Best Computer Science Competitions



Computer science and engineering has completely changed the world around us and how we interact with it. Computing enables us to create something brand new, solve complex problems in innovative ways, and make a positive difference in various aspects of people's lives, from medicine and health care to business to economics and even to literature. As a professional choice, computer scientists and engineers are offered many types of high-paying career opportunities.


For these reasons, computer science and/or engineering has been one of the most sought after college majors. At any given college or university, computer science and/or engineering major is among the most selective. The selection process is fiercely competitive, where students find it increasingly harder to stand out. If your dream is to pursue computer science and/or engineering at a top-notch college or university, you need to go to great lengths to demonstrate your passion and your problem solving skills in computing.


While acing math and advanced computer science classes at your school is a must, you should consider participating in renowned coding and robotics competitions, depending on your interest. You will not only be able to flex your intellectual muscles in computing, but also have the opportunity to make an impact at a young age, as many computer science competitions are set to solve real world problems. Some require team participation, which will help you practice teamwork and collaborative problem solving as well as pursue leadership opportunities. Ultimately, all of your dedication and efforts will culminate into a strong college application.


Below is our selection of the best computer science and engineering competitions for K-12 students. Some competitions are geared towards students with advanced computing knowledge and skills; others welcome students of all backgrounds in computer science, including novices, with the goal to inspire more students to learn coding and computer science.


USA Computing Olympiad (USACO)

The USACO supports computing education by identifying, motivating, and training computing students at all levels. This prestigious competition tests the algorithmic coding skills in solving problems, allowing the use of multiple programming languages. Each year, individual students compete in three online contests, plus a national “US Open” competition. From these results, the top 24 or so scorers are invited to a rigorous academic summer training camp hosted at Clemson University to further improve their skills. At the end of the camp, the top four participants will represent team USA to compete at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI, see below).

  • Grades Allowed: K-12

  • Levels: National

  • Schedule: Four Rounds, Check Website

International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI)

One of the world's most prestigious computer science competitions, IOI is open to secondary and high school students around the world. Each country sends a group of four students to the two-day international competition. American students must win the USACO competition (see above) to be chosen to participate. IOI participants must know how to program (particularly in C++), be able to understand and implement algorithms, and have strong problem solving skills.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12 who win USACO

  • Levels: International

  • Schedule: Four Rounds, Check Website

American Computer Science League

ACSL hosts one of the oldest computer science competitions in the world. Offering multiple divisions and open to students from K-12, ACSL provides an appropriate challenge for students of varying ages and coding abilities. Each season is divided into four online contests, testing students on fundamental concepts in computer science, ranging from Number Systems to Boolean Algebra to Digital Electronics. In the upper divisions, each contest also includes a problem to solve by programming using Python, C++ or Java. Students work in teams of 3 or 5, and top-scoring teams advance to regional, statewide, and eventually global competitions.

  • Grades Allowed: K-12

  • Levels: Local, Regional, State, International

  • Schedule: Four Rounds, Check Website

Microsoft Imagine Cup

Imagine Cup is an annual global software and game design competition hosted by Microsoft since 2003, where teams use coding and technology to solve the world’s pressing problems. It is hailed as the "Olympic games for technology students." The challenge hosts tens of thousands of participants every year, and over two million students have built something that matters to them, made a difference in their communities, and innovated for impact. Students can participate in teams of 3 or as individuals.

  • Grades Allowed: 10-12

  • Levels: National, International

  • Schedule: Varies by Region, Check Website

CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

CyberPatriot's National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is the world’s largest cybersecurity competition. The US Air Force created CyberPatriot to inspire students to pursue careers in cybersecurity or other STEM fields. This competition challenges teams of 2-6 high school and middle school students to find and fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities in virtual operating systems. Teams are scored on how secure they make the system. Top teams advance through the online round of competition, and the best of the best advance to the in-person National Finals.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: National

  • Schedule: May to February

Congressional App Challenge

This is a public challenge where students code and build an app of their choice. The apps are judged in district-wide competitions hosted by Members of Congress. Winners receive recognition by their Member of Congress and have their work put on display in the Capitol Building. Students can participate in teams of up to four or as individuals.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: Local, National

  • Schedule: June to October

FIRST Robotics Competition

FIRST is an intense robotics competition typically described by students as “the hardest fun you will ever have." With limited resources and only six weeks, students are challenged to raise funds, design, build, and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against other teams.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Regional, State

  • Schedule: Varies by Year, Check Website

FIRST Tech Challenge

This is a robotics competition where teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming robots in a ten-week period, and competing in a head-to-head alliance format against other teams. Winners of the regional/state tournaments are invited to take part in the FIRST National Championship! Each season is year-round. Registration typically takes place in May, competition season begins in September, regional/state tournaments from October–April, and the FIRST Championship in April.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: Regional, State

  • Schedule: May - April

Zero Robotics Tournament

This is an international programming competition where students must program satellites to complete certain objectives (such as avoiding obstacles, collecting objects, etc.) while preserving resources such as fuel. The competition is provided through a partnership with various organizations including MIT and NASA. The competition culminates in the finals where winning teams’ satellites compete aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Students watch via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide commentary.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: State, National

  • Schedule: August to December

VEX Robotics Competitions

VEX is a collection of various robotics competitions held by The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. Each team is tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams head-to-head in a game-based engineering challenge. The world championship is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s largest robotics competition. Tournaments are held year-round at the regional, state, and national levels. Winners are invited to the VEX Robotics World Championship each April.

  • Grades Allowed: K-12

  • Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Schedule: Varies, Check Website

Technology Student Association Competitions

Also known as the TSA, the Technology Student Association brings together middle and high school students talented in STEM and invites them to participate in various challenges. Activities include coding, animation, board game design, among others. Along with the chance to develop their technological prowess, students gain the opportunity to network with other emerging leaders in tech.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: State, National

  • Schedule: Varies, Check Website

BEST Robotics Competition

"BEST" stands for "Boosting Engineering, Science & Technology." It is a robotics competition where teams compete head-to-head in various challenges. Each year a new challenge is chosen based on real-world issues.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Levels: Local, Regional, State

  • Schedule: Varies, Check Website

RoboRAVE

RoboRAVE is an international robotics competition, where teams of 2-4 students design, build, program and test a robot to perform a variety of tasks. RoboRAVE prides itself on being an open competition, and teams can compete from anywhere while using any kind of robot and any type of programming software or language. K-12 students compete in three divisions based on age and grade.

  • Grades Allowed: K-12

  • Levels: International

  • Schedule: Varies, Check Website

Technovation Challenge

The Technovation Challenge aims to inspire girls (ages 10-18) to learn coding and computer science, and equip them with the skills and mindset to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders. With the support of volunteer mentors, girls work in teams to code mobile apps that address real-world problems such as climate, cyber bullying, and water shortage. Girls of all levels of computer science background are encouraged to participate, as the competition is designed to help girls build their coding skills.

  • Grades Allowed: Ages 10-18

  • Levels: Local, International

  • Schedule: Varies, Check Website