Celebrating Innovations Through The ExploraVision Awards

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two young female scientist doing experiments in lab.

Celebrating Innovations Through The ExploraVision Awards

The ExploraVision Awards are North America’s largest K-12 STEM competition. Established in 1992, the competition is organized by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Toshiba. It encourages young students to envision and develop innovative, technology-based solutions to real-world problems.

The competition aims to spark students’ curiosity and interest in STEM fields, promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills, foster collaboration and communication, and cultivate creativity and innovation.

The Impact of the ExploraVision Awards

Throughout its three-decade history, the ExploraVision Awards have made a lasting impact on countless students, educators, and communities. Let’s delve into the various ways this prestigious competition has shaped the future of STEM education and innovation.

As we look ahead to the continued success of the competition, we can expect to see even more groundbreaking ideas and solutions from the brilliant young minds participating in this extraordinary competition.

Inspiring the Next Generation of STEM Professionals

One of the most significant impacts of the competition is its ability to inspire and engage young minds in science, technology, engineering, and math. By encouraging students to think critically and creatively about the world around them, the competition fosters an early interest in STEM fields.

This interest is often sustained throughout the student’s academic and professional careers, leading to a new generation of skilled and passionate STEM professionals who are eager to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

Enhancing Problem-Solving and Collaborative Skills

The competition format requires participants to work in teams of 2-4, which encourages collaboration and effective communication. By working together to develop innovative solutions, students learn the value of teamwork and diverse perspectives.

Little Boy Mixes Chemicals in Beakers.

Furthermore, the competition’s focus on real-world problems helps develop critical problem-solving skills, as students must consider various factors such as feasibility, scientific accuracy, and potential societal impacts. These skills are not only crucial for success in STEM fields but are also valuable across all aspects of life.

Encouraging Inclusivity and Diversity in STEM

The ExploraVision Awards promote inclusivity and diversity by inviting students from all backgrounds to participate in the competition. By providing a platform for underrepresented groups in STEM to showcase their talents and ideas, the awards help break down barriers and challenge stereotypes. This increased diversity leads to a richer array of innovative solutions, as students from various backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table.

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation and Creativity

The competition has helped create a culture of innovation and creativity in schools and communities across North America. By emphasizing the importance of “blue-sky thinking” and rewarding students for their inventive ideas, the competition inspires young minds to push the boundaries of what is possible.

This culture of innovation ultimately extends beyond the competition itself, as students, educators, and communities are inspired to seek creative solutions to challenges in their everyday lives.

Supporting Educators and Enhancing STEM Education

The competition also has a significant impact on educators, providing them with valuable resources, professional development opportunities, and recognition for their dedication to fostering innovation in the classroom. By supporting educators in their quest to engage students in STEM learning, the competition contributes to a more robust and effective STEM education system.

The Objectives of the ExploraVision Awards

The objectives of the ExploraVision Awards reflect their commitment to empowering young minds and shaping the future of STEM education and innovation. As the competition continues to inspire and engage students across North America, we can expect even more remarkable ideas and solutions to emerge from this extraordinary competition.

Encouraging Interest in STEM Fields

A primary objective of the competition is to spark students’ curiosity and interest in STEM. The competition provides a platform for students to delve into various scientific concepts and principles while applying them to practical, real-world situations.

By fostering an early interest in STEM, the competition helps develop a strong foundation for future educational and professional pursuits in these fields.

Promoting Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

The competition aims to cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving skills in young students. Participants are encouraged to identify existing issues and propose innovative solutions that integrate technology and scientific principles.

This problem-solving approach helps students develop the ability to analyze complex situations, weigh pros and cons, and devise creative strategies to tackle challenges – skills that are essential for success in STEM fields and beyond.

Fostering Collaboration and Communication

The ExploraVision Awards emphasize the importance of teamwork and effective communication by requiring students to work in teams of 2-4. This collaborative aspect of the competition teaches students the value of diverse perspectives and the benefits of working together towards a common goal.

a female student working on a microscope

As participants develop their projects, they learn to communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively, honing skills that are invaluable in any professional setting.

Cultivating Creativity and Innovation

One of the key objectives of the competition is to inspire creativity and innovation in students. The competition encourages participants to think beyond traditional boundaries and imagine the potential future of technology and scientific research.

