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29 Engineering and Robotics Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Science and innovation

29 Engineering and Robotics Competitions for High School Students

For students passionate about engineering and technology, participating in the top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students is a chance to compete and connect with like-minded peers, gain invaluable experience, and potentially set the stage for future careers in STEM.

This comprehensive listicle of 29 prestigious competitions provides a window into high school engineering and robotics challenges. These competitions vary in focus, encompassing traditional robotics, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, and beyond, catering to diverse interests and skills.

1. B.E.S.T. Robotics Design

  • Location: Various regional locations
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Date: Competition in Sep-Oct
  • Eligibility: Middle and High School students in the U.S., part of a BEST Robotics club.

BEST Robotics stands out among the top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students, focusing on fostering practical STEM education. In this competition, participants are tasked with designing and building a machine using a specific kit of materials, all within a challenging six-week timeframe. This initiative emphasizes the Engineering Design Process, a vital skill for budding engineers, encouraging students to think critically and solve problems effectively.

High school students building and programming electric toys and robots at robotics classroom

Annually attracting over 18,000 students from more than 850 schools, BEST Robotics offers a dynamic environment where teamwork and creativity are just as essential as technical skills. The competition’s regional nature allows for a wide reach, allowing numerous students to participate and showcase their talents.

2. Botball Educational Robotics Program

  • Location: Regional and national levels in the U.S.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Date: Not specified
  • Eligibility: 9th to 12th graders​​

Botball stands out in top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students, focusing on coding and AI strategy. Over a seven-week period, students learn to program and develop strategies for creating autonomous robots.

"Pepper" robot assistant with information screen in duty to give information

This hands-on experience is invaluable for students interested in robotics and AI, as it combines theoretical knowledge with practical application. The program culminates in an annual challenge where students’ robots compete at various levels, including regional and national competitions. Botball’s emphasis on autonomous robotics and AI makes it a unique and educational experience for participants, fostering highly relevant skills in today’s technological landscape.

3. International Bridge Building Contest

  • Location: Various regional locations; winners of regional contests are invited to the international event.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Not explicitly mentioned, but the contest is generally aimed at high school students.

The International Bridge Building Contest is a distinguished event within the realm of engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. With its origins in the 1980s, this contest challenges students to apply theoretical physics and engineering principles in a practical and hands-on way.

The Famous Golden Gate

Participants design and construct scale model bridges, which are then rigorously tested for strength and durability. It’s an academically enriching activity that has garnered widespread recognition and fostered a deep understanding of engineering principles.

Having expanded beyond the United States, the contest’s global reach underscores its significance in promoting engineering education. Its focus on eco-friendly materials and advanced digital tools like CAD software exemplify its evolution and relevance in modern engineering education.

4. Design Squad Global (DSG)

  • Location: Global (online platform)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Targeted primarily at children aged 10 to 13

Design Squad Global (DSG) stands out in the landscape of engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. Originating from the successful “Design Squad” TV show, DSG has evolved into an online platform that connects children globally to collaborate on engineering projects.

Both hands holding lego bricks.

Although primarily aimed at children aged 10 to 13, DSG’s scope includes activities and resources suitable for older students, making it also relevant for high schoolers. It offers a distinctive approach to learning, emphasizing teamwork, global understanding, and practical engineering skills. DSG’s competitions are unique, focusing on real-world challenges and encouraging creative solutions in various fields, thereby nurturing future engineers and innovators.

5. MATE ROV Competition

  • Location: Regional and international levels
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students, with different class levels for varying skill sets.

The MATE ROV Competition is a globally renowned event in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This competition uniquely focuses on underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), offering students a platform to engage in hands-on engineering and technology.

Top view of an unrecognizable marine biologist writing data on a paper on a boat

The competition encompasses classes catering to various skill levels, from beginners to those with advanced knowledge. It emphasizes real-world scenarios relevant to the marine industry, allowing students to innovate in design and problem-solving.

The MATE ROV Competition enhances technical skills and fosters an entrepreneurial mindset, as students form teams that simulate real-world companies. This approach effectively bridges the gap between education and industry, providing valuable experience in STEM fields.

6. Future City Competition

  • Location: Regional competitions across the U.S. and internationally; finals in Washington, D.C.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Regional competitions in January; finals in February.
  • Eligibility: Middle school students (grades 6-8)

The Future City Competition is a notable event among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It’s a project-based learning experience where students design and build cities of the future.

a female economist reviewing a report using her tab

The 2023-2024 theme, “Electrify Your Future,” challenges participants to envision cities powered entirely by clean, renewable electricity. Teams, including a student group, an educator, and a mentor, are required to produce a city essay, a scale model, a project plan, and a presentation.

