Jan 24, 2018

12 of the nation’s most prestigious science competitions for high school students

Each year, thousands of high school students across the country gain valuable hands-on laboratory and research experience by interning for a variety of academic, government and nonprofit organizations engaged in scientific research.

Locally, high school interns may be found in George Mason’s Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) or in one of the two Science & Engineering Apprenticeship Programs (SEAPs) sponsored by George Washington University, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy. They may also be found at NIST, NASA or one of many summer programs offered by the National Institutes of Health.

While they vary in terms of content and work experience, each of these internships supports opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Students meet and interact with scientists, learn lab skills, conduct research, and possibly publish their findings or patent their ideas.

In fact, some programs encourage students to present research at poster sessions or similar scientific forums where they gain self-confidence, improve writing skills, and potentially earn credentials important to colleges and universities as well as future employers.  They also lay the groundwork for undergraduate research assignments as well as admission to post graduate studies in medical schools or PhD programs.

And many young researchers turn their summer experiences into competitive science projects, vying for hundreds of thousands in scholarship dollars offered annually by organizations supporting the goals of STEM education.
Here are 12 of the more prestigious and well-respected competitions:
  1. AAN Neuroscience Research Prize. Students investigating problems concerning the brain or the nervous system are invited to compete for monetary prizes as well as all expenses paid trips to the AAN Annual Meeting, to present their work during a scientific poster session.
  2. Davidson Fellows. This prestigious scholarship annually awards up to $50,000 to students, 18 and under, who have completed a “significant” piece of work in one of eight categories including Engineering, Mathematics, Science, Literature, Music, Technology, Philosophy, and Outside the Box.
  3. Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge. Participants work in teams of 2 to 5 members to develop solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. Finalist teams compete for seed funding grants, investment opportunities, patent support, business services and scholarships.
  4. ExploraVision.  Jointly sponsored by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), ExploraVision encourages collaboration by restricting the competition to group projects.  Although all participants win gifts and discounts, the top four teams receive US Savings Bonds worth $10,000 for each student. 
  5. Google Science Fair. Beginning with online submissions, this competition invites young scientists from all over the world to compete for up to $50,000 in scholarships as well as a trip to the Galapagos Islands sponsored by National Geographic.  Finalists are invited to Google Headquarters to present their projects before expert judges.  To receive information on future competitions, sign-up on the Google Science Fair website.
  6. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The Intel ISEF is possibly the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, providing an annual forum for over 1,800 high school students from countries all over the world who compete for approximately $4 million in awards.  Competition begins at the high school level and culminates at the International Science and Engineering Fair, held each year in different cities around the country.
  7. International BioGENEius Challenge. This competition is designed to recognize outstanding research in biotechnology. Finalists showcase their talent and research before a prestigious panel of expert biotech judges and have the opportunity to win cash awards.
  8. Microsoft Imagine CupImagine Cup is a global competition for computer science students who team up to use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications and compete for cash, travel and prizes. Sign up on line to get notified when the 2018 season begins.
  9. MIT THINK Scholars Program.  The THINK Scholars program is an initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics by supporting and funding projects developed by high school students. Finalists receive all-expenses paid trips to MIT to attend XFair (MIT’s spring tech symposium) and winners receive up to $1000 to build their projects.  Additional scholarship prizes are also available.
  10. National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Individual students compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of their original research before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional scholarships as well as eight national top awards of up to $12,000 are among the prizes available.  Different regions/states run on different schedules.
  11. Regeneron Science Talent Search. The Regeneron Science Talent Search invites the nation’s best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists. Open only to high school seniors, 40 finalists are selected to come to Washington DC and compete for the top award of $250,000. This year’s competition will open on August 1, 2017. All applications will be due on November 15, 2017.
  12. Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology. Since 1999, the Siemens Foundation, has provided young scientists with opportunities to win scholarships ranging from $1000 to $100,000 for original research in team and individual categories.  This year’s competition is now underway and all competition materials must be received by September 19, 2017.
    This article originally appeared in Admissions Intel.

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