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15 Science Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

forensic science student examining a sample in microscope

15 Science Competitions for High School Students

In the dynamic world of education and development, science competitions for high school students have emerged as crucial platforms for fostering innovation, critical thinking, and scientific acumen. These competitions are not just contests but incubators for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and problem-solvers. They give students a unique opportunity to dive deep into scientific research and exploration, offering a window into real-world scientific applications and challenges.

This listicle of 15 Science competitions is designed to guide young high school students through some of the top competitions today. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview including competition details, eligibility criteria, important dates, and more, serving as a valuable resource for students, educators, and parents.

1. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

  • Location: Los Angeles, California (2024)
  • Registration Fee: Not explicitly mentioned, but participants generally have to qualify through affiliated fairs which may have their own fees.
  • Important Dates: May 11-17, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 or equivalent; must not have reached age 20 on or before May 1 preceding.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) stands out as one of the top science competitions for high school students globally, providing a unique platform for young innovators to showcase their scientific acumen.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Scheduled to be held in Los Angeles, California, from May 11-17, 2024, this prestigious event gathers students in grades 9-12 or equivalent worldwide, who must not have reached age 20 on or before May 1 preceding the fair.

As a Society for Science & the Public program, ISEF is renowned for its international scale, attracting participants who first compete and win in affiliated local, regional, or state science fairs. These bright young minds can then present their research projects across various scientific categories, ranging from engineering and mathematics to physics and other STEM fields.

2. You Be The Chemist Challenge

  • Location: Varies (regional challenges); National Challenge in Houston, TX
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Regional Challenges from January 19 to March 10, 2024; National Challenge on June 10 & 11, 2024
  • Eligibility: Middle school students (grades 5-8)​

The You Be The Chemist Challenge is a vibrant and engaging competition that stands out among science competitions for high school students. Aimed at middle school students (grades 5-8), this challenge uniquely combines the excitement of a competition with the intriguing world of chemistry.

unknown individuals performing chemistry experiments

Organized annually, the Challenge seeks to ignite a passion for learning about chemistry and its real-world applications, thus fostering the next generation of STEM professionals. It’s structured as a multilevel contest, including in-person and virtual tracks, making it accessible to many students regardless of their geographical location.

For participants, the You Be The Chemist Challenge is more than a competition; it’s a journey of discovery and learning, providing a stimulating environment where young minds are encouraged to explore the fascinating world of chemistry. It plays a significant role in shaping the participants’ understanding of science and its practical applications, setting them toward future scientific endeavors. This Challenge contributes to the academic growth of its participants and helps build a solid foundation for their future careers in science and technology​​​​​.

3. Broadcom MASTERS

  • Location: Varies, as it is a national competition in the U.S.
  • Registration Fee: Not explicitly stated
  • Important Dates: Specific dates for 2024 not provided
  • Eligibility: Nominees from affiliated science fairs in grades 6-8

The Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) is a distinguished science competition for high school students, specifically targeting a younger audience of middle schoolers in the United States.

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

As a leading national science fair, Broadcom MASTERS focuses on encouraging students in 6th to 8th grades to participate in science and engineering projects. What sets this competition apart is its comprehensive approach to evaluating projects, not solely based on scientific research and findings but also emphasizing the processes of problem-solving, teamwork, and effective communication.

The competition provides a platform for young learners to interact with peers who share a passion for science and technology, fostering an environment that encourages exploration and innovation. Broadcom MASTERS rewards individual achievements with significant prizes and scholarships and lays the groundwork for future academic and professional pursuits in STEM fields. This competition is a key milestone in the academic journey of young scientists and engineers, instilling in them the confidence and skills necessary to excel in their future endeavors​​​.

4. eCYBERMISSION

  • Location: Virtual Competition
  • Registration Fee: Free to enter
  • Important Dates: Registration closes February 28, 2024; Submission Deadline March 6, 2024; National Judging & Educational Event June 24-27, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 6-9 in the US

eCYBERMISSION stands out as a unique and innovative platform among science competitions for high school students, specifically targeting those in grades 6 through 9. This web-based STEM competition, sponsored by the U.S. Army, challenges students to delve into scientific inquiry and apply their knowledge to real-world problems. Unlike traditional science fairs, eCYBERMISSION focuses on utilizing scientific principles to develop solutions to community-related issues, fostering social responsibility among participants.

applying in schools

One of the distinguishing features of eCYBERMISSION is its inclusivity, offering both virtual and in-person tracks, thus making it accessible to a wide array of students. Additionally, the competition provides valuable opportunities for networking with STEM professionals and like-minded peers, further enriching participants’ educational experiences.

With awards and recognition at various levels, eCYBERMISSION celebrates academic achievement and plays a pivotal role in nurturing future STEM professionals. The competition goes beyond testing knowledge, aiming to instill a lifelong passion for STEM among young learners​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

5. Google Science Fair

  • Location: Online competition
  • Registration Fee: Not mentioned
  • Important Dates: Specific dates for 2024 not provided
  • Eligibility: Students aged 13-18 globally

The Google Science Fair has established itself as a cornerstone among science competitions for high school students, embracing a global perspective. This online competition, open to students aged 13 to 18 from around the world, represents a modern and accessible approach to scientific inquiry and innovation.

