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13 Great AI Competitions for High School Students

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly evolving, and its influence on aspects of our world, including education, is significant. As a high school student, you can dive into these opportunities and build a robust skill set in AI. It will prepare you for AI’s impact in the future, and get you ready for your future education and career. Taking part in AI competitions can enhance your college applications, and deepen your understanding of the subject. It will demonstrate to admissions officers and recruiters that you can apply theoretical knowledge in practical, real-world scenarios, setting your profile apart.

We’ve put together a list of 13 AI and Machine Learning (ML) competitions for high school students like you to participate in.

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: Students aged 13-18 can participate, with a maximum of six members per team. 

Prize: Prizing information for the junior cup is not available at the moment. 

Dates: Registration closes in May (based on previous years).

Cost: No cost.

In this competition, organized by Microsoft, the challenge is to build innovative, accessible, and ground-breaking software with Microsoft tools and technology. The competition may be structured differently based on the country/region you are representing, so be sure to read your local country/region competition rules.

It’s an introduction to AI, machine learning, and cybersecurity. For the competition, you will have to design and propose a concept that addresses one of Microsoft’s AI for Good InitiativesFor the competition, Microsoft will provide each team with a set of resources, such as a beginner’s kit and a deep learning module, that will help you with your challenge.

Make sure you complete the student-focused training that will guide you through the competition.

We’ve covered the competition in more detail here!

Location: The competition’s in-person option takes place at the Pennsylvania State University. There is a virtual option as well. 

Eligibility: All K-12 students across the world can participate. 

Prize: WAICY awards the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place submissions and recognizes two more for each track for each level of schooling (high school, middle school and elementary). There are also 3 unique awards in each track for each category of schooling – the AI Excellence award, the Impact Excellence award, and the Design Excellence award, all based on the judgment rubrics of the competition.

Dates: Register for the in-person event by December 2, 2023 at the Penn State New Kensington Digital Foundry. For the virtual one, your online application must be submitted by November 25, 2023. 

Cost: No cost. 

WAICY, a global AI competition, invites young minds to explore the world of AI. Designed to spark enthusiasm and innovation, it challenges students to apply AI in problem-solving, generate AI-driven art, and explore the realm of AI Large Language Models. Offering options for virtual or in-person submissions, WAICY stands as an accessible platform for high schoolers keen on AI exploration. The competition features three tracks, each with distinct focuses and submission criteria, catering to various skill levels: AI Showcase, AI Generated Art, and AI LLM Prompt Engineering

Since its establishment in 2018, the WAICY has experienced remarkable growth, welcoming over 3,200 participants from 58 countries in its last edition, contributing 600 projects. Earning recognition in such a fiercely competitive arena elevates one's credentials. Engaging in the WAICY not only fosters connections among global peers but also offers networking prospects with international challenge sponsors. By embracing cutting-edge AI tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Midjourney, participants fortify their profiles for the future. Individual or team participation is encouraged, with teams comprising 3-5 students. 

Here are 8 tips to help you win the WAICY!

(Particularly, the category of Robotics and Intelligent Machines)

Location: Hosted in different cities every year. ISEF 2024 will be in Los Angeles, CA.

Eligibility: All high-school students with a strong passion for research in science, math, and engineering are encouraged to apply. Students can participate individually or in teams.

Prize: Special Awards such as tuition scholarships, summer internships, and scientific trips, as well as cash prizes of up to $75,000 are awarded to winners. 

Dates: ISEF 2024 will be held in May 2024 (tentatively, based on the 2023 schedule). Local and regional-level fairs have different dates. Please find the list here. Registration for 2024 may not have opened. 

Cost:  On-site registration of $25 for each participant.

A program by the Society for Science, ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, inviting entries from thousands of students every year. You participate by presenting original work that has been going on for no longer than 12 months - the more recent, the better. Students keen on AI and machine learning can participate in the competition category: Robotics and Intelligent Machines and Engineering Mechanics. Each ISEF competition has specific guidelines (which you’ll find on the webpage once released) that you must go through before participating. 

Note that to participate at Regeneron ISEF, you first must participate in a local or regional-level fair, and will then be shortlisted for the ISEF program that takes place in a hybrid format each year. Additionally, ISEF has a maximum 2-5% acceptance rate, making it extremely competitive. If you are interested in learning more about ISEF and how to win, check out this guide!  

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: The eligibility criteria varies based on the challenge. Most have a minimum age requirement of 16 years. 

Coding Level: Varies for different challenges, from beginner to advanced levels.

Prize: Awards also vary for different challenges, with a majority offering cash prizes of $5,000 and up.

Dates: Dates vary for different challenges. Once you’ve selected a challenge to participate in, please check its respective timeline. 

Cost: No Cost 

AIcrowd is a platform that helps organizations streamline their AI workflow and promotes using AI and ML to solve real-world problems, by running challenges in these fields. The platform helps develop, manage, and promote challenges presented by businesses, universities, government agencies, and NGOs.

At any given time, the platform has several active challenges you can participate in. Here are a few challenges currently open that have a machine learning focus and are open to students aged 16 and above: 

Location: VirtualEligibility: All high school students studying in the US and Canada can participate.

