Why Participate in a STEM Competition? And Which One Should You Consider?



The rapid pace of development that we see in STEM fields is unprecedented in the course of human history. Many exciting careers are arising from technology that would seem impossible a mere decade ago. However, education that involves these developments is scarce at the high school level. What can a bright student do? Students passionate about STEM can satiate this thirst for knowledge in STEM based competitions.


Why Enter a STEM Competition?


Competitions can have a profound impact on students and how they experience STEM education. STEM competitions are often interdisciplinary, drawing upon many different types of science and tech to accomplish a singular goal. STEM competitions are also often team-based; they are an ideal way to expand your knowledge while demonstrating to colleges that you can work in a team and achieve in high-pressure, high-concept environments.


Additionally, valuable critical thinking skills will be developed in pursuit of solutions to abstract and concrete problems. STEM competitions teach students to work both individually and with others while allowing students to explore fascinating fields such as robotics, coding, game design, and more. Below is an extensive list of competitions Peninsula Academy has gathered for your reference.


Toshiba/NSTA Exploravision


Working in teams of two to four, students will research a particular technology and assess the ways in which it may impact lives moving forward. Participants are required to write a paper and create a webpage communicating their vision.

  • Grades: 9-12

  • Level: Local, State, National

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Project Deadline: Early February

International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition


Of course, you don’t have to be a tech enthusiast to take part in STEM competitions. Designed for students with an interest in biology, the iGEM competition has students work in teams to build genetically engineered systems with biological parts called BioBricks. The goal is to create projects that positively contribute to the world.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Level: Local, National

  • Registration Deadline: Late March

  • Project Deadline: Early October

The Conrad Challenge


In this challenge, students work in teams of two to five to develop products or services in response to key issues facing people around the world. A multi-step entrepreneurial competition, the Conrad Challenge empowers students to take control of their learning and apply it to real-life situations. Winners are eligible for $15,000 scholarships, laptops, and more.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Level: Local, National

  • Registration Deadline: Mid August

  • Event Schedule: November - January

eCyberMission


You can participate in this competition without leaving the house. eCyberMission is a web-based contest in which students use science, math, and technology to solve problems facing their communities. First-place winners receive $1,000 in savings bonds.

  • Grades Allowed: 9

  • Competition Type: Local, National

  • Registration Deadline: Mid December

  • Event Schedule: March - June

Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) Program


The JSHS program is designed to prepare students for careers in research and development. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, this competition encourages students to conduct original research related to STEM. Students must first participate at the regional level before moving on to the national symposium.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Registration Deadline: December

  • Event Schedule: January - May

TEAMS Competition


Held annually, TEAM invites students to use their engineering talent to contribute to the community. Working in groups, students complete real-life engineering challenges. The competition includes multiple-choice questions, an essay, and a design-build component.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Local, National

  • Registration Deadline: September

  • Event Schedule: February - March

Technology Student Association Competitions


Also known as the TSA, the Technology Student Association brings together students talented in STEM and invites them to participate in various challenges. Activities include animation, architectural design, board game design, and coding, 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: 9-12

  • Levels: National

  • Registration Deadline: September

  • Event Schedule: Check Website

Generation Nano: Superheroes Inspired by Science


Superhero movies are enjoying a serious moment. If you love science and never miss a Marvel opening night, Generation Nano’s Superheroes Inspired by Science contest is a perfect choice. This STEM competition invites students to create a new superhero and explain his or her powers using scientific research. Along with a written component, participants submit either a short video or a comic. First and second-place individuals or teams can score scholarship money.

  • Grades Allowed: 6-12

  • Levels: National

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Event Schedule: September - January

Congressional App Challenge


A public challenge where students must 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 or as individuals.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Online

  • Registration Deadline: June

  • Event Schedule: June to October

NASA Student Competitions


These are a collection of official NASA contests for the “next generation of explorers.” Topics range from creating a space app, illustrating a topic, or even bioengineering!

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Local, State, National

  • Registration Deadlines: Varies by Competition, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Competition, Check Website

The Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl and Competitions


This is one of the nation’s largest academic competitions that tests students’ knowledge on a range of science and math disciplines. Teams face off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format. Teams must qualify at the regional level to participate in the National Science Bowl.

  • Grades Allowed: 6-12

  • Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Registration Deadlines: Varies by Competition, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Competition, Check Website

National STEM League


This is a practice league for future-professionals. Students can participate in the online competition or face-to-face competitions, depending on their interests, location, and budget. There is a place for all students to contribute to the team through race engineering, coding and automation, design and fabrication, graphic design, marketing, community outreach and data-driven design projects that ask students to follow their own interests.