Google signage

The unique online format of the Google Science Fair expands its reach, enabling a diverse array of students to participate without geographical constraints. This inclusivity is pivotal in cultivating a rich exchange of ideas and perspectives among budding scientists from different cultures and regions.

For high school students looking to explore the frontiers of science and technology, the Google Science Fair presents an extraordinary opportunity to develop research skills, think creatively, and potentially make significant contributions to the scientific community​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

6. MIT THINK Scholars Program

  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA (for the final event)
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: Applications open in early November and close in early January; project due in June
  • Eligibility: High school students residing in the US

The MIT THINK Scholars Program is a distinctive entry in science competitions for high school students, focusing on promoting innovative scientific research among the youth. Operated by undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this program targets U.S.-based high school students, fostering a culture of scientific innovation and exploration. Participants must develop and submit a detailed research proposal addressing a novel idea in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field.

The program culminates in an all-expenses-paid trip to MIT, where finalists present their completed projects. This provides an extraordinary opportunity for participants to gain exposure to the collegiate research environment and to engage with some of the brightest minds in the field of STEM.

The THINK Scholars Program thus plays a crucial role in nurturing budding scientists and engineers, providing them with the tools, resources, and guidance necessary to advance their skills and contribute to the scientific community. It is an excellent platform for high school students to challenge themselves, explore their passion for science, and gain recognition for their innovative ideas and hard work​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

7. Regeneron Science Talent Search

  • Location: Finals in Washington D.C.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified; requires a detailed application
  • Important Date: The 2024 competition finals are from March 6-13, 2024.
  • Eligibility: High school seniors in the U.S., including U.S. citizens studying abroad​​​​

The Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) is a cornerstone among the top science competitions for high school students, known for its prestige and rigorous standards. Established in 1942, it is the United States’ oldest science and mathematics competition for high school seniors.

A teacher instructing a student in using an apparatus.

Each year, participants engage in original research, which they submit to compete for significant scholarships and national recognition. The finalists are selected based on the scientific rigor and potential impact of their research projects, which often address critical issues in various fields of STEM.

During the final event in Washington D.C., these young scientists undergo a comprehensive judging process, interacting with esteemed scientists and sharing their work with the public. This competition challenges students academically and fosters a community of young innovators poised to contribute significantly to their fields.

8. Science Buddies

  • Location: Online
  • Registration Fee: Not specified
  • Important Dates: February 18 to March 18, 2024
  • Eligibility: Not specified

Science Buddies is an innovative and resourceful platform for science competitions for high school students. It stands out not as a traditional competition but as a supportive framework, providing an extensive range of ideas, tools, and resources for students who wish to participate in science fairs and competitions.

Diverse group of young people chatting in college library

The essence of Science Buddies lies in its commitment to making science accessible and engaging for students of all ages and backgrounds. It offers a comprehensive database of project ideas across various scientific disciplines, enabling students to explore topics that align with their interests and academic goals.

In addition to project ideas, Science Buddies provides step-by-step instructions, experimental procedures, and presentation tips designed to help students excel in their scientific endeavors. This approach nurtures scientific curiosity and cultivates essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication. For high school students looking to embark on a journey of scientific discovery, Science Buddies is an invaluable companion, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

9. Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

  • Location: Final event at the 3M Innovation Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Registration Fee: Not mentioned
  • Important Dates: Entries open until May 2, 2024; Final event on October 14-15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 5-8 in the US​​​​​

The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a prestigious and highly acclaimed competition for high school students in the landscape of science competitions. Catering specifically to middle school students in grades 5-8, this challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for this age group. The competition, organized jointly by 3M and Discovery Education, encourages young minds to showcase their scientific creativity and problem-solving skills.

a male student holding something while looking at the camera

Finalists in the challenge receive the unique opportunity to work directly with a 3M scientist, gaining invaluable mentorship and insights into professional scientific research and development. The grand prize winner, “America’s Top Young Scientist,” receives a significant scholarship, further fostering their academic and career development in science. This challenge is an educational journey that stimulates intellectual growth and inspires a deeper interest in science and technology among young students​​​​​.

10. U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO)

  • Location: Local, national, and international levels; specific venues vary.
  • Registration Fee: Not specified; likely varies by level.
  • Important Date: Local Exam (March 1-31), National Exam (April 15-23), Study Camp (June 4-17), International Chemistry Olympiad (July 16-25).
  • Eligibility: open to all U.S.-based high school students​​

As a prominent event among the top science competitions for high school students, the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO) offers a comprehensive challenge in chemistry. This multi-tiered competition begins with local and regional rounds, progressing to the national and international stages.

Students conduct science experiments.

Participants are assessed on their knowledge of chemistry theories, models, and problem-solving skills in a laboratory setting. The top 20 national finalists attend a rigorous study camp, preparing to represent the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). The USNCO tests students’ academic knowledge and hone their practical laboratory skills, contributing to their development as young chemists.

