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STEM Education in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) defines STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as an integrated, interdisciplinary, and student-centered approach to learning that encourages curiosity, creativity, artistic expression, collaboration, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and design thinking. 

STEM learning in Pennsylvania is built on the following foundational beliefs:

  • All students are capable of STEM literacy;
  • Iteration and reflection are an important part of the STEM learning process;
  • STEM education transcends the classroom walls, integrating into the community;
  • STEM education success depends upon the partnership between educators, students, families, postsecondary providers, local officials, business and industry.

Learn more about STEM in Pennsylvania.

What is the Governor's STEM Competition?

Some of the most technologically diverse and scientifically sophisticated businesses and organizations in the world call Pennsylvania home, and they need highly-skilled employees to fulfill careers based in STEM.

Expanding and enhancing STEM learning for students (our future workforce) has been a top priority of the Wolf administration. The Governor's STEM Competition creates opportunities for students to take the STEM skills they've learned in the classroom and put them to use on real-world projects, creating invaluable experiences that can support them as they continue their education or begin a career after graduation.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) facilitates the annual competition on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf. For the 2020-21 school year, all registered teams will advance to the state competition in April of 2021.

Working with their community, students are required to research, develop, and present a device or project that can improve the lives of Pennsylvanians and accomplish a series of practical tasks that can fulfill real-world needs.

The competition is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend a public, charter, or private school, a career and technical education center, or a student being homeschooled in Pennsylvania.

Teams can include up to five students and they must work under the guidance of an approved mentor.

Each team is provided with a one-time $600 stipend to build a prototype of their device or project.

Important Dates to Remember

September 14, 2020
Registration opens.

November 20, 2020
Deadline for teacher advisor to register via the competition website, make commitment for school's participation, and submit information on students/team members for the competition.

November 21, 2020 through April 9, 2021
Teams will be working on both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the competition. These phases include the written proposal and device/prototype presentation. If you are unsure of the options offered to your team, please see the virtual presentation options sent out to advisors in December. If there are questions for the STEM team, please email pastemcomp@gmail.comPhase 1 and 2 components will be due no later than Friday, April 9 at 9:00pm.

Submit your Phase 1 and 2 components.

April 11, 2021 - April 17, 2021
Judges will be reviewing and scoring team projects using Phase 1 and 2 components submitted by 9:00pm on April 9. The judges will be placed in regional groups by division and will be given a random group of projects to view and score. The top project from each group of judges will be selected based on the scoring rubric provided to advisors back in December.  

April 17,2021
The top teams (one team from each set of judges) will be notified that their project will advance to the final round of judging, starting on April 19. The remaining teams that did not place in the top four teams will be notified accordingly.  

Note: Three special awards have been developed to honor contributions made to the Commonwealth that will impact the medical, sustainability, and survivability needs of all citizens of Pennsylvania. Each project has been placed into one of three categories (medical, sustainability, survivability) based on their project description submitted to the STEM team. The three teams will be notified that their project has been awarded one of these category awards on April 23.  

April 19, 2021 - April 22, 2021
The top projects in each region per division that are advancing to final judging will be viewed and scored by all state competition judges.  These projects will be given