  • Grades Allowed: 7-12

  • Competitions Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Registration Deadline: Varies by Series, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Series, Check Website

F1 In Schools


A competition that challenges teams of students (a team is made up of 3-6 students) to design, manufacture, and race the Formula 1 “car of the future." Competition takes place at regional, state, national, and world levels. Over 40 countries participate in the World Finals and the competition runs alongside the International F1 Grand Prix.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Registration Deadline: Varies, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies, Check Website

Emperor Science Award


A competition committed to helping develop students who have a passion for science join in the next generation of cancer researchers.100 winning students will be paired with a university-level mentoring scientist to collaborate on cancer research projects. Students will also receive a Google Chromebook and $1,500 for project expenses.

  • Grades Allowed: 10 and 11

  • Levels: Online

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Check Website

EngineerGirl Essay Contest


An essay contest challenging students to research and write about engineering and its impact on the world. Previous prompts include various topics, such as improving your community’s infrastructure, using engineering to improve the life of an endangered species, and the intersection of engineering and sports.

  • Grades Allowed: 3-12

  • Levels: Online

  • Essay Deadline: February

  • Event Schedule: October to February

Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)


The nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition. Entrants to this competition must conduct an original research project and supplement their applications with recommendation letters and transcripts. 40 finalists are selected and receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for in-depth judging. A bit of trivia: 13 alumni have gone on to win the Nobel Prize!

  • Grades Allowed: 12

  • Levels: State, National

  • Registration Deadline: Early November

  • EVent Schedule: June to November

THINK Challenges


Organized by a group of undergraduates from MIT, this competition is for high school students who are in the early stages of an original research project. Selected finalists are invited to a 4-day all-expenses-paid trip to MIT’s campus to meet professors in their field of research, tour labs, and network with members of the THINK team! Finalists also have weekly mentorship meetings and are given $1,000 to fund their research project.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: State

  • Registration Deadline: Varies by Challenges, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Challenges, Check Website

Microsoft Imagine Cup


An annual global software and game design competition hosted by Microsoft since 2003, where teams create and build technology to solve the world’s most pressing problems. It is hailed as the "Olympic games for technology students." The challenge hosts tens of thousands of participants every year. Students can participate in teams of 3 or as individuals.

  • Grades Allowed: 10-12

  • Levels: Online

  • Registration Deadline: Varies by Region, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Region, Check Website

FLEET Competition


FLEET is an individual competition where students compete on a web-based platform to complete scenarios faced by naval engineers on a daily basis, using the application of STEM. The competition is held by the American Society of Naval Engineers. The competition spans 10 weeks with one challenge scenario per week.

  • Grades Allowed: 9-12

  • Levels: Online

  • Application Deadline: Early October

  • Event Schedule: May - June

LEGO Rebrick Contests


A collection of official LEGO contests. Anyone can participate by submitting digital photos and videos of their own custom LEGO creations online. Rules of each contest and requirements may vary. Each contest has its own theme, such as creating your own go-kart, creating a dream skyline, or creating stop-motion endings to LEGO YouTube videos!

  • Grades Allowed: 8-12

  • Levels: Online

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies, Check Website

VEX Robotics Competitions


A collection of various robotics competitions held by The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. Each team of students 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: Elementary to Collegiate.

  • Levels: Regional, State, National

  • Registration Deadline: Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Check Website

Rube Goldberg Machine Contests


A national contest that tasks teams of students to build a machine that completes a simple task (like “pour a box of cereal”) in an overly complicated way. The 2019 competition topic was "Put money in a piggy bank" and the 2020 challenge will be "Turn off a light." There are two categories—live competitions or online competitions. To compete at the National Finals, teams must win one regional level live competition.

  • Grades Allowed: Elementary to Collegiate

  • Levels: Regional, State, National, Online

  • Registration Deadline: Variable, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: January - May

BEST Robotics Competition


"BEST" stands for "Boosting Engineering, Science & Technology." 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

  • Registration Deadline: Varies by Region, Check Website

  • Event Schedule: Varies by Region, Check Website

Zero Robotics Tournament


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

  • Registration Deadline: August

  • Event Schedule: August to December

FIRST Tech Challenge


A robotics competition where teams of students are responsible for designing, building, and programming robots in a 10-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

  • Registration Deadline: May

  • Event Schedule: May - April

FIRST Robotics Competition


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.