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16 Best Engineering Competitions for High School Students

Engineering is a field that requires both thorough academic rigor, as well as relevant practical experience. If you're a high school student looking to apply for competitive engineering programs at the undergraduate level, participating in (and acing) engineering competitions is a great boost for your application profile. Showcasing your competitive experience demonstrates that you are motivated, in touch with the latest developments in STEM, and driven and curious about making an impact in the field. If you wish to sign up for general science competitions, you can check this list out.


In this blog, we’ve specifically covered competitions focused on engineering and categorized them according to the branch of engineering. There’s something for everyone!


General Engineering Competitions

All the competitions in the section below cover multiple engineering branches such as computer science, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering, to name a few. Most of these competitions involve you presenting independent projects and solutions to various problem statements, and presenting your research at fairs and symposiums. Later in the blog, we’ve covered events that cover one specific branch of engineering across all rounds.


The ExploraVision challenge is hosted by Toshiba/National Science Teaching Association and 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.


As part of the challenge, you are expected, in a team of 2-4 students, to pick a current technology, 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, along with your idea of tech in 10 years, its development steps, pros & cons, and obstacles.


Tip: Here are a few examples of past projects that you can take a look at!


Eligibility: Open to all high school students studying in the US and Canada.

Application Deadline: January 31, 2023

Cost and Prizes: Winners receive -

  • Up to $240,000* in savings bonds

  • An expense-paid trip to Washington, DC in June for

  • ExploraVision Awards Weekend for each national winning

  • Students and their parents/guardians

  • A technology/science-related gift

Location: Virtual


Hosted by the Society of Science, the Regeneron ISEF is the world's biggest pre-college STEM competition, inviting entries from thousands of students every year.


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. It has a maximum 2-5% acceptance rate at qualifying fairs.


You participate by presenting original work that has been going on for no longer than 12 months - the more recent, the better.


Some subcategories you can present your research in Engineering include Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computational Mechanics, Control Theory, Ground Vehicle Systems, Industrial Engineering-Processing, and Mechanical Engineering.


Working on engineering-related research projects, and getting shortlisted to present at ISEF is a prestigious opportunity and a great way for you to build a network with like-minded, passionate young students such as yourself.


Tip: We’ve covered everything you need to know about ISEF in this guide!


Eligibility: All high-school students with a strong passion for research in science, math, and engineering are encouraged to apply

Application Deadline: Varies from state to state

Contest Dates: Local and regional events take place throughout the year but usually conclude by April. The ISEF Fair will take place from May 13-19, 2023.

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

Location: Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center - Dallas, Texas


A program that looks for the brightest minds in Engineering to support and guide, the Davidson Institute hosts its annual Fellows program for high-achieving students. Winning teams are awarded prizes of up to $50,000 to support future research work or academic advancement.


To apply for the Fellows Program, you must submit original work that covers any of the following criteria -

  • an exceptionally creative application of existing knowledge

  • a new idea with high impact

  • an innovative solution with broad-range implications

  • an important advancement that can be replicated and built upon

  • an interdisciplinary discovery

  • a prodigious performance

  • another demonstration of extraordinary accomplishment


You must enter in teams of not more than 2 students, and submit work that is at, or close to, college graduate level in terms of depth, understanding of the subject, and quality of presentation.


Here’s a winning entry in the field of Engineering

  • The invention of the world’s first ultra-low-cost, mind-controlled prosthetic arm. The researcher created an industry-leading AI algorithm for noninvasive brainwave interpretation. The arm achieves superior performance to the best prosthetic limbs in the world today—and is more than 1500 times less expensive.


Tip: The program invites applications across various subjects, you can check out guidelines for Engineering submissions here.


Eligibility: All high school students under the age of 18, who reside in the US can apply

Application Deadline: February 15, 2023

Cost and Prizes: No cost, cash prizes of up to $50,000, the title of a 'Davidson Fellow'.

Location: Virtual


Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is a STEM contest intended to foster problem-solving skills while promoting the positive impact the youth can have on society.In the competition, you will have to identify a local or national problem faced by the community and use STEM to create a solution addressing this problem. If selected, you can present your project to the community and later to a panel of judges who will help fund your idea. If you win, you can even expect to work with state or national authorities to execute your vision!Solve for Tomorrow is an excellent opportunity to showcase your thought process and problem-solving abilities. Moreover, the process of creating a tangible project will be a unique experience to use in college experiences, more so if you qualify for the later rounds. You can view examples of past winning projects here!An added bonus is the prizes that start from $2,500 for State Finalists schools and will go up to $100K prize packages for National Winner schools. To apply for Solve for Tomorrow, your teacher will have to make an application discussing your project. Moreover, you will represent your school for your project rather than individually.

