Science Competition Promotes K-12 Science Standards and Innovation

An "assistance rod" that acts as a "rescue pack" for baby sea turtles. An improved cochlear implant that allows its wearer to hear a wider range of frequencies. An environmentally-friendly food wrap that will change color when the food inside has spoiled or been contaminated. Those are some of the winning student entries from previous "ExploraVision" science competitions. This year's event will be open for registration from K-12 students until Feb. 8, 2018.

The ExploraVision program is put on by the National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba with a goal of encouraging students to learn more about STEM-related subjects. The competition pushes teams of two to four students to research scientific principles and technologies to come up with innovative ideas that could be created within 20 years to solve problems facing the world. Supported by a teacher and an optional mentor, students simulate the activities of scientific research to outline how they plan to execute their ideas and create mock websites to illustrate their concepts. An outcome is that teachers get the chance to immerse their students in the same practices found in the Next Generation Science Standards, including learning how to ask questions and define problems, plan and perform investigations and analyze and report on data.

The event was originally kicked off in 1992. Since then it has had the participation of 375,000 students in the United States and Canada, according to organizers.

In a blind judging projects will be evaluated on their creativity, scientific accuracy, communication and "feasibility of vision." Projects that are different from those that have won previously will receive higher scores.

The very top winners in each grade band (K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12) receive savings bonds worth $5,000 and $10,000 at maturity. Finalists will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C. next June for an awards weekend. At the more local level, participants will receive certificates and gifts. Coaches and mentors will also be honored with science-related gifts and possible expense-paid trips. The schools attended by students who become regional winners will each receive a Toshiba PC.

"Since its inception, the ExploraVision competition has served as a dynamic learning tool for educators, complementing national STEM education initiatives by encouraging participants to advance their problem solving and creative collaboration skills," said David Evans, executive director for NSTA, in a press release.

The ExploraVision website includes project-related resources for students and teachers as well as a list of previous winners and a registration link.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.