Teachers across the country strive to inspire their female students to pursue lessons outside the classroom. By stepping away from books and into real-world applications, girls can form a stronger connection with the materials and turn learning into a fun activity.
One way parents can take what is learned in the classroom and apply it outside is through healthy competition. From building space workout gear to lego creations to solving city problems, kids can tap into their creativity while learning about science and engineering.
Check out these 25 impressive competitions that parents and girls can enter to try their hand at creative engineering and solving the world’s problems.
Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) invites middle school students to submit their best science projects and compete with the top 300 and then the top 30 students in the country. Rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students can participate by submitting their projects over the summer and then the finalists compete through September and October in Washington, DC. The application deadline is June 13.
Junior Solar Sprint
The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) has competitions for students of all ages in elementary, middle, and high school. However, the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) is open for students in the 5th through 8th grades with the challenge to create the best solar-operated vehicle possible. It’s too late to submit for 2018, but students can work on their projects this year and prepare for next year’s competition.
National STEM Video Game Challenge
The National STEM Video Game Challenge accepts entries from February through May and is open to middle and high school students. Judging is divided between middle and high school students, so a current 5th grader won’t have to compete against a rising senior. Students can also submit team projects. The judges review the games based on three criteria: engaging gameplay, innovative or creative vision, and the clarity of game play goals.
Nancy Conrad founded this challenge to honor her late husband Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. Teams of two to five develop solutions for challenges in one of four categories: aerospace/aviation, energy and environment, cyber technology, and health and nutrition. Finalists can present their inventions at the Innovation Summit at the Kennedy Space Center. The Conrad Challenge has multiple phases throughout the year, so follow the organization to keep up with deadlines and events.
FIRST LEGO League Jr. Challenge
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has a variety of competitions depending on age, and the LEGO League Jr. Challenge is available for students ages six to 10. Students use legos to create robots and complete projects that solve basic problems. Registration opens in August for teams of two to six students plus an adult mentor to chaperone the process.
Elementary Science Olympiad
Open to students from kindergarten to sixth grade, the Elementary Science Olympiad (ESO) program starts preparing students for the middle and high school Olympiad tournaments. The elementary tournaments focus on the local level and work to get students engaged in creating new diagrams or experiments. When they enter higher levels, students will work on teams for several weeks before presenting their work. There are more than 300 regional and state tournaments that lead up to Science Olympiad National Tournament, so having this time to prepare at a young age can give girls a leg up in high school.
The Tech Challenge
The Tech Challenge is the signature program of The Tech Museum and invites students in grades four through 12 to use engineering and design to solve real-world problems. Registration opens in the fall and participants spend months working toward the final competition in April. More than 2,500 students participated in last year’s challenge, which is expected to grow even more in 2018.
Future City Competition
The Future City Competition asks kids one question: What can you can you do to make the world a better place? This competition is open to middle school students in grades six through eight and culminates in a final presentation in Washington, DC. This year’s theme is “The Age-Friendly City,” and asks students to solve problems that hold people back in society because of their age. Students create five deliverables to compete: a 1,500-word essay, a scale model, a project plan and a presentation to judges in January.
Humans in Space Youth Art Competition
The International Humans in Space Youth Art Competition wants kids to be inspired and be heard. Students ages 10 through 18 can submit visual, literary, musical, and video artwork sharing their vision of what they think the future of space flight will look like. The winners’ art projects are shared across the world and past winners have come from India, China, Russia, and the United States.
ExploraVision by Toshiba Innovation has brought together more than 375,000 students from the United States and Canada since 1992. The competition is open to students in grades K-12 who compete in teams of two to four to solve real-world problems in society. Registration starts in the fall and submissions are typically due in April with finalists announced in May.
Engineer Girl Essay Contest
Every year Engineer Girl creates an essay contest with criteria in the fall, judging in the winter and awards in the spring. In 2017, students were asked to pick an animal, discuss its status (from common to endangered) and brainstorm ways engineering would help preserve that animal’s habitat. This contest is open to students grades three through 12, with judging divided between elementary, middle and high school levels.
Science Buddies Fluor Engineering Challenge
More than 3,000 students from 11 countries participated in the 2017 Science Buddies Fluor Engineering Challenge. Students in grades K-12 are given basic materials (cups, aluminum foil, tape, and popsicle sticks) and asked to engineer something new every year. Past years have included balloon cars, marble paths, and water flow. 2018 entries are due March 16!