Eligibility:

  • Students from grades 6-12.

  • All applications must be submitted by an individual over 21 currently employed at the school.

  • The schools much be publicly financed.

Application Deadline (Summer 2023): November 29th, 2022 Important Dates (Summer 2023):

  • State Finalists Announcement - December 15tg - January 18th, 2023

  • State Winners Announcement - February 15th - April 5th, 2023

  • National Finalists Announcement - April 19th, 2023

  • Final Judging Event - May 15th, 2023

You can view their more detailed timelines here!


Cost and Prizes: No cost, cash prizes

Location: Virtual + New York City (For the final judging)

Note: Charter schools with at least 50% of operating funds from public sources are eligible.


The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is the most prominent science fair in the US with government backing.


The JSHS regional and national symposia are held during the second half of the US academic year and invite more than 8,000 participants throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and DoD-affiliated schools in Europe and the Pacific.


You must first participate in their regional symposium and then compete for a top spot at the national symposium each year. The challenge is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of less than 3% for the final round.


This challenge also has an interesting feature that practically no other engineering competition offers - a mentorship program. The JSHS Virtual Mentorship Program connects students and mentors online, a resource is available year-round to support you throughout the competition season and the non-competition time of completing research or improving continued projects.


The various categories under Engineering at the symposium that you can participate in are Aerospace, Aerodynamics, Electrical Engineering, Energy - Solar, Vehicle Development, Devices, Mechanical Engineering, and Robotics.


Note: You can check out our comprehensive guide to winning the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium here.


Eligibility: High school students who are permanent residents of the US can apply

Application Deadline: Varies from region to region, you can check out more details here.

Contest Dates: The National Symposium will be held from April 12-15, 2023, while dates for the regional contest may vary.

Cost: Free registration, prizes include over $192,000 in scholarships, along with other awards and national recognition.

Location: The location for regional contests varies, the National Symposium will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


Mechanical Engineering Competitions


If you're a budding mechanical engineer, you should consider signing up for the Bridge Building Competition. The challenge is held in Chicago and is open to all high school students. To qualify for the second, international round of the challenge, you must first qualify for the regional rounds.


As part of the competition, you will be required to build a sturdy, efficient bridge while making it as lightweight as possible.


The challenge is hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology and invites extremely innovative solutions each year.


Note: You can check out past winners and their (creative!) work here.


Eligibility: All high school students from around the world can participate in teams of up to 4.

Application Deadline: Vary from region to region, you can check out dates for your region here.

Contest Dates: Dates vary for regional rounds, the International round will be held on April 29, 2023.

Cost and Prizes: There is no cost to participate in the bridge-building contest. No information regarding prizes is available.

Location: Illinois Tech McCormick Tribune Campus Center Auditorium, Chicago.


Aerospace Engineering


A challenge that has seen over 80,000 participants since its inception in 2002, the Team America Rocketry Challenge is great exposure for any high school student. The challenge involves students in teams of between 3-10 building and launching a fully-functional rocket.


Here are a few more specifications regarding the TARC challenge, the rocket design, as well as the judging criteria -

  • Build a model rocket that carries one large hen egg to an altitude of 850 feet, stays airborne for between 42 and 45 seconds, and returns the rocket to the ground safely.

  • One section of the rocket must contain the eg and altimeter, and the second the rocket motor(s). Both tubes must separate after apogee and land with their parachutes.

  • Fly your rocket in front of an observer from the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) for an official qualification score between

  • If your score from the sum of two flights is one of the 100 best, you will be invited to compete for a share of the $100,000 prize package in a national fly-off.


Note: You can check out all of the contest FAQs here.


Eligibility: High school students from the US can participate.

Application Deadline: December 12th, 2022 (applications for the 2024 challenge should close around December 2023).

Contest Dates: May 18, 2022 - April 3, 2023, with a national fly off on national fly-off on May 20, 2023.

Cost and Prizes: There is a registration fee of $85 for each team. The winning team receives $100,000 in prizes and an all-expenses paid trip to the Paris Airshow.

