10 Computer Science Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

10 Computer Science Competitions for High School Students

Are you a high school student with a passion for computer science? Do you dream of showcasing your skills in a competitive environment, challenging yourself, and possibly even catching the eye of prestigious colleges? If so, you’re in the right place. In this blog, we’re going to explore ten computer science competitions for high school students that offer you the chance to do just that.

These competitions range from coding challenges to innovative software development contests. They are not just about winning; they’re about learning, growing, and opening doors to future opportunities in the world of tech and beyond. Whether you’re a seasoned coder or just starting, these contests provide a platform for you to shine and take your skills to the next level.

1. Botball Educational Robotics Program

  • Location: Various regional locations, including California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, etc.
  • Cost: $2,500 per team
  • Competition Date: All throughout 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students

The Botball® Educational Robotics Program is an engaging and educational platform designed for middle and high school students. By participating, you not only delve into the technical aspects of robotics but also develop valuable skills in science, engineering, technology, math, and even writing.

FIRST Robotics Competition

This program is structured to start with Educator Workshops in January, February, and March, where team leaders and mentors receive training and learn about the year’s game details. Then, after about seven weeks of building and programming robots, you and your team get the chance to compete in a regional tournament, applying all the skills you’ve learned in a practical, competitive environment.

In addition to the technical learning aspects, Botball places a strong emphasis on developing teamwork and problem-solving skills. The program uses a mix of hardware and software, allowing you to learn about coding, engineering, and robot design in a comprehensive manner.

2 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards

  • Location: In all NCWIT Alliance member organizations
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date:
    • October 10–November 20, 2023 for Preliminaries
    • January 5–February 5, 2024, for the Finals
  • Application Deadline: November 20, 2023 (Preliminary submission)
  • Eligibility: Women, genderqueer, and non-binary technologists in grades 9-12

The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing (AiC) Awards program is a prestigious initiative that recognizes and nurtures talent in computing fields among high school and collegiate women, genderqueer, and non-binary students. If you’re interested in the world of computing and technology and meet the eligibility criteria, this program is an excellent opportunity to showcase your skills and gain recognition.

For high school students, the AiC High School Award honors those in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests. To be eligible, you must be 13 years or older, receive parental approval if under 18, attend a school in the U.S. or its territories, and not have immediate family working for NCWIT. You can apply each year, though past National Award Winners cannot win again. The application involves short essays and multiple-choice sections, reviewed by technology academics and industry professionals. The awards include National and Regional Affiliate levels, with winners, honorable mentions, and rising stars recognized.

3. ExploraVision Awards

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: June 14-15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students enrolled in K-12 schools

The ExploraVision Awards, sponsored by Toshiba and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), is an exciting science competition that invites K-12 students to engage deeply in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This competition encourages you to envision and develop innovative technologies that could exist 20 years into the future. You are challenged to explore current scientific principles and technologies and use them as a foundation to imagine future advancements. This forward-thinking approach not only fosters creativity and problem-solving skills but also cultivates a generation of future innovators capable of transforming our world.

Students checking on a robotics project

Participation in the ExploraVision Awards is open to students in various age groups: primary (grades K-3), upper elementary (grades 4-6), middle level (grades 7-9), and high school (grades 10-12). You will work in teams of two to four, guided by a teacher or coach, and optionally, a mentor. Each team will develop a project that includes an abstract, a detailed description, a bibliography, and five sample web pages illustrating your concept. Your project will be judged on creativity, scientific accuracy, communication, and feasibility of vision.

4. Technology Student Association High School Competition

  • Location: Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida
  • Cost: $150 per team
  • Competition Date: June 26 – June 30, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 18, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Technology Student Association (TSA) High School Competition is an innovative and challenging event that draws high school students across the United States into the dynamic world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). As a member of TSA, you get the opportunity to participate in this prestigious competition, where you can showcase your skills and creativity in a variety of STEM fields.

The competition spans over 70 events, each designed to test and develop your skills in different aspects of technology and engineering. For instance, if you’re interested in engineering design, you can engage in the challenge of creating a working prototype of a device that solves a real-world problem. If cybersecurity is more your domain, you can demonstrate your knowledge in identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in a simulated network.

5. RoboCup

  • Location: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date: July 17–21, 2024
  • Application Deadline: February 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Open to all

RoboCup 2024 marks a significant milestone in the field of autonomous innovation, bringing together around 3,000 participants from approximately 45 countries. This event is not just a competition; it’s a vibrant showcase of cutting-edge developments in robotics.

data scientists

As a participant, you are at the forefront of this exciting world. The event features various leagues, including RoboCupSoccer, RoboCupRescue, RoboCup@Home, RoboCupJunior, and RoboCupIndustrial, each offering a unique challenge that pushes the boundaries of what autonomous systems can achieve. RoboCup, with its mission to develop affordable and reliable robotic technology, aims for its soccer robots to defeat human World Cup champions by 2050, demonstrating the event’s long-term vision and commitment to advancing robotic technology​​​​​​​​​​​​.

6. American Computer Science League

  • Location: HackerRank (online)
  • Cost: $150
  • Competition Date: The Finals – May 25, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis (registration is now closed)
  • Eligibility: Middle school students with no previous experience in programming

One of the computer science competitions for high school students in the country, The American Computer Science League (ACSL) organizes computer programming and computer science contests for K-12 schools, organizations, and local groups, and has been doing so for over 46 years. Last year, approximately 8,000 students from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia participated, showcasing the league’s extensive reach and popularity. The contests are divided into four during the regular season, each testing students on fundamental concepts in computer science, from Number Systems to Boolean Algebra to Digital Electronics. In the upper divisions, these contests also include a problem to solve by programming using Python, C++, or Java.