By nurturing this creative mindset, the competition helps cultivate a generation of innovators who are capable of developing groundbreaking ideas and solutions that can transform our world.

Expanding Inclusivity and Diversity in STEM

The ExploraVision Awards strive to promote inclusivity and diversity in STEM by inviting students of all backgrounds to participate. The competition aims to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes by providing a platform for underrepresented groups in STEM to showcase their talents and ideas.

By fostering a more inclusive and diverse STEM community, the competition contributes to a richer array of innovative solutions and a more equitable future in these fields.

Supporting Educators and Strengthening STEM Education

The ExploraVision Awards also aim to support educators in their efforts to engage students in STEM learning. The competition provides valuable resources, professional development opportunities, and recognition for educators dedicated to fostering innovation in the classroom.

By supporting educators and enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the competition helps prepare students for success in an increasingly technology-driven world.

The History of the ExploraVision Awards

The history of the ExploraVision Awards is a testament to the power of inspiration, collaboration, and innovation in shaping the future of STEM education. Over its three-decade journey, the competition has engaged and inspired countless students, educators, and communities, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Genesis of the ExploraVision Awards

The competition was born out of a collaboration between the NSTA and Toshiba in 1992, with the goal of engaging young students in scientific inquiry and promoting an interest in STEM fields. From the outset, the competition focused on inspiring creativity and fostering problem-solving skills by encouraging students to envision the future of technology and scientific research.

Evolution of the Competition

Over the years, the competition has evolved and adapted to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of STEM education and innovation. As participation increased, the competition format was refined to include four age groups, catering to students from kindergarten to grade 12.

The competition format has consistently emphasized collaboration, requiring students to work in teams of 2-4 to develop their projects.

Growing Participation and Recognition

Since its inception, the competition has garnered widespread recognition and attracted a growing number of participants. Today, the competition involves over 400,000 students annually, making it the largest K-12 STEM competition in North America.

This growth is a testament to the competition’s ability to inspire and engage young minds in STEM fields, as well as its enduring appeal to students, educators, and communities.

Notable Projects and Innovations

Throughout its history, the ExploraVision Awards have produced an impressive array of innovative projects. Many of these projects not only demonstrate the creativity and ingenuity of the participants but also offer potential solutions to pressing global issues. Some examples of notable projects include:

a group of forensic science student wearing their complete laboratory outfit and working inside the lab

  • Solar-Powered Desalination System (2015):A high school team proposed a solar-powered desalination system that could provide a sustainable solution to the global water crisis by converting saltwater into fresh, drinkable water.
  • Plastic-Degrading Bacteria (2017): A team of middle school students envisioned the use of genetically modified bacteria to break down plastic waste into biodegradable compounds, addressing the global plastic waste crisis.
  • Hydrogen-Powered Insect Exoskeletons (2019): High school students designed a wearable exoskeleton that utilizes hydrogen fuel cells to help people carry heavy loads, reducing strain on the body and preventing injuries.

Joining the ExploraVision Awards and Eligibility Criteria

By following the outlined eligibility criteria and steps to join the competition, students have the opportunity to collaborate, innovate, and develop their problem-solving skills. Joining the competition is a rewarding and enlightening experience for students interested in STEM fields.

Eligibility Criteria for Participation

The competition is open to students enrolled in K-12 schools across the United States and Canada. The competition aims to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming students of all backgrounds and skill levels. To participate, students must meet the following eligibility criteria:

Age Groups: The competition is divided into four age groups to accommodate students from kindergarten to grade 12:

  1. Kindergarten to Grade 3
  2. Grades 4 to 6
  3. Grades 7 to 9
  4. Grades 10 to 12

Team Formation: Students must form teams of 2-4 members to participate in the competition. Each team must be supervised by a coach, who is typically a teacher or a school administrator.

School Affiliation: Participants must be enrolled in a public, private, or home school in the United States or Canada. Students attending Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools are also eligible.

