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15 Best Computer Science Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a computer science reporting in front of his colleagues

15 Best Computer Science Competitions for High School Students

In today’s tech-driven world, understanding computer science is crucial for almost every aspect of our lives. Whether you’re interested in coding, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, or any other field, having a solid foundation in computer science opens up a world of opportunities. For high school students like you, participating in computer science competitions not only hones your skills but also gives you a chance to showcase your talent on a larger stage.

Today, we’ll highlight the 15 best computer science competitions for high school students. So, if you’re ready to take your passion for technology to the next level, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in!

1. CyberPatriot

  • Location: Bethesda, Maryland
  • Cost: $175 – $225
  • Program Date: March 15 – 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: October 3, 2023
  • Eligibility: High school and middle school students

CyberPatriot, created by the Air & Space Forces Association, is a comprehensive National Youth Cyber Education Program aimed at guiding students toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM disciplines that are crucial for the future of the nation. Central to this program is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, recognized as the largest of its kind, which involves high school and middle school teams in securing virtual networks. 

This competition is structured to be inclusive, requiring no prior cybersecurity knowledge from participants, thus making it an ideal starting point for any student interested in the field. Teams, led by a coach and comprising two to six students, tackle cybersecurity vulnerabilities in virtual operating systems during competition rounds, which are scored based on the security measures implemented. 

2. PicoCTF

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: March 12 – March 26, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: Students at least 13 years old

PicoCTF is a widely recognized cybersecurity competition, primarily targeting middle, high school, and college students over the age of 13. Hosted by Carnegie Mellon University, it invites participants of all skill levels to engage in a variety of challenges that require them to reverse-engineer, break, hack, decrypt, and employ both creative and critical thinking. The competition, running from March 12 to March 26, 2024, offers a unique platform for learners to dive into the world of cybersecurity. 

Teams, consisting of 1-5 members, can compete for substantial prizes, with the top teams being awarded monetary rewards and the opportunity to visit Carnegie Mellon University for an award ceremony. Additionally, the competition includes specific categories for US middle/high school students, US undergraduate university students, as well as participants from Japan and Africa, ensuring a broad and inclusive platform for cybersecurity enthusiasts​​​​​​.

Student submits her AP Computer Science A code

3. HPE CodeWars

  • Location: At HPE sites in Houston, Texas; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Roseville, California. 
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: March 2, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Mid-February 2024 or when the maximum capacity is reached, whichever comes first
  • Eligibility: High school students

HPE CodeWars is an annual computer coding competition designed for high school students, which will take place on Saturday, March 2, 2024. In this event, students form teams of three and are challenged with solving complex problems within a 3-hour timeframe. The competition aims to provide participants with a glimpse into the real-world computer science environment, fostering problem-solving skills and team collaboration. 

Winners in both the Advanced and Novice divisions are awarded trophies, alongside other incentives such as T-shirts for all participants, snacks, lunch, and the opportunity to win door prizes. While the event is free, transportation to the in-person venues located in Houston (Spring), Texas; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Roseville, California, must be arranged by the participants or their schools. 

4. Stanford ACM ProCo

  • Location: Stanford University
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: 2024 dates TBA
  • Application Deadline: Rolling basis until all slots are filled
  • Eligibility: High school students

Stanford ACM ProCo, hosted by the Stanford Association for Computing Machinery, is a computer programming contest tailored for high school students. This competition, mirroring the college-level ACM-ICPC, aims to offer high school students from the Bay Area and beyond a stimulating platform to explore their interest in computer science. The contest is designed to last 3 hours and involves solving 9 to 15 algorithmic problems in teams of up to three members. 

Scheduled to take place in-person on the Stanford campus, ProCo fosters an environment where students can engage in challenging problem-solving while experiencing the atmosphere of a leading university. With a cap of 300 participants, the competition operates on a first-come-first-served basis.

5. Bebras Computing Challenge

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Free
  • Program Date: BEBRAS week (Every second week of November)
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: All students from ages 6 to 18

The Bebras Computing Challenge is an international initiative designed to promote informatics and computational thinking among school students of all ages. This challenge, organized in over 60 countries, engages students with tasks that require logical thinking and problem-solving skills, without the need for prior specific knowledge in computing. Participants, supervised by teachers, tackle these problems using computers or mobile devices at their schools. 

Students from ages 6 to 18 are eligible to participate, divided into six age categories with tasks suited to their educational level. Each participant is given 45 minutes to complete as many tasks as possible, designed to be engaging, fun, and based on real-world problems faced by computer scientists. The Bebras Challenge emphasizes participation and logical thinking over preparation, aiming to get students excited about computing​​​​.

student using laptop computer at a university lecture

6. Regeneron Science Talent Search

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: January 10 – March 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 8, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students over 13 years of age

The Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS) is America’s oldest and one of the most significant pre-college science events. It’s been running since 1942, recognizing and supporting promising young scientists. Students from all over the country enter their original research in different science fields. The contest is unique because it focuses on high school students, giving them a platform for their work to be reviewed by a national jury of professional scientists.

Each year, 300 students are named scholars, and 40 finalists are invited to Washington D.C. for the final round. The finalists show their work to the public and meet with scientists and leaders. Over $3.1 million in scholarships is given out, with the top 300 scholars getting scholarships and each finalist getting at least $25,000. The grand prize winner gets $250,000.

7. NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards

  • Location: In all NCWIT Alliance member organizations
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date: October 10 – November 20, 2023 for Preliminaries and 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.

a computer science professor demonstrating

8. 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.

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. 

9. 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 top-notch computer science competition for high school students in the U.S., with a series of online contests held throughout the school year. Each contest has three to four programming problems to challenge your algorithm development and problem-solving skills. You have a total of four hours to solve them during the contest weekend. The contests are divided into four divisions – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. You start in the Bronze division and can move up based on your performance.

If you do well in the contests, you could be invited to the USACO Training Camp, which offers advanced training and culminates in selecting a four-member team to represent the U.S. at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). USACO not only improves your technical skills but also plays a significant role in your academic and professional development. Many alumni achieve success in academia and the tech industry.

Technological facility

10. Technology Student Association High School Competitions

  • 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. 

11. 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. 

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. 

a robot made out of small plastics

12. RoboCup

  • Location: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Competition Date: July 17 to 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. 

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​​​​​​​​​​​​.

13. 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​​​​.

Students checking on a robotics project

14. 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

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

15. 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

Computer science competitions can greatly impact your future. They’re not just about coding; they’re about problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. They can help you stand out in college applications and show your passion and commitment to computer science.

At Admissionsight, we help students harness their potential and showcase their talents to admission committees. We understand what top-tier colleges are looking for and can help you become a standout applicant. Let’s turn your passion for computer science into an opportunity to secure a place at the college of your dreams.

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