Bring Future Engineers’ Challenges to Your Classroom or After-School Program


Free Online STEM Contests & Challenges for K-12 Students
with Supporting Materials and Resources for Educators, Students, and Parents

Future Engineers came onto my radar a few years ago when I learned about their free STEM innovation contests and challenges for students. The contests range from design to writing challenges, and I like them because they’re fun and hands-on and include relatable topics that resonate with kids! 

What I didn’t know is that previous Future Engineers competitions have produced some historic achievements, including naming NASA’s Perseverance Rover and manufacturing the first student-designed 3D print in space. More recent challenges include NASA TechRise, where students get hands-on experience developing experiments for NASA-sponsored test flights. The newest Invention Challenge asked students to design a toy for a cat or dog they hope to see on store shelves one day. The list goes on! Other examples include NASA Power to Explore, Battelle Climate, and Future Creatures challenges.

Future Engineers genuinely loves student challenges and sharing these opportunities with their vibrant community of students, educators, and volunteer judges. I feel the same way and have shared their previous contests in BostonTechMom articles. Their website is easy to navigate, and their challenges are well-designed, with clear instructions, design guidelines, and supporting materials. I also love how they display student entries on their website! In this article, I am excited to tell you how teachers and students can participate in future challenges.

A student from Phillips Academy IB School, Birmingham, AL, solders components for their team’s NASA TechRise 2023-24 experiment.

What is Future Engineers?

CEO/Founder and engineer Deanne Bell founded Future Engineers in 2014 to inspire and empower students to innovate. Her vision was to reach students nationwide using a virtual platform that offers free, equitable access to STEM/STEAM challenges that foster a mindset of creativity and critical thinking. 

Deanne told me, “It has been especially exciting to know that many of our challenge participants and winners have gone on to pursue careers in STEM, but it goes beyond that. I’m steadfast in my passion to inspire students of all backgrounds with the skills and mindset to turn any idea into a reality.”

A Challenge Out There for Everyone

Future Engineers hosts several exciting challenges each school year that spark students’ imaginations and encourage them to engage with STEM/STEAM. Deanne shared that they are honored to have a long history of collaborating with NASA. In fact, the most popular challenges on their platform have historically been the NASA challenges. NASA’s Mars 2020 “Name the Rover” challenge received 28,000 entries, and a community of 4,700 judges reviewed those entries to help select the rover’s name “Perseverance,” and as an additional surprise and delight resulted in helping name the helicopter “Ingenuity.”

Deanne explained, “I am a firm believer that there is a challenge out there for everyone. We all have different interests and influences. That’s why we are committed to providing a variety of challenges—from designing 3D-printed pins for US veterans to proposing climate actions for your community to developing experiments that launch to the stratosphere.” 

Available to Educators, Librarians, and Other Adult Leaders

No prior experience is needed to do a challenge. The challenge web page provides everything a teacher needs to know to have their class participate. While most entries are associated with school classrooms, the organization is seeing a growing interest from libraries, especially with the recent NASA Power to Explore student writing challenge. For informal education settings, Future Engineers provides printable worksheets for educators to facilitate the challenge in their respective museums, libraries, or after-school programs. 

Educator Registration Details

Go to Future Engineers and sign up as a teacher. Your teacher dashboard is your headquarters for managing student entries. On the dashboard, you can import Google Classrooms or manually create class rosters to set up your class(es). Students will be able to submit entries for any challenge added to their class. Each challenge site has instructions, education resources, brainstorming topics, and more to help students develop and submit an entry, and everyone who submits will receive a downloadable participation certificate. 

Students Can Participate on Their Own

Students can work independently on a project at home; no prior experience is necessary to work on a challenge. The challenge web page has everything a student needs to know, including slide decks, lesson plans, videos, or worksheets. Future Engineers also provides a suite of brainstorming topics to inspire students with possible ideas to consider as they work through their design process. For example, this year’s Power to Explore challenge asked students to write about a space destination they want to explore using RPS, a type of nuclear battery. The brainstorming topics included flybys, orbits, roves, and other ways to explore a space destination. The brainstorming topics always have a “You Choose” option because there are so many ideas that students come up with that Future Engineers never imagined. Students register here

“The creative ability to hatch an idea on a napkin combined with the analytical skillset to ask the right questions, find the right answers, and turn that idea into a reality is incredibly empowering. Whether a student ultimately works in tech or not, our mission is to build a student’s confidence to dream big and solve any challenge they may face.” 

– Deanne Bell, CEO/Founder Future Engineers

Mark Your Calendars! NASA TechRise Student Challenge  Launches in August.

The popular NASA TechRise Student Challenge is expected to open in August 2024 for its fourth season. Fill out the interest form to be notified when the challenge opens, and sign up for the newsletter to get updates on all future news.

Photo credit: Shawn Hurley

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