Prizes: Winners will receive:

  • Up to $240,000 in savings bonds ($10,000 savings bond for each first-place team member and $5,000 savings bond for each second-place team member) 

  • An expense-paid trip to Washington, DC, in June for the ExploraVision Awards Weekend (for the the student and one parent/guardian)

  • A technology/science-related gift for each regional winning student

Dates: Applications are typically due in January. Regional winners are typically announced by April and national winners by May. The ExploraVision Awards Weekend is typically held in June.Cost: There is no cost to participate.

The ExploraVision challenge is hosted by Toshiba and the National Science Teaching Association. The challenge invites high school students to work on real-world problem-solving with a strong emphasis on STEM. ExploraVision has seen entries from over 450,000 students from across the US since its first edition in 1992. 

In a team of 2-4 students, you will be expected to pick a current technology (students keen on AI and ML can choose that), conduct research on how it can be improved, and present your thoughts on how it might look in 10 years. You can draw from your knowledge of physics, tech, and AI, to name a few, and present your idea of tech in 10 years, its development steps, pros and cons, and obstacles. Here are a few examples of past projects that you can take a look at!

Here’s a deep dive on the piece!

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: This challenge is open to everyone. You can participate in a team or as an individual.

Prize: Three cash prizes are offered: Gold (€3,000 or $3180), Silver (€2,000 or $2,120) and Bronze (€1,000 or $1,060). The three winning teams will be invited to the university lab to test their solutions. 

Dates: The first round of challenge begins in February and the final round (before the real-world experiment) is conducted in November. See the entire timeline here.

Cost: No Cost

Organized by the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Institute at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, the Robot Air Hockey Challenge offers a platform for students and researchers to interact with each other on a realistic robotic task. In the competition, teams (or individuals) will design and build their air hockey agents, competing against each other in different subtasks (in simulation) and finally in an entire game (both in simulation and in the real world).

In this challenge, you will be required to develop a robot agent that is robust to environmental disturbances, accomplishes safe and reasonable behavior, performs dynamic motions, adapts to the sim-to-real gap with  limited real system interactions, and is able to control the mechanical system and win the game. Three winning teams will be invited to the university lab to test their solutions and deploy their approach on the real robot. These teams will compete against each other and against the provided baseline. The competition will be recorded and live-streamed.

Location: Workshops and tournaments are conducted at regional levels across many countries. 

Eligibility: Open to middle and high school students. Teams should consist of a minimum of 3 people. 

Coding Level: Intermediate

Prize: Awards are offered, but the specifics on the awards are not provided at the moment. 

Dates: Dates might differ based on your region. The final tournament is typically held in April. This calendar will be updated when the schedule is released!

Cost: Registration costs – $2,750 (new team) | $1,550 (returning team). Scholarships are available. 

In the Botball Educational Robotics Program, middle and high school students will compete in teams by building autonomous robots using AI and ML techniques. After competing in a regional qualifier, teams from across the world compete in a final tournament. An advantage of participating in this tournament is that Botball provides the necessary resources to develop strategies using AI and embedded systems. To participate, you should brush up on languages such as C, C++, and Java. 

This competition is a good fit for students who are interested in hands-on learning and competitions, and we’ve covered it in detail here!

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: The eligibility criteria varies for the different competitions. Most are open to everyone, while some have a minimum age requirement of 18 years.

Prize: While awards vary for different competitions on Kaggle, a majority of the competitions under the ML Olympiad category do not offer any prizes.

Dates:  Dates vary for different competitions. Once you’ve selected a competition to participate in, please check its respective dates. 

Cost: No Cost

While Kaggle hosts numerous machine learning competitions throughout the year, ranging from beginner to advanced levels, here the focus is on the ML Olympiad competitions. ML Olympiad is a category of Kaggle Community Competitions hosted by ML GDE (Google Developer Experts), TFUG (TensorFlow User Group), and 3rd-party ML communities, supported by Google Developers.

You can participate in these competitions by forming teams and collaborating, or individually to solve real-world problems using datasets. Here are a few of the open competitions you can take part in:

Location: Online and in-person components included (varies by region and year) 

Eligibility: High school and university-level students

Dates: To be announced

Application deadline: Applications will open in Fall 2023

Cost: $200 and extra costs might be incurred due to the required hardware

Organized by the Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation, this competition challenges you to push the boundaries of AI in the context of robotics. Teams are tasked with designing and programming autonomous robots that can navigate dynamic environments, make intelligent decisions, and interact with their surroundings. The competition incorporates advanced AI concepts such as machine learning and computer vision, demanding a sophisticated understanding of AI principles for effective robot performance. The VEX AI Competition provides you with hands-on experience in developing AI-driven solutions within the constraints of a competitive environment. Beyond technical skills, you will cultivate critical teamwork, problem-solving, and project management abilities. The event culminates in a showcase where teams present their innovative robots and AI strategies, offering a comprehensive view of their technological prowess. The VEX AI Competition, known for its technical rigor and real-world applicability, not only propels you into the world of robotics and AI but also allows you to produce tangible results through your robotic creations.

