It may seem that one of the last things kids want to do outside of school is something that feels like homework. However, contests are a great extra-curricular activity to get kids involved in their favorite subjects! Covering topics from science to art, there are plenty of national and regional contests open to students of all ages that are sure to excite kids and bring out their competitive spirit.
Here are some of our favorite contests focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) subjects.
1. NASA Exploration Design Challenge
What is it? The NASA Exploration Design Challenge tasks participants with finding innovative ways to protect astronauts from dangerous space radiation. The Orion spacecraft, which is currently in development, will take astronauts beyond Earth’s low orbit onto an asteroid on Mars! Protecting astronauts from the radiation there is a real-world problem that needs to be solved, and NASA is asking for help from kids!
Open to: Kids of all ages! This challenge has options for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.
Subjects: Science, Design
What is it? Google is known for many things, but one of their most entertaining initiatives is the Google Doodle. From celebrating holidays to recognizing important inventions, Google Doodles are the rotating graphics displayed on the Google homepage. The Doodle changes regularly and is a fun way to make the Google homepage engaging. In this contest, Google challenges kids to create artwork that shows what makes them unique, and the winning art will displayed on their homepage for a day!
Open to: Kids of all ages! Students from grades K to 12 are eligible to participate.
What is it? ExploraVision is a competition designed to engage the next generation in solving the real-world problems of tomorrow. In this contest designed for a classroom setting, students work in small groups to envision a new technology 20 years into the future and communicate what it might look like. Past winners have included a handheld food allergen detector and an improved cochlear implant.
Open to: Kids of all ages! This contest is designed for classrooms K-12, so you may want to suggest it to your student’s science or technology teacher.
4. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
What is it? Each year, thousands of teens enter the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Art categories include comics, fashion, film & animation, video games, and more. In writing, students also have several categories to choose from, including journalism, poetry, and fiction.
Open to: Students in grades 7 to 12.
Subjects: Art, Design, Writing
5. Google Science Fair
What is it? The Google Science Fair is a prestigious global science and technology competition held online. Past participants have tackled complex real-world problems including fighting cancer, preventing cyberbullying, and lowering the cost of producing biofuel. Each year, the grand prize winner receives $50,000 in scholarship funding, and runners up can also receive great prizes. 2015 prizes included additional scholarships, scientific magazine subscriptions, and even a trip to LEGO headquarters.
Open to: Kids ages 13 to 18.
Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
6. Young Scientist Challenge
What is it? Sponsored by Discovery and 3M, the Young Scientist Challenge is a popular science competition for middle schoolers. It tasks participants with solving an everyday problem that impacts them, their family, their community, or the global population using science and innovation. Kids create a short video explaining their problem, identifying the science behind their solution, and highlighting how their solution addresses the problem.
Open to: Students in grades 5 to 8.
Subjects: Science, Technology
7. Mystery Build
What is it? Mystery Build is a fun art contest that challenges entrants to create something innovative using limited resources. Each participant creates a piece of art using only specified, seemingly unrelated items. There are no instructions and only a few rules, which empowers kids to use their imaginations to create something extraordinary!
Open to: Kids and adults of all ages!
Subjects: Art, Design
8. EngineerGirl Essay Contest
What is it? In this contest, participants are encouraged to imagine themselves as engineers working on an exciting piece of new technology, possibly designed to address one of Engineering’s Grand Challenges, like making solar energy economical or providing access to clean water. Each entrant submits an essay that explains the challenges, improvements, and upside of their chosen technology.
Open to: Kids in grades 3 to 12.
9. The DuPont Challenge
What is it? The DuPont Challenge offers two different options: a science story competition for elementary school kids, and a science essay challenges for middle and high schoolers. The option for younger kids is designed for a classroom setting, where the class will work together to write a story about a specific science topic, such as food and nutrition or weather. The essay competition asks individual students to submit a STEM-focused essay on one of four topics: food, energy, protection, or innovation. Winners will receive cash prizes and a trip to Orlando, Florida!
Open to: Kids of all ages!
10. Future City Competition
What is it? The Future City Competition is a contest for middle schoolers that tasks them with using the design process to find a solution to a citywide sustainability issue, such as green energy or waste management. Participating teams will submit a virtual city design using the game SimCity in addition to a scale model, project plan, and presentation. Students first compete at the regional level, and winners go on to the national competition in Washington, DC, to win prizes like a trip to Space Camp and scholarship funds.
Open to: Kids in grades 6 to 8.
Subjects: Science, Engineering, Math
With options for future artists, engineers, and scientists, contests and challenges are a fun way to engage kids with STEAM outside of school. Has your student ever entered a STEAM contest?