How to Join the ExploraVision Awards

Joining the ExploraVision Awards involves a few essential steps that students, coaches, and schools must follow to ensure a successful entry:

  1. Form a Team: Students must collaborate with their classmates to form a team of 2-4 members. It is crucial to ensure that each team member brings unique skills and perspectives to contribute to the project’s success.
  2. Identify a Coach: Each team must have a coach who will guide and support them throughout the competition. Coaches are typically teachers, school administrators, or other adults affiliated with the school.
  3. Choose a Project Topic: Teams must select a real-world problem they are passionate about and propose an innovative, technology-based solution. The chosen topic should align with the students’ interests and be relevant to current scientific challenges.
  4. Register for the Competition: Coaches must register their team(s) online through the official ExploraVision website. Registration typically opens in the fall and closes in early February.
  5. Develop the Project: Teams must work together to create a detailed project proposal that includes a description of the current problem, an explanation of their envisioned technology, and an analysis of the potential impact of their solution. The project must adhere to the competition guidelines and submission requirements.
  6. Submit the Project: Coaches are responsible for submitting their team’s project online before the submission deadline, which usually falls in early February. It is essential to review the project thoroughly and ensure it meets all guidelines and requirements before submission.

Judging and Awards

Once the submission deadline has passed, the projects undergo a rigorous judging process based on creativity, scientific accuracy, and the potential for positive societal impact. Winners are selected for each age group, with first and second-place teams receiving scholarship awards, as well as various other prizes to further their education and future endeavors.

Competition Details of ExploraVision

The competition details of the ExploraVision Awards highlight the importance of creativity, scientific accuracy, and thorough research in the development of innovative solutions to real-world problems.

By participating in the competition, students not only gain valuable skills in problem-solving, teamwork, and communication, but they also have the opportunity to earn recognition and awards that can support their future educational and professional pursuits.

Project Requirements

To participate in the ExploraVision Awards, teams must develop a detailed project proposal that adheres to the competition guidelines and submission requirements. The project proposal should include the following components:

A medicine-course instructor teaching in front of med students

  • Abstract: A brief, 150-word summary of the project, highlighting the problem, the proposed solution, and its potential impact.
  • Description of the Present Technology: A comprehensive explanation of the current state of technology related to the project, including its limitations and challenges.
  • Envisioned Technology: A description of the team’s innovative solution, outlining how it builds upon or improves existing technology, as well as the scientific principles involved.
  • Breakthroughs Required: An analysis of the scientific breakthroughs or advancements necessary to realize the envisioned technology.
  • Design Process: A detailed explanation of the steps involved in designing and implementing the proposed solution, including any necessary research, development, and testing.
  • Consequences: A discussion of the potential positive and negative impacts of the proposed technology on society, the environment, and the economy.
  • Bibliography: A list of sources and references used in the development of the project.

Judging Criteria

The ExploraVision Awards employ a rigorous judging process to evaluate project proposals based on the following criteria:

  • Creativity: The originality and ingenuity of the proposed solution, as well as the team’s ability to think beyond traditional boundaries and imagine the future of technology.
  • Scientific Accuracy: The accuracy and feasibility of the scientific principles and concepts involved in the proposed solution.
  • Comprehensive Research: The depth and quality of the research conducted to support the project, including the use of reliable sources and references.
  • Clarity and Organization: The clarity and organization of the project proposal, including the presentation of ideas, writing style, and overall structure.
  • Potential Impact: The potential positive and negative consequences of the proposed technology on society, the environment, and the economy.

Awards and Recognition

The ExploraVision Awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of participating teams with various awards and prizes. The awards are divided into four age groups, with first and second-place winners selected for each group. The prizes include:

First-Place Prizes:

  • $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bonds (or equivalent) for each team member
  • A trip to Washington, D.C., for the team, coach, and a parent/guardian of each student for the ExploraVision Awards Weekend
  • Toshiba laptops for the team’s school
  • National recognition and media coverage

Second-Place Prizes:

  • $5,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bonds (or equivalent) for each team member
  • National recognition and media coverage

Regional Winners:


As we wrap up our exploration of the ExploraVision Awards, it’s clear that this competition has made a lasting impact on the lives of countless students, educators, and communities. By empowering young minds to dream big and tackle global challenges, the ExploraVision Awards continue to play a vital role in driving the advancement of science, technology, and human progress.

a male student sitting at a computer chair and looking at the camera

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