Location: Online

Eligibility: Participants must fall into one of two age groups: 13 – 18 years old and 18+ years

Prize: $5,000, Intel-powered laptop, and mentorship opportunities are awarded to the global winners. Regional winners may get between $500 – $1,000.

Dates: September 13, 2023 – September 20, 2023

Cost: Free

Intel's AI Impact Creators program aims to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) for positive societal impact. This unique program is designed to support and amplify the efforts of creators, developers, and innovators who are leveraging AI technologies to address pressing global challenges. You will gain access to cutting-edge tools, resources, and mentorship, fostering an environment where you can translate your ideas into tangible solutions. The program encompasses a wide range of AI applications, from healthcare and environmental sustainability to education and social justice. Notably, you will receive guidance from experts in the AI field and have the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded peers, forming a community dedicated to creating meaningful change through AI innovation. 

Location: Online

Eligibility: Students of 13 years of age or more

Prize: $5,000, a free CVDL Master Program by OpenCV, and a certificate of excellence for first place with other prizes available for runners-up

Dates: Winners announced on December 21, 2023

Application deadline: November 30, 2023 

Cost: Free

The OpenCV AI Competition is a great challenge for you if you are passionate about artificial intelligence and computer vision. In this competition, you will engage in tasks that demand a profound understanding of AI principles and the practical application of computer vision techniques. You will be tasked with developing and implementing AI algorithms using the OpenCV library to address specific real-world challenges. These challenges may include object detection, image recognition, or even complex tasks such as scene understanding. The competition not only emphasizes technical proficiency but also encourages you to think creatively, fostering an environment where novel and efficient AI solutions are celebrated. Beyond the technical aspect, students gain valuable experience in project management, collaboration, and presentation skills as they showcase their AI projects. The OpenCV AI Competition thus serves as a dynamic platform for students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting, enhancing their skills and positioning them as emerging talents in the field of artificial intelligence and computer vision.

Location: VirtualEligibility: The eligibility criteria varies based on the challenge. Most have a minimum age requirement of 16 years. Prize: Awards also vary for different challenges, with a majority offering cash prizes of $5,000 and up.Dates: Dates vary for different challenges. Once you’ve selected a challenge to participate in, please check its respective timeline. Cost: No Cost 

AIcrowd Challenges is a great opportunity for you if you’re interested in artificial intelligence. These challenges span a wide array of AI-related topics, ranging from machine learning and computer vision to natural language processing and reinforcement learning. You will engage in solving real-world problems by developing and implementing AI algorithms. You typically begin by familiarizing themselves with the specific challenge requirements and dataset provided, after which they design, train, and fine-tune their AI models. The challenges often require creative problem-solving, as participants navigate through diverse and complex datasets to achieve optimal solutions. Collaboration is encouraged, fostering a sense of community as participants share insights and strategies. The competitive nature of AIcrowd Challenges adds an extra layer of motivation, with participants vying for top positions on leaderboards. Beyond the competitive aspect, these challenges offer valuable learning experiences, enabling students to enhance their coding skills, gain exposure to various AI applications, and receive feedback from the AIcrowd community and organizers. 

Location: Online

Eligibility: Open to all (students and adults) 

Prize: Numerai’s cryptocurrency (NMR)

Dates: New submission rounds begin every week with specific timings for submission windows

Cost: Free. However, once you stake NMR there may be potential costs

Numerai is a great opportunity for students interested in the intersection of finance and artificial intelligence. Students engaged with Numerai participate in a groundbreaking hedge fund model where data scientists leverage machine learning algorithms to make predictions on financial markets. Numerai provides a proprietary dataset called Erasure, and participants build predictive models using this data. The intriguing aspect is that participants stake their predictions with cryptocurrency, aligning incentives and fostering a collaborative, yet competitive, environment. Students employ various machine learning techniques to enhance predictive accuracy and contribute to the ongoing evolution of Numerai's hedge fund model. The platform values meritocracy, as contributors with successful predictions are rewarded with payouts in cryptocurrency. Participating in Numerai not only hones students' skills in data science and machine learning but also introduces them to the complexities of financial modeling and the blockchain ecosystem. Numerai stands as a dynamic and real-world application of artificial intelligence in finance, providing students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research while potentially earning cryptocurrency rewards based on the performance of their predictive models.

Bonus! Here’s one more machine learning competition you can consider: The Applied Machine Learning Prototype Hackathon by Cloudera is a virtual competition open to high school seniors (18 years is the minimum age requirement). In this hackathon, students are challenged to create their own unique applied ML prototype. There are three cash prizes – $6,000, $3,000, and $1,000. 

If you’re looking to build a project/research paper in the field of AI & ML, consider applying to Veritas AI! 

Veritas AI is founded by Harvard graduate students. Through the programs, you get a chance to work 1-1 with mentors from universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and more to create unique, personalized projects. In the past year, we had over 1000 students learn AI & ML with us. You can apply here!

Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in computer science, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, over 4000 students applied for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.

Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business! 

Image Source: Microsoft Imagine Cup logo



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