graduate school can participate. With most robotics competitions requiring mentors, teachers and parents also have an opportunity to join in on the excitement. After reviewing many robotics competitions for students of all ages, we’ve boiled our recommendations for how to win down to just one overarching tip: practice!
Robots don’t just do what you want them to right out the gate (unless you are a genius robot yourself). To get the robots to do what you want takes many iterations. Try something out, if it doesn’t work, learn from it. Learning from these small failures during your practice runs will make your team better prepared for the real tournaments! Take some time every week to think about a certain task or need for your robot in the challenge you’re participating it. Then practice that from many different angles again and again. Try different strategies to get it to do what you want, and when you get frustrated that its not working, learn from that, and try something new! Practicing the many different strategies you can use to get your robots to do what you want them to is – in our opinion – the single best way to win more robotics competitions.
If you want to expand your participation in robotics competitions check out some of the lesser known programs in our list below:
Popular Robotic Competitions
FIRST Robotics Competition – The gold standard of robotics competitions, FIRST challenges teams of high school students to design, build, and program robots that will compete with others on the international stage.
Botball – In Botball, middle and high school teams build autonomous bots. Students learn artificial intelligence and advanced coding to prepare their bot for battle.
BEST Robotics Challenge – Middle and high school student teams design and build task-performing robots that will compete in secret challenges revealed on competition day.
Robotics For All
Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Tournament – Participants program drones to complete tasks. The tournament is open to robotics enthusiasts of all ages.
Cyber Robotics Coding Competition – Virtual 3D robotics tournament open to grade 6-8
MakeX Spark Online Competition – Online coding and robotics competition for students age 6-13
MATE Underwater Robotics Competition – Students from kindergarten to grad school will design and build remotely operated vehicles to take on ocean missions
National Robotics Challenge – Students grade 6 to grad school find—rather than buy—materials to build a competitive robot
World Robot Olympiad – Global themed robotics competition open to students ages 6 – 25
Find other exciting robotics competitions in the ICS database which allows you to search competitions by theme and grade level. With an upgraded account, you can track and manage your participation in the competitions, making sure you don’t miss a minute of the action! Don’t forget to get your own Premium account to help you manage your participation and get special updates and discounts on ICS competitions!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This summer, the world of academic competitions was abuzz with what was perhaps the most buzzed about high school STEM competition ever. Not only was there a series of firsts in the competition itself, but there was a mix of politics, international intrigue, and yes even a President stepping in with a last minute game changer! The perfect makings for the next big J.J. Abrams hit movie!
When 6 teenage girls from Afghanistan wanted to come to the United States to participate in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge – a robotics competition geared towards promoting a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the leaders of tomorrow – they were stopped dead in their tracks when their visas were denied.
Even though their robot had made it to the competition, after several attempts to gain entry, the 6 young Afghan engineers were probably ready to give up as the competition date neared. Then something unexpected happened, something extraordinarily out of the ordinary (at least for this political cycle). President Donald J. Trump – the man who’s every word led us to believe he would be the last person to do so – intervened to permit the girls entry for the competition.
This news got our team at ICS thinking – since everything these days seems to be about politics – we needed to ask, why did President Trump choose to intervene on these girls’ behalf while attempting to ban millions of other Muslims from entry to the country? Was there ever a danger of letting them in to compete? And taking it a step further, this question quickly expands to the broader notion of, “How should the United States handle educating the next generation of scientists and engineers from foreign countries?” What if we know they are not going to be staying in the US and contributing to our economy? Does that matter in the long-run?
We wanted to bring this up not to push our own opinions on what is right or wrong, but to attempt to have an open discussion on how academic competitions at the international stage like this can have an impact not only on the participants, but on the fundamental nature of our society. More so than sports and international athletic competitions, academic challenges have the potential to change the future because of their affect on who will be the next leaders in important technological areas such as science and engineering. With such amazing power to change the world, ICS is on a mission to bring out scientific knowledge about how can we maximize this power for good.
So, we decided to have a short thought experiment (admittedly a fairly surface-level experiment given the complexity of the topic) on this question by posing basic arguments from both sides. So here they are, our surface-level arguments for and against educating with our arms wide open. We would love to hear your input.
Bring them on!
On the one hand, we can say, “Yes, bring them on!” The United States should be positioning our country as the global leader in STEM by bringing future leaders here and showing them our American culture and expertise. Having a global challenge where our students compete against the best and brightest from other nations ultimately improves everyone’s skills, so we all win. There are innumerable accounts of foreign scientists, engineers, and mathematicians coming to the US and adding to our economy, not to mention global prosperity (we can attribute much of our technologies today to foreign immigrants).
So, what if we expand the question to where we know the foreign students will not be returning to the US and contributing to our economy? Is it the case that any knowledge they gain from their educational experiences here will be going back with them to their country? Well, we then might make the argument for allowing them to participate by stating how the issues and problems that many international competitions challenge students to solve are global in nature. In these cases, figuring out solutions doesn’t just make a participant’s home country a better place, but will make the world a better place. And we will all win.
Furthermore we could argue that these experiences in the US for foreign students are a great way to highlight American culture, and to help encourage students to bring American values back to their home countries, thereby indirectly helping us avert future conflicts. Unfortunately, we can never know for sure how the knowledge gained in these programs will be used, but there are many obvious benefits to allowing and encouraging these global opportunities to share knowledge. So this brings us to the other side of the coin.
Where's the wall?
On the other hand, the argument can be made that by encouraging students in other countries to embrace and excel in STEM we risk falling behind in those areas ourselves – areas critical to our national defense and economy. If we fall behind too much, we risk becoming dependent on other nations for new technologies, and risk having inferior technology for national defense and other economic drivers.
So should we shut the doors and focus on educating our own to be the best they can be? On this side of the argument, defenders of the wall may highlight examples of foreigners who were educated in the United States and went on to join terrorist groups – perhaps the most recent high profile example being “Lady Al-Queda” an MIT-trained neuroscientist from Pakistan who was convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder Americans and sentenced to 86 years in federal prison. We can never know what any individual will do with their education, so is it worth the risk bringing foreigners here to get trained through our programs? This is the ultimate question, do the benefits of global knowledge sharing and bringing people around the world together behind education outweigh the potential risks to our national economy or society?
This article is not an attempt to plant our flag and state which argument we believe is right. This article is an attempt to bring about open discussion to help understand the nuances of this very complex issue and to hopefully highlight some more specifics and detailed data from our community in the comments and social media. We always believe in open discussion and think that international competitions like FIRST’s Global Challenge (and many others) may benefit from better understanding on how to manage potentially sensitive situations on the international stage. Situations that do have long-term implications for the future stability of our country and society. Education is a powerful force – perhaps the most powerful change-maker we have over the long-term – and one thing we do believe at ICS is that we must work hard to maximize its value for global good.
So what do you think? Should we close the doors to bringing international students to the US for these kinds of competitions? What if we know they’re going back to their home countries rather than staying and contributing to our economy? Or should we open the gates in an understanding that the benefits of sharing our culture and values will outweigh the potential detriments?
We’d love to hear your comments on both sides of the argument!
And don’t forget to signup for a free account with ICS to stay up on all the action with these and other interesting topics in academic competitions. We treat academics like the rest of the world treats sports and are working hard to bring more of these programs to the public sphere.