STEM Competitions and Clubs for Tweens (and Teens)

STEM clubs and competitions for tweens and teens
One of many STEM clubs for tweens

When my oldest was in first grade, he was very upset because, in his words, “there’s no science!” at school. I calmly tried to explain that documenting the life of a pumpkin from seed to fruit was, indeed, science, but he wouldn’t hear it. He wanted drama and, if possible, explosions. So we started the Potion Club. We met after school once a month with a small group of curious friends to explore exciting concepts like non-Newtonian fluids (i.e., Oobleck) and static electricity.

A few years and a couple of schools later he was involved in Science Olympiad, one of the many competitive and educational STEM clubs available to tweens.

Kids with a natural curiosity and inherent love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) might want more than a typical grade school classroom provides. Maybe they want to go beyond the curriculum. Or maybe a focus on rote memorization and prepping for state tests has taken the fun on out STEM.

STEM Competitions and Clubs can spark their love

Just hanging with peers who think STEM is cool can go a long way in supporting a geeky kid in our sports-obsessed society. And the added layer of competition can help kids focus and try to be their best.

Below are national and international organizations that work with youth nationwide and though some of them work with teens, you can create an unofficial feeder group for tweens. If you’re not in a position to open up your own home to a group, connect with a local school, library or parks facility to see if they’d be willing to host your group.

Destination Imagination

Students hone their team work and creative problem solving skills as they join together to solve open -ended challenges and present their ideas at tournaments.

First LEGO League

Based on the idea that it should be exciting to watch a science competition, this program for 9-14 year olds in North America (up to 16 elsewhere) involves kids in robotics.

Future Problem Solvers

With a mission to “develop the ability of young people globally to design and promote positive futures using critical, creative thinking,” this program is more exciting than it may sound.

Odyssey of the Mind

Another even that focus on finding creative solutions to challenges, but this one is a bit different in that some challenges require students to invent and build and other require them to script and act.

Science Olympiad

This school year will be our family’s fourth involved in Science Olympiad, which at my boys’ school relies heavily on parent involvement (call me Coach Kim!). Students compete in a variety of events, some of which focus heavily on building and others which focus more on learning facts. Our kids love that their participation earns them a spot at the state competition.

Do you have experience with these or STEM clubs or competitions? How have your kids have grown through their involvement?

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  1. Dana says

    My spouse and I are mentors to my son’s ExploraVision team this year. It’s the first year we’ve done it, and we’re only getting started, but I’ll try to post about it on my blog when we’re further down the road. The competition “encourages K – 12 students to imagine what technology might be like in the future.” Students “study a technology of interest and predict what that technology might be like 20 years from now. Teams will explore what is necessary to make their visions a reality.”So far, we’re having fun!

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