Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Science Competition for Middle School Students: $25,000 Prize

A dad friend encouraged me to sign my daughter up for an afterschool elementary school class called Wicked Cool Science. He was a high school science teacher and had a son and daughter of his own.

“If you don’t get your daughter’s interested in science before middle school,” he warned, “They will turn their backs on science permanently.”

That’s alarming. So I looked into this connection.

Many young students, particularly girls, see math and science as difficult, and don’t take any more classes than they have to, not realizing they are cutting themselves off from lucrative opportunities in college and careers.

“The relationship between confidence and interest is close,” says Fouad. “If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest.”

From Science Daily

But how to teach kids — especially girls — that science and engineering is an amazing outlet for creativity and innovation?! How do you ignite not just interest, but passion?

I think the answer might be in self discovery … and the path to that might be a science competition. Oh sure, the initial hook might be this gigantic prize of $25,000 which can buy the winner a car, but the road to a possible car might also be a journey that they happily embark on for a lifetime.

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge hosts a premier science competition for middle school students. They are also concerned about tween/teen students’ interests waning in science as the push and pull of middle school life throws a constant stream of curveballs. Kids are in the midst of trying out different identities in the search to find themselves and that science with its implication of nerdiness might not be at the top of the list.

So they’ve sweetened the pot:

  • The winner will receive $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
  • The ten finalists will get help from a 3M scientist through a summer mentorship program to work on their ideas.
  • The ten finalists will all receive expense-paid trips to Minneapolis to present their innovations.

And did you know?

  • Past winners have gone on to meet the President of the United States, participate in the White House Science Fair, and pursue academic careers in the sciences!

They’ve also made it fun to apply. Middle school students create a short video (one to two minutes) about their project. They just need to identify an everyday problem, come up with a possible solution, and talk about the science behind that solution. That’s not so bad, right?

Based on the videos, ten finalists will be selected to work with an actual 3M scientist during a summer mentorship program. The results will be presented to a panel of judges for the final presentation in St. Paul, Minneapolis in October. For some kids, a trip to Minneapolis might also be a draw!

Discovery Education and 3M have named 11-year-old Peyton Robertson from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. winner of the 2013 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his innovative sandbag design. 

Do you find that your kids need to be encouraged to find science and math exciting? Mine do. But there are enough facets to this science competition that will entice them to at least think about the possibilities… It could be a problem they think of that they want to solve. It could be the possibility of a new car when they one day learn to drive. Or it could be that $25,000! That would buy a lot of stuff!

I hope you will show your kids the video and see if they might want to shoot a short video off their smart phones. There’s nothing to lose and whole lot to gain! Best of luck to all the kids who throw their hat into the ring!!

3M is the recognized world leader in innovation. Discovery Education is a leading provider of curriculum-based digital content for the classroom. You can find them on Twitter @DE3MYSC and Facebook. I am proud to be part of the 2014 Blog Ambassador program for Discovery Education and 3M. 

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Science Fun on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Contest like this one are certainly a step in the right direction for motivating a student’s interest in science at an early age.

    • Hi Barbara,
      I agree and I love how they make this one easy to enter. You don’t actually have to have a science project completed. You just need an idea and can shoot a quick video with your concept. And, in case you don’t have parents who are scientists or doctors who likely advise their kids, you get an actual 3M scientist to help you if you make the finals! That’s a wonderful support to kids who have great ideas but might now have the resources to know how to proceed! I hope a lot of kids will give this a shot!!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Twitter Tips and how I got 55,000 followersMy Profile

  2. Very cool! Hopefully my kids can do this once they are in middle school.
    maryanne recently posted…Learning to Read With BOB BooksMy Profile

  3. For my children Science Olympiad has been the science competition that has sparked the lifelong love of science. Science Olympiad has 23 events which need to be covered by a 15 student team so they get to do a number of different things. Last year my 13 year old daughter ended up on the Mousetrap Vehicle event. She complained and struggled but ended up winning at Regionals and placing at State and is now seriously contemplating being a mechanical engineer one day!

  4. This is a great idea, especially for kids who are competition oriented. For me, my mom put us in science programs in the summer and throughout the school year. It was the constant exposure.

    My sister is making A TON of money in IT – and I am blogging. Oh well, at least one of us got it right. 🙂
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…April Homeschool Blog Carnival Call for Submissions – Topic: Homeschool MythconceptionsMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa,
      I love that this science competition is really just the idea and the finalists get support from a scientist to really refine their idea. I hope homeschoolers will be interested! The prize money is very enticing.

      It’s too bad that we bloggers don’t make much $. We still have to learn a lot of technical and SEO skills to do our jobs. You might want to consider running social media for clients in addition to blogging. You certainly have a lot of experience doing that and it’s actually a highly valued skill!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Meet the Editor Behind The Real Boy by Anne UrsuMy Profile

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