11. National Science Bowl

  • Location: Regional competitions across the U.S.; national finals in Washington, D.C.
  • Registration Fee: not specified
  • Important Date: Regional competitions typically early in the year; national finals dates vary.
  • Eligibility: Open to all middle and high school students in the U.S.​​

The National Science Bowl, sponsored by the Department of Energy, is a prominent fixture among the top science competitions for high school students. This unique competition features a fast-paced quiz bowl, testing knowledge in various scientific disciplines, including physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science.

High School Quiz Bowl

High school teams across the United States engage in this challenging and exciting contest, emphasizing teamwork and quick thinking. Starting at regional levels, winning teams advance to the prestigious national finals in Washington, D.C., where they compete for top honors. The National Science Bowl promotes academic excellence and aims to inspire a lifelong appreciation for science among young learners.

12. Science Olympiad

  • Location: Regional, state, and national levels across the U.S.
  • Registration Fee: Varies by region and state
  • Important Date: Dates vary for regional and state competitions; national competitions typically in spring.
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12​​

Science Olympiad stands out in top science competitions for high school students, offering a blend of teamwork, hands-on problem-solving, and rigorous academic challenges. Teams from schools nationwide compete in various events spanning a wide range of scientific disciplines, from biology and chemistry to engineering and astronomy.

Students and a female teacher talking during an activity in a classroom.

Students in grades 9-12 are eligible for this annual competition, known for its collaborative and competitive spirit. The events are divided into study and building categories, allowing students to showcase their knowledge and creativity.

Science Olympiad emphasizes real-world applications of science and technology, nurturing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The competition progresses through regional and state tournaments, culminating in a national championship where teams strive for top honors.

13. Science Fair Central

  • Location: Various, as it provides resources for science fairs
  • Registration Fee: N/A (Resource platform)
  • Important Dates: N/A (Continuous resource availability)
  • Eligibility: Aimed at students, parents, and educators involved in science fairs​​​.

Science Fair Central emerges as a comprehensive and essential resource within the world of science competitions for high school students. Created through a collaboration between The Home Depot and Discovery Education, it serves not as a competition but as a pivotal support system for students, teachers, and parents involved in science fairs. The platform offers an all-encompassing guide to the science fair process, from the inception of an idea to the final presentation.

Female teacher addressing students in a classroom

For students participating in science fairs, Science Fair Central is more than a resource; it’s a guide that accompanies them through every step of their scientific journey. By offering a structured approach to the science fair process and a wealth of resources, Science Fair Central plays a significant role in nurturing the scientific curiosity and capabilities of high school students​​​.

14. ExploraVision

  • Location: Virtual competition.
  • Registration Fee: No cost to participate.
  • Important Date: Applications are typically due in January; regional winners will be announced by April; national winners by May; Awards Weekend in June.
  • Eligibility: All high school students studying in the U.S. and Canada.

ExploraVision distinguishes itself in the list of top science competitions for high school students through its unique focus on technology and future visioning. This competition, conducted by Toshiba and the National Science Teaching Association, invites students to work in teams and envision future technological advancements.

a computer science professor demonstrating

Participants choose a current technology and imagine its development over the next 20 years, integrating knowledge from various STEM fields. This forward-thinking challenge encourages creativity, critical thinking, and a deep understanding of technology and its potential impacts. ExploraVision engages students in scientific inquiry and stimulates their imagination about the future of technology, making it a valuable learning experience.

15. Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)

  • Location: National Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Registration Fee: Not explicitly mentioned
  • Important Dates: May 1-4, 2024 (National Symposium)
  • Eligibility: High school students (Grades 9-12) conducting research in STEM fields​​​​​​

At its core, JSHS promotes research and experimentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics among high school students. Participants can compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting their research findings to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers.

a female economist presenting to a group of male businessmen

The symposium is not just a competition; it’s a confluence of scientific inquiry and knowledge sharing, providing students with a valuable opportunity to engage with experts in the field and receive feedback on their work.

A unique aspect of JSHS is its emphasis on oral and poster presentations, allowing students to develop and refine their communication skills. The symposium also includes interactive activities, workshops, and panel discussions, further enriching the participants’ experience. By fostering an academic excellence and collaboration environment, JSHS plays a vital role in encouraging talented young scientists and engineers, contributing significantly to advancing STEM education.

Conclusion

Participating in the top science competitions for high school students is more than just an academic endeavor; it’s a journey into the heart of science and innovation. These competitions challenge young minds to push the boundaries of what is known, explore uncharted territories in various scientific fields, and contribute to the global body of knowledge.

They are a testament to the bright future of science and technology, driven by the next generation of passionate and talented individuals. Beyond the accolades and recognition, these competitions cultivate a spirit of inquiry, perseverance, and a deep appreciation for the scientific method. As students across the nation and the globe engage in these intellectual battles, they are not only competing for medals and scholarships.

Still, they are also building the foundation for their future roles as leaders in science and technology. For aspiring scientists, engineers, and innovators, these competitions offer a glimpse into the exciting challenges and rewards of a career in STEM, making them a crucial step in their educational and professional development.

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