This is another guest contribution for The Science Celebration. I have been honored to bring such amazing information, resources, lessons, and just plain fun your way. This is a great resource for middle school science contests (plus a bonus contest information sheet you can grab). Thanks to Meryl from FundaFundaAcademy.com.
10 Science Competitions for Middle School Students (Friendly to Homeschoolers)
My weakest subject at school was science. I must confess I am a humanities girl BUT somehow for the past 10+ years, a disproportionate amount of my time has been spent coaching my own children and many other children to compete in science contests.
You can get this list and a lot more by grabbing the Science Celebration Yearbook 2017. Enter your name and email and I will send it straight to your inbox.
Why science competitions?
Science is a subject that should be ‘done’ and ‘explored’ and contests give students a chance to do just that. They force students out of the textbooks and into the real world. I have watched my own children, as well as many other students, “get” why science is important. And then some of them decide on some field of science for their career.
The peer pressure of a team, the hope of an award, the challenge of the material are just some of the reasons I have seen students spend more time and go deeper in whatever the contest is about than they would in a usual lesson. Contests stretch students and take them to mental (and sometimes physical) places they probably wouldn’t go without an incentive!
Here are 10 Science Contests for middle schoolers – homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers – everyone can participate in these contests! ( Some of these contests are for older and younger students too!)
This is my favorite of all the contests! Teams of up to 15 students participate in 23 different events – some are lab events, some are study/written tests and some are building events. The events cover a wide range of scientific subjects which makes it the perfect contest for anyone. Even those who aren’t very interested in science can usually find something that excites them.
This year some of the options were Crime Busters (Forensics), Bottle Rockets, Hovercraft, Disease Detectives, Road Scholar (map work) and Wind Power.
Students compete with a partner which makes it more fun and less stressful. To cover all 23 events students usually compete in 2 – 5 events.
This contest does require students to study, practice and build for a few months before the contest if they hope to achieve medals. Top teams in each region move on to the state contest and the winning team there goes to the national contest.
2. Science Bowl
Teams of 4 buzz in to answer questions from any scientific discipline. Look for a regional contest near year and then practice together as much as you can. There are practice questions on the website. This is a fun contest for those not scared to use their buzzers!
The Young Scientist Challenge is an individual contest where students need to identify a problem that has no existing solution. Then they need to putting their thinking caps on and come up with an innovation that solves the problem. Finally, they have to create a video to explain both the problem and their solution – and the science behind it. This photo is of Sofia Tomov, one of the students from our homeschool group who was one of the 10 national finalists this past year! You can watch her video here.
First Lego League is another contest that students who may not love science can enjoy participating in. Teams of up to 10 students work together in a very multi-faceted competition. One part of the contest involves building and programming a robot to do a number of tasks. The other part of the contest involves researching a topic, identifying a problem and coming up with a solution. This past year the theme was “Animal Allies”. Teams were challenged to find ways to improves the lives of animals – and in turn to improve our lives. The teach I coach chose to create a bee-friendly garden and to teach others how to do that and why it is important.
The actual competition involves 4 different parts:
- The robot design interview where teams have to explain why they built the robot the way they did
- The robot challenge – the team scores points based on how many challenges are completed.
- The Core Values interview. FLL identifies 7 core values including things like teamwork and in this 10-minute interview, the judges want to see how much the team has incorporated the core values into their project.
- The Project Presentation allows the students to be creative in explaining their project to the judges. My team performed a skit with talking bees and flowers!
I love this contest as it teaches teamwork, research, presentation skills, programming, design and so much more!
5. Science Fairs
Science Fairs allow a student to select a topic they find interesting and formulate a hypothesis to test. They use the scientific method to do their research and at the end create a presentation on what they have learned.
This contest requires students to research what technology is used today and then dream of what the future may look like. Students work in teams of 2-4 and need to really get to grips with understanding the current technology in order to be able to predict what this will look like in 20 years. Their research must be written up and 5 sample web pages created.
Although the contest is on the Engineer Girl website – both girls AND boys can enter!. Students have to write an essay on how safety, health, well-being and environmental sustainability can be improved for a technology selected by the student. This helps students understand some of the issues engineers have to consider when developing technologies.You can read Sofia’s essay that earned her second place in 2015 here.
This is a project based contest for a team of up to 7 students. The team selects an open-ended challenge from a number of different areas – three of which are Technical, Scientific and Engineering. This is a very student-driven contest – adults have to step back and let the students think outside the box, be innovative and creative and come up with a solution for the challenge. Once they have, they need to create a skit to explain it. The contest is designed to teach the creative process.
eCybermission is for teams of 3-4 students from the same grade. Their first task is to select a mission from the following:
- Alternative Sources of Energy
- Food, Health & Fitness
- Forces & Motion
- National Security & Safety
The next step is to hypothesize, experiment, test, and research to find a solution. Finally, students must complete the Mission Folder and submit it online.
Students can enter as individuals or as teams with up to 4 members. Any platform can be used to create the game – Gamestar Mechanic, Unity, GameMaker, and Scratch etc. Students can also choose to submit a Game Design Document instead of a playable game. This contest is trying to encourage students’ interest in STEM by getting them to program and not just play games. Creating games teaches computational thinking and problem-solving.
Meryl van der Merwe coaches homeschool Science Olympiad teams that consistently place in the top 3 in Tennessee. She also teaches online homeschool classes at FundaFundaAcademy.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.