The competition emphasizes sustainable solutions and fosters creativity and teamwork, culminating in regional competitions and a national final in Washington, D.C. This event stands out for its inclusivity, with significant participation from girls and underrepresented populations.

7. Google Science Fair

  • Location: Online, global
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Submission periods and dates for state, regional, and global finalists vary.
  • Eligibility: Students aged 13-18 years old

The Google Science Fair is a prestigious global competition that stands out in the engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. Open to students aged 13-18, it encourages participants to tackle global issues through scientific research and innovation.

Google signage

Students can enter as individuals or in teams to present projects that offer novel solutions to pressing problems. This competition not only fosters scientific inquiry but also emphasizes the application of science for positive global impact, making it a valuable platform for young scientists and engineers.

8. MIT Zero Robotics

  • Location: Online and International Space Station (ISS)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: High School Tournament (September to December), Middle School Summer Program (specific dates vary)
  • Eligibility: High School Tournament for grades 9-12; Middle School Summer Program for younger students

MIT Zero Robotics is a unique addition to engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It offers a distinctive experience where students design code for robots on the International Space Station.

The beautiful campus of MIT.

The program, which includes a high school tournament, presents an opportunity for students to engage in space-related challenges. This competition emphasizes coding skills and strategic problem-solving in a real-world space environment. The final phase, where codes are tested live on the ISS, adds an extraordinary dimension to this educational experience.

9. National Robotics League (NRL)

  • Location: Regional and national competitions in the U.S.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: National Competition held in May
  • Eligibility: High school students; the program is open to students from 6th grade to graduate school.

The National Robotics League (NRL) offers a distinctive blend of hands-on engineering and combat robotics, making it a standout among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This competition focuses on real-world manufacturing experiences, where students design, build, and battle robots in a controlled arena setting.

a man shaking hands with a robotic hand

It fosters technical skills, strategic thinking, and teamwork, bridging the gap between classroom learning and practical application. NRL’s unique job-driven, project-based STEM learning approach effectively connects students with modern manufacturing and engineering.

10. Solar Car Challenge

  • Location: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Date: Entry deadline late January
  • Eligibility: Registered high school students whose schools participate in the Solar Car Challenge Program.

The Solar Car Challenge is an exceptional competition among the top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students, centered on renewable energy and automotive engineering. In this challenge, students design, build, and race solar-powered cars, applying engineering and sustainable energy principles.

Students checking on a robotics project

The competition concludes with a closed-track event showcasing the students’ solar cars in action. The Solar Car Challenge provides hands-on experience in automotive engineering and educates students about the importance of renewable energy sources. It is an excellent platform for students interested in the intersection of engineering, sustainability, and innovation.

11. SourceAmerica® IDEATE competition

  • Location: National, USA.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Typically a semester-long commitment, finals in spring.
  • Eligibility: High school and college engineering students

The SourceAmerica® IDEATE competition is an innovative event among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It encourages students to develop assistive technologies enhancing workplace accessibility for people with disabilities.

two students browsing books in the library

High school and college engineering students participate in this national challenge, designing and creating solutions that address real-world problems. This competition focuses on technological innovation and emphasizes social impact and inclusivity, aligning engineering skills to improve workplace environments for people with disabilities.

12. Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC)

  • Location: The Plains, Virginia, USA
  • Registration Fee: $165
  • Important Dates: Registration closed last Dec 1, 2023
  • Eligibility: 6th to 12th graders

The Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is a leading competition in engineering and robotics for high school students. It challenges teams to design, build, and launch model rockets, combining practical engineering skills with an exciting competitive edge.

students listening and talking to male teacher

The contest emphasizes innovation, precision, and teamwork, as students work to meet specific design and performance criteria. TARC provides a stimulating educational experience and exposes students to the possibilities of aerospace engineering careers.

13. Aiken Engineering Challenge

  • Location: International, specific locations not detailed.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: High school and undergraduate students

The Aiken Engineering Challenge is an esteemed contest in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. Named after Howard H. Aiken, a pioneer in computing, the challenge motivates students to develop innovative engineering solutions to global issues.

Students talking in a debate.

High school and undergraduate students participate in this competition, which involves two stages: regional competitions worldwide and the global finals. The contest encourages inventiveness and sustainable, feasible solutions to pressing global challenges.

14. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)

  • Location: Various locations worldwide
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Season runs from September to December
  • Eligibility: High school students

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a globally recognized contest for high school students in engineering and robotics competitions. Known for its complex challenges, FRC provides a platform for students to design, build, and program large-scale robots. These robots then compete in sophisticated game-based challenges.

FIRST Robotics Competition

FRC fosters mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, and teamwork skills. It’s renowned for bringing together the excitement of sport with the rigors of engineering, making it a unique and educational experience for participants.

15. Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI)

  • Location: International
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Topics announced on March 1st, 2024
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students

The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a distinctive educational program among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It focuses on developing critical and creative thinking skills by engaging students in futuristic problem-solving.

Woman explains and solves a mathematical calculation

FPSPI encourages participants to explore complex societal issues and develop strategic solutions, enhancing their analytical abilities and preparing them for future challenges in diverse fields.

16. NASA Goddard Optimus Prime Spinoff Challenge

  • Location: National, USA
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Elementary to high school students

The NASA Goddard Optimus Prime Spinoff Challenge is an innovative competition that stands out in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This challenge encourages students to creatively explore how NASA’s technology can be used in everyday life.

View of NASA signage

Known as “spinoffs,” these applications demonstrate the student’s understanding and ingenuity in converting space technology for terrestrial uses. This competition provides a platform for students to engage in the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and develop solutions with real-world applications, thereby bridging the gap between space technology and practical utility.

17. Trinity College International Robot Contest

  • Location: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Teams of students

The Trinity College International Robot Contest is a notable event in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. Hosted by Trinity College, this contest features various categories like firefighting robots, line-following robots, and wall-climbing robots.

engineers working on a machine

It attracts participants worldwide, including students, researchers, and enthusiasts, showcasing the latest advancements in robotics. The competition fosters innovation, technical skill, and teamwork, with strict rules ensuring fair and safe competition.

18. FIRST Tech Challenge

  • Location: Local, regional, and national levels in the U.S.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Date: Not specified
  • Eligibility: 9th to 12th graders, teams of up to 15 students.

The FIRST Tech Challenge is a highly regarded competition in high school students’ top engineering and robotics competitions. Teams of up to 15 students are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots in a head-to-head alliance format.

Side view at multi-ethnic group of students using laptop while studying in college

This competition is unique in its use of a reusable robot kit, allowing teams to build upon their designs year after year. Under the guidance of adult coaches and mentors, students navigate the complexities of robotics, gaining hands-on experience in engineering principles. The challenge progresses from local qualifying tournaments to state championships and ultimately to the World Championship Tournament, offering a wide array of opportunities for growth and recognition.

19. SeaPerch National Challenge

  • Location: Varies annually
  • Registration Fee: Varies based on regional competition.
  • Important Dates: May 31 – June 1, 2024
  • Eligibility: Teams qualifying from regional competitions.

The SeaPerch National Challenge is a remarkable competition in engineering and robotics for high school students. This underwater robotics contest provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in hands-on, innovative engineering.

aerial view of a coast

Participants design and build underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), tested through various tasks and obstacle courses. This competition emphasizes skills in STEM fields, providing a platform for practical learning and showcasing student creativity in robotics.

20. TEAMS Competition

  • Location: Varies
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Middle and high school students

The TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science) Competition is a significant challenge for high school students in engineering and robotics competitions. Organized by the Technology Student Association (TSA), TEAMS invites students to apply their knowledge in STEM to solve real-world engineering problems.

Multiracial university students

This annual theme-based competition encourages teamwork, creativity, and critical thinking, allowing students to showcase their engineering and problem-solving skills in a competitive environment.

21. Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams

  • Location: National (USA)
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: High school students

Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams is a unique initiative among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It fosters invention and problem-solving skills, offering grants for teams to work on year-long invention projects.

Students outdoors

This program is particularly impactful for promoting 21st-century skills and providing practical engineering experiences. InvenTeams encourages high school students to invent technological solutions to real-world problems, often leading to patents and significant contributions to the field.

22. FIRST LEGO League

  • Location: Global
  • Registration Fee: Varies by region
  • Important Dates: Varies by region
  • Eligibility: Ages 9-16 (varies by country)

The FIRST® LEGO® League is a renowned global program in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This program, encompassing three divisions based on age groups, introduces young participants to STEM concepts through engaging and hands-on learning experiences.

Huge pile of bricks piled on a table.

The league nurtures foundational STEM skills and culminates in exciting competitions where students demonstrate their learning and inventions. The oldest division involves robot competitions, and some teams earn invitations to the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, part of the FIRST Championship.