Future Engineers hosts various challenges throughout the year. Students from K-12 are invited to design a solution or solve a problem presented by the judges. The most recent competition challenged kids to design a digital 3D model of something astronauts could use to stay fit on a three-year mission to Mars. The winner received a trip to Houston to visit the Johnson Space Center to learn about the planet and our efforts to get there.
Fluid Power Challenge
The National Fluid Power Association has created the Fluid Power Action Challenge for middle school students. Kids work in teams of four (ideally in groups of two boys and two girls) to solve a challenge creatively using fluid power. According to the NFPA website, this competition “gives kids experience in hands-on learning, teamwork, problem-solving and perseverance…and creates an environment where failing is ok, because it’s the best way to learn and succeed.”
Odyssey of the Mind
Every year, Odyssey of the Mind presents five competitive problems for teams to solve. Students of all ages, grade levels, and education backgrounds are encouraged to create submissions for the challenges. Kids work together through their schools in teams of five to seven and then compete regionally. The World Finals are typically held in May and more than 850 teams competed last year, making this one of the most challenging and rewarding competitions to break into.
ProjectCSGIRLS works to close the gender gap in computing technology. Last year, more than 2,500 middle school girls across 35 states participated to solve problems related to the environment or society with the help of engineering and programming. Along with submitting their projects in the fall and winter, girls are mentored by professionals in the technology industry and learn about careers in tech. Registration closes on March 15, so sign up soon!
Since its debut in 2010, more than 10,000 girls from 78 countries have entered projects in Technovation. This competition is open to middle school girls and older, who are challenged to create mobile startups that solve problems in their communities. Almost 60 percent of participants enroll in further computer science courses after competing and 26 percent of alumni go on to major in computer science in college.
MATHCOUNTS Competition Series
Created in 1983, the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series is the longest running math-based competition open to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Schools participate in four rounds of competition: school, chapter, state and national. There are four parts, each of which takes a total of three hours to complete. The top four competitors from each state will fly out to compete in the National Championships in May.
The Bright Schools Competition
In partnership with the National Sleep Foundation, middle school students participating in the Bright Schools Competition will complete a project related to sleep or light to further their education about how both elements interact and affect our lives. Students choose between developing a prototype, creating an awareness campaign or writing a research proposal based on the topic. The deadline is typically in February and students work in teams of two to four.
The American Statistical Association Poster Competition
Each year, the The American Statistical Association hosts a poster competition for students grades K-12. Submissions are due on April 1 and there are typically 200 to 400 entries. The first place winners receive a $300 prize and students can choose the subject based on their own interest. The ASA wants students to use statistics to convey a message and show how data can be used to share information.
STEM Voice Video Competition
Created by the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes, the STEM Voice Video Competition is open for students across the nation entering grades five and up. Students are asked to create a video explaining why they love STEM and why it’s important. Students can act out a skit, perform a song, give a tutorial or create anything as long as it’s age appropriate. While the 2017 video competition has ended, fans can keep an eye out for the 2018 entry guidelines.
Botball Educational Robotics Program
Botball engages students in a team-oriented robotics competition. The building period starts in the Spring and students spend about seven weeks learning about robotics and building their robots. Then students come together and compete in regional challenges. Not only do students use STEM skills, they also use creativity and writing to design and explain their projects. This competition is available for middle school students and older.
The Congressional App Challenge
Between June and November, students in eligible districts can compete in the The Congressional App Challenge and create a project for the chance to be selected by their member of Congress, win prizes, and have their work on display in the Capitol Building. More than 165 members of Congress signed up to participate in the 2017 challenge, which means more students than ever had a chance to show off their STEAM skills.
MATE ROV Competition
If you know a girl who wants to take her robotics competition to the next level, consider participating in the MATE ROV Competition which awards prizes for underwater robotics development. The competition typically takes place in June in Long Beach, California and is open to students K-12. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced courses that help students develop their projects and receive judging on an appropriate level. Stay tuned for instructions for next year’s competition.
Emperor Science Award
PBS Learning Media is the brainchild behind the Emperor Science Award, which selects 100 winning students from across the country to participate in science competitions related to the fight against cancer. This competition is unique because students are paired with a university-level mentor to review their projects and help them brainstorm ideas. This guidance can inspire future scientists and keep kids interested in STEAM fields through high school and college.