Top Science Competitions

More than 9 million students from K through 12th grade participate in school science fairs every year in the United States.  A small percentage of them advance to other levels of competition.  From the school and district level, they may continue on to a regional or state fair.  Winners at the regional and state level are invited to the most prestigious competitions.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) is the world’s largest pre-collegiate science competition.  For generations, this fair has inspired thousands of science students.  The Intel ISEF alumni, more than 100,000 persons, include winners of Noble prizes, National Medals of Science and other science awards.  The Intel ISEF is the Super Bowel, World Series and Olympics of science competitions.

This fair brings together more than 1200 scientists, engineers and professionals from many different industries who volunteer their time as judges.  All of these people must have a Ph.D and at least eight years of experience judging science fairs. Each year, more than 1600 students, grades 9-12, from around the world meet to go after a $50,000 scholarship top prize. In addition to the grand prize, there are numerous other scholarships, monetary awards, grants, and trips.  The top two students are invited to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.

Intel also hosts the oldest and most prestigious science competition, the Intel Science Talent Search for U.S. high school seniors.  Every student participating in the Intel Science Talent Search receives some monetary award, with the top prize being a $100,000 scholarship.  Taking part in this competition can affect the direction of your life. It has been reported that 95% of finalists have a career in some field of science. Many alumni become research scientists or university professors. 

Another industry sponsors the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for U.S. high school seniors who have a chance to win a $100,000 scholarship. 

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) offers another competition for U.S. students in grades 9-12.  As with the previous competitions, students submit a written research paper and an oral presentation.

The sanofi-aventis International BioGENEius Challenge recognizes high school students who have excelled in biotechnology research.

Discovery Communications began a competition in 1999 for younger students in grades 5 through 8.  Now, in a cooperative venture with 3M Corporation, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge continues to encorage the work of young scientists in middle schools. 

The rules for each of these competitions can be found at the sponsoring organizations’ websites.  Each science fair at advanced levels has different expectations and standards, however, they all encourage excellence in science and the participants gain a wealth of experience simply from participating.