As a participant, you will find the contests challenging and enriching, regardless of your age and ability, as ACSL offers multiple divisions. These divisions include Elementary, Junior, Intermediate, and Senior, each designed to cater to different skill levels. Your performance in these contests can lead to an invitation to the online Finals competition, which is an individual contest based on your cumulative scores. The contests are administered online with team advisors facilitating your access to the online platform, and online resources and study materials are available to help you prepare for each competition. Moreover, ACSL’s global reach means that even if you’re an international student, you can still participate and compete​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

7. USA Computing Olympiad

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: No cost
  • Competition Date: Dec 15-18, 2023: First Contest, Jan 26-29, 2024: Second Contest, Feb 16-19, 2024: Third Contest, Mar 15-18, 2024: US Open
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Eligibility: High school students

The USA Computing Olympiad (USACO) is a prominent computer science competition for high school students in the U.S., encompassing a series of online contests held throughout the academic year. Each of these contests features three to four programming problems, challenging your skills in algorithm development and problem-solving. As a competitor, you have a total of four hours to solve these problems, with the flexibility to start anytime during the contest weekend.

Student submits her AP Computer Science A code

USACO is organized into four divisions – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – each increasing in difficulty. You would start in the Bronze division and, based on high performance, could be promoted to higher divisions in subsequent rounds. The contests are held four times during the school year, typically in December, January, and February, and with the USACO US Open in March. Each problem is scored out of a total of 1000 points, and your solutions can be submitted in programming languages such as C, C++, Java, or Python.

If you excel in these contests, you could be among the top scorers invited to the USACO Training Camp in late May to early June. This intensive camp offers advanced training in algorithms and problem-solving and culminates in the selection of a four-member team to represent the U.S. at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). USACO not only hones your technical skills but also plays a significant role in your academic and professional development, with many alumni achieving success in both academia and the tech industry.

8. FIRST LEGO League

  • Location: 2901 University Avenue, Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Cost: $250 – $1000
  • Competition Date: February 9-10, 2024
  • Application Deadline: August 1, 2023
  • Eligibility: Ages 4-16

The FIRST LEGO League is a global robotics program that introduces children aged 4-16 to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through fun, exciting hands-on learning. The program is divided into three age-appropriate divisions: Discover (ages 4-6), Explore (ages 6-10), and Challenge (ages 9-16, varying by country). In the Discover and Explore stages, students engage with real-world problems, develop fundamental engineering skills, and create solutions using LEGO bricks and coding. The Challenge stage involves more complex tasks where teams research, solve problems, and design and program LEGO robots to complete missions​​​.

For the 2023-2024 season, titled “MASTERPIECE,” participants are encouraged to imagine and innovate new ways to create and communicate art globally. This season’s theme emphasizes creativity in STEM and aims to inspire students to combine the technical aspects of robot design and programming with artistic expression. The season includes regional tournaments and championships, culminating in the FIRST LEGO League World Festival as part of the FIRST Championship. This event is a grand celebration where teams from around the world meet, compete, and showcase their learning and inventions​​​​.

9. Google Code Jam

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Competition Date: April 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Eligibility: No eligibility criteria

One of the best computer science competitions for high school students in the country, Google Code Jam was a global coding competition hosted by Google, known for challenging programmers at all levels with intricate algorithmic problems. This competition was more than just a contest; it was a global event that brought together some of the brightest coding minds. Participating in Google Code Jam meant testing your coding skills against complex challenges and learning new concepts and approaches to problem-solving. It was an opportunity for you to gauge your skills on a global scale and to push your limits in ways that typical classroom settings might not allow.

Google signage

However, after a successful run of 20 years, Google Code Jam came to an end in 2023. The final round of this iconic competition took place on April 15, 2023. This closure marked the end of a significant chapter in Google’s involvement in tech competitions, which also included events like Hash Code and Kick Start. These competitions were instrumental in fostering a global community where coders could hone their skills, collaborate, and face real-world problems. Although Google Code Jam has concluded, its legacy continues through the problems and solutions from previous years, which remain accessible for learning and practice in a GitHub repository​​​​.

10. International Olympiad in Informatics

  • Location: Alexandria, Egypt
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date: September 1 – September 8, 2024
  • Application Deadline: US representatives will be selected on March 18, 2024
  • Eligibility: Secondary and high school students

The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) is a prestigious computer science competition primarily for secondary and high school students from around the world. The 36th edition of the IOI, set to be held in Alexandria, Egypt, from September 1st to 8th, 2024, is organized by the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport. This competition is significant in the field of computer science education and is supported by various Egyptian ministries and institutions, underlining its importance​​​​.

Qualifying for the IOI requires going through a rigorous and competitive national selection process. For example, in the United States, the process of selection and preparation for the IOI is facilitated through the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO), which provides online training, resources, and contests to help students improve their programming and computational problem-solving skills. Participating in the IOI is not just about showcasing your coding prowess; it’s also an opportunity to interact with peers from different cultures, fostering international cooperation and understanding. This experience can inspire and motivate you to continue pursuing your interests in computer science and programming, and to strive for excellence in your chosen field​​​​​​.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up, remember that participating in any of these computer science competitions for high school students can be a stepping stone to your academic and career aspirations. They offer you an opportunity to learn, network, and even add impressive achievements to your college applications. But more importantly, they’re a chance for you to engage with what you love, challenge yourself, and grow.

So, choose a contest that resonates with you, prepare thoroughly, and give it your best shot. The experience you gain will be invaluable, regardless of the outcome. Keep an eye out for these contests, and good luck as you continue to explore and excel in the exciting world of computer science!




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