Location: Great Meadow in The Plains, VA, about 50 miles west of Washington, DC.


A highly prestigious competition open to all high school students, NASA's Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC) invites submissions for rovers that can traverse challenging terrain and serve as a task tool for the completion of various mission tasks.


You can participate in teams of 2, with at least one female team member, and work on a rover that can traverse a course of approximately half a mile that includes a simulated field of asteroid debris, boulders, erosion ruts, crevasses, and an ancient streambed.


If you're excited about aerospace engineering/space exploration, this challenge should be great exposure for you. The challenge, since its inception 20 years back, has seen more than 10,000 students from all over the world build rovers and test them out.


Eligibility: High school students

Application Deadline: October 7, 2023, for the 2024 edition (based on last year's timetable)

Contest Dates: April 20-22, 2023 (based on last year's timetable)

Cost and Prizes: $225 per team, cash prizes, and fully-funded trips to camps/expos for winning teams.

Location: Huntsville, Alabama


Robotics


An exciting competition that combines sport with science and tech, the FIRST Robotics Competition gives high school students and their mentors a deep dive into robotics to solve a common problem! Each season of the competition includes multiple regional events, that you must qualify for to take a shot at the international level.


The competition prides itself upon providing a real-world engineering experience to its students, with them being challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors (as per the website).


Eligibility: High school students from all around the world can participate in their respective regional, local, and national rounds.

Application Deadline: Varies from round to round, check out more details here.

Contest Dates: The FRC takes place over several months, with the game being announced in January and regional and district competitions taking place from February to April. The top teams from these rounds advance to the FRC Championship, which happens in late April or early May. Keep an eye out on the website for official dates for each region/district.

Cost and Prizes: Varies from the type of event and round, you can check out complete cost information here. Participants and winners of the competition have gone on to receive awards and recognition.

Location: George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas for the final round.


The VEX Robotics Challenge, annually hosted by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, attempts to gamify problems in the field of engineering. As part of the challenge, you will be required to form teams and beat other teams at the year's challenge.


This year, you'll be required to work on the following -


"VEX Robotics Competition Spin Up is played on a 12’x12’ square field configured as seen above. Two (2) Alliances – one (1) “red” and one (1) “blue” – composed of two (2) Teams each, compete in matches consisting of a fifteen (15) second Autonomous Period, followed by a one minute and forty-five second (1:45) Driver Controlled Period.

The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by Scoring Discs in Goals, Owning Rollers, and Covering field tiles at the end of the Match."


The competition sees thousands of students participate and claims that over 95% of participants see an increase in interest in STEM, and have gone on to pursue careers in STEM.


Eligibility: High school students from all over the world can participate at local, regional, and national levels based on whether they qualify for each.

Application Deadline: Vary for each round, check the website for more details.

Contest Dates: April 25-May 4, 2023.

Cost and Prizes: Team registration costs $100-$150 per year, and awards and cash prizes of about $2,500 are awarded to the winners.

Location: Dallas, Texas


Marine and Eco-Engineering


This competition challenges students to build underwater robots, and focus these efforts on sustainability efforts for our marine/freshwater ecosystems. The challenge has both regional and worldwide rounds, and to compete against participants from other countries, you must be one of the top qualifiers in your regional rounds.


Additionally, based on your skill level, the competition features 5 levels, out of which you can pick one to compete in - SCOUT, NAVIGATOR, RANGER, PIONEER, and EXPLORER.


Past challenges saw participants use their tech to document environmental changes, far seagrass, repair offshore wind farms, and inspect aquaculture pens.


Eligibility: High school students from across the world can participate.

Application Deadline: Varies from region to region

Contest Dates: Varies from region to region for the local rounds, June 22-24, 2023 for the WorldWide challenge

Cost and Prizes: The website does not mention any costs or prizes with team registration, but you can keep an eye out for any updates here.

Location: St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, CA


Shell hosts its annual eco-marathon, inviting students from all over the world to build and power energy-efficient vehicles. The competition involves two main categories - UrbanConcept and Prototype.


The first category is focused on creating energy-efficient vehicles for everyday life, while the Prototype category focuses on pushing the limits of fuel efficiency. The challenge includes a main race, where participants are tested on their vehicles, the time taken to finish the race, as well as the energy efficiency of the vehicle built.


There are regional rounds, as well as the World Championship series that you can choose to complete. Each challenge in the Eco-Marathon has its own team requirements, so it's a good idea to look up the rules and regulations for the event you wish to participate in before signing up.


