4 Reasons to Enter the Young Scientist Challenge

Kim Moldofsky is the publisher of The Maker Mom and STEM Kids Chicago.

The entry period for the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge closes on April 19. Two weeks is a substantial span for a typical middle school student, so there’s still plenty of time to enter and many compelling reasons to do so.

Why Enter the Young Scientist Challenge?


No broken bones

Although broken limbs aren’t contagious, a look at my Facebook stream makes me think otherwise. A large number of friends have recently shared reports (and cringeworthy photos and x-rays) of their children’s broken bones. A twisted wrist from gymnastics here, a broken ankle from basketball there… I’m not aware of any child who has wound up in a cast as a result of their participation in the Young Scientist Challenge!

Inexpensive protective gear

Safety goggles, and perhaps a lab coat, gloves and close-toed shoes, are the only protective gear needed in most science experiments. Granted, goggles may look a bit goofy, but as the mom of a child who quit playing soccer when he was required to wear a athletic cup, I can assure you goggles are are less awkward to wear than the protective gear required in many sports. And way less expensive, too.

All it takes is an idea

Safety gear aside, all a child needs to capture the judges’ attention is a solid idea that is presented effectively in a one- to two-minute video. Every child in grades 5-8 has what it takes to submit an entry: at least one good idea. Students should not be intimidated by lack of resources or the fact that they haven’t found the perfect solution or made a fully functional prototype. Remember, the chance to work with a 3M mentor to build on their submission is part of the prize. Finalists receive physical resources, intellectual capital and support as they work to become America's Top Young Scientist.

Opens the door to opportunity

You may have heard that being named America’s Top Young Scientist opens some pretty exciting doors, like the ones that lead to the White House, not to mention national press coverage and television appearances. Finalists go on to do great things, too. For example, 2011 finalist, Jack Andraka, went on to win the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2012. But even if students don’t achieve finalist status, the mere act of entering can spark a new or deeper interest in science and make them more aware of how much a kid their age can accomplish. Plus, if a student enters as a 5th grader, they have several years to continue their research or delve into new topics.

The barrier to entry is very low, the potential rewards are many, and the clock is ticking. Encourage your students to enter today!

Follow @3M and @DiscoveryEd on Twitter and ask questions or share tips about creating an entry video using #Young Scientist.