23. TSA VEX Robotics

  • Location: Varies
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: High school students

The TSA VEX Robotics competition is a dynamic element in engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This event, part of the Technology Student Association’s programs, challenges students to build innovative robots and compete in an engaging game-based environment.

a robot made out of small plastics

The competition nurtures students’ skills in STEM fields, fostering creativity, problem-solving abilities, and technical expertise. It provides an exciting platform for students to showcase their engineering and robotics capabilities in a collaborative and competitive setting.

24. Junior Science and Humanities Symposia

  • Location: National, USA
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a distinctive program among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It encourages students to conduct original research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and present their findings.

Business people discussing documents and ideas at meeting

Backed by the Department of Defense and administered by the National Science Teaching Association, JSHS offers scholarships and opportunities for students to engage in STEM and present their research at symposia.

25. Robofest

  • Location: Southfield, Michigan, USA.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Not specified
  • Eligibility: Grades 5-12

Robofest, hosted by Lawrence Technological University, is an annual festival of competitions featuring autonomous robots and is a notable part of engineering and robotics competitions for high school students.

Four cheerful students sitting together at the desk and studying while one man looking over shoulder and smiling

It allows participants to design, construct, and program robots using any kit and programming language, catering to various skill levels and interests. The competition includes categories like RoboParade, Game, and BottleSumo, each offering unique challenges and learning experiences. Robofest provides a platform for students to test their robots’ efficiency and creativity in a competitive setting.

26. NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

  • Location: Huntsville, Alabama, USA.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: April 19-20, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school, college, and university students.

The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is an innovative competition in engineering and robotics for high school students. Held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, this challenge requires students to design, build, and test human-powered rovers.

Student using a laptop while outside the school building.

The competition simulates lunar and Martian terrain challenges, promoting research and development of new technologies for future space missions. This event offers a unique opportunity for students to apply their design and engineering skills in a challenging environment.

27. National Robotics Challenge

  • Location: National, USA.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: April 18-20, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 6 through graduate school

The National Robotics Challenge (NRC) is a unique competition among engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. It stands out for its open-platform approach, allowing participants to use any materials and equipment, fostering true engineering creativity.

With low entry fees and open participation from 6th grade through graduate school, NRC is accessible and promotes long-term engagement in robotics. This competition nurtures practical problem-solving skills and innovation in robotics.

28. Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

  • Location: Virtual or In-person (location not specified)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Date: Entry deadline January 2, 2024
  • Eligibility: Not specified​​

The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is a creative and engaging competition among the top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students. This contest challenges participants to construct a Rube Goldberg machine – a complex contraption designed to perform a simple task.

Close up of school students designing and testing STEM robot vehicle project model in robotics class for the competition.

The machines are built from household items, promoting resourcefulness and innovation. Each year, the contest presents a specific task or theme, pushing the boundaries of creativity and engineering. This contest is notable for its emphasis on imagination and the whimsical nature of the machines, offering a fun and educational experience for students interested in engineering and physics.

29. TSA High School Competition

  • Location: The competitions are held at various locations, often depending on the state or regional events leading up to the national conference.
  • Registration Fee: This can vary based on the specific event and level of competition.
  • Important Dates: These are typically aligned with the school year and culminate in the national TSA conference, but exact dates can vary.
  • Eligibility: High school students can participate in these competitions covering a broad spectrum of technology-related topics.

The TSA High School Competitions are a diverse array of contests that form a significant part of engineering and robotics competitions for high school students.

Group of student working on their laptops.

Organized by the Technology Student Association, these competitions cover many technology-related fields, offering students opportunities to showcase their architecture, computer science, and engineering skills. These events challenge students to apply their knowledge and creativity to solve real-world problems, promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Conclusion

The journey through the top engineering and robotics competitions for high school students is more than a series of contests; it’s a transformative experience that equips young innovators with the skills and confidence to face future challenges. These competitions serve as a platform for students to apply their classroom learning in real-world scenarios and push the boundaries of what is possible in technology and engineering.

From designing autonomous robots and AI-driven solutions to solving environmental challenges and innovating for a sustainable future, these competitions cultivate the next generation of engineers, scientists, and leaders.

Whether it’s through teamwork, creativity, strategic thinking, or technical prowess, students participating in these competitions are laying the groundwork for their future careers and contributing to the advancement of technology. As robotics and engineering continue to evolve, the experiences gained in these competitions will undoubtedly play a critical role in shaping the future of STEM and the world.

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