Note: Shell has a comprehensive blog on the competition, that you can check out here.


Eligibility: High school students who are a minimum of 16 years of age can participate.

Application Deadline:

Here are the application deadlines for each region of the Marathon -

Phase 2

  • Americas: Closed

  • Europe and Africa: Closed

  • Asia Pacific and the Middle East: February 8 to March 15, 2023

Phase 3

  • Americas: January 18 to March 10, 2023

  • Europe and Africa: February 20 to April 12, 2023

  • Asia Pacific and the Middle East: April 5 to June 7, 2023

Contest Dates: Varies from region to region.

Cost and Prizes: Registration is free of cost. Prize money for each regional winner of up to $3,000.

Location: Locations may vary region-wise.



ACSL organizes computer programming and computer science contests for K-12 schools, organizations, and local groups, including high school students passionate about computer engineering and problem-solving.


Last year, it saw about 700 teams across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia participate, and it is a highly prestigious competition. ACSL offers multiple divisions, providing a great challenge for high schoolers across skill levels.

Each season is divided into four 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.

Note: The challenge is also offered in Korea, China, and Vietnam. The updated rules, regulations, and format can be found here. You can read our comprehensive guide on the challenge here.


Eligibility: Must be an elementary, middle, or high school student. Please check if your school has registered for the competition.

Registration Deadline: ACSL is now accepting registrations for the 2022-2023

contest year. The registration deadline is December 31, 2022.

During registration, contestants have the option to purchase the previous year’s study materials.

Contest Dates: There are multiple rounds of competitions. The current round closes March 5, 2023, at 11:59 pm EST.

Prizes: Certificates and cash prizes (amount not disclosed).

Location: Virtual

CyberPatriot's National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is the world's largest cybersecurity competition and is open to all schools and approved youth organizations.


The competition puts teams of high school students such as yourself and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Through a series of online competition rounds, your team is given a set of virtual operating systems and you are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services.


Eligibility: Must be a middle school or high school student. Students in JROTC programs each have their own division.

Registration Deadline: Registration for 2022-2023 closed on October 5, 2022. For 2023-24, registration will open in April 2023.

There is a registration fee of $205 for Open Division high school teams with discounts for early registration by July 1, 2023.

Contest Dates: From October 2022 to March 2023. Please see the schedule here.

Prize: Scholarship money (exact amount varies). The top teams will have all expenses covered for the final round in Maryland.

Location: Maryland


RoboRAVE is an international competition in which self-designed robots made by students compete against each other. This event focuses on having fun while learning, sharing, and teamwork, and is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate interest and skill in the field of robotics at an international level.

The competition has participation open not just for groups from the region but from the entire world. Founded in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA), RoboRAVE is hosted in many countries on five different continents.


Eligibility: Age group 1: 10 - 13; Age group 2: 14-20. A team consists of two to four members. For detailed eligibility criteria, please see here.

Registration Deadline: The deadline to register for 2023 is November 14, 2023. Register here.

Contest dates: June 24, 2023 - June 25, 2023. A detailed schedule is available here.

Prize: Varying amounts of prize money for winning teams.

Location: Germany (for 2023)


A hands-on, and engaging challenge for young engineers interested in biotech, Genes in Space is a challenge designed for innovation in the field of space exploration. With the help of the GIS Toolkit (which includes cutting-edge tools such as Fluorescence Viewer, PCR thermal cycler, and BioBits cell-free system, you must conduct an experiment that solves an issue the field of space exploration faces.


You can explore exciting questions such as "How will a deep space mission affect our DNA?", "Can we detect new life forms?", and even "Can living organisms help us colonize new worlds?"


The winners of the GIS will have their experiment conducted on board the International Space Station as part of the Genes in Space-3 mission!


Eligibility: School students in Grades 7-12 can apply (only applicable for US citizens)

Application Deadline: April 17, 2023

Contest Dates: April 17 - August 3, 2023. You can find the complete timeline here

Prizes: Awards, P51 Fluorescence Biotech Kit

Location: Genes in Space finals will be held at the ISS Research & Development Conference in Seattle, WA. The rest of the competition is virtual.


If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!


Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 


The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas.


The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.


You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 


Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests.


The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 


The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 


If you are interested in doing university-level research in engineering, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image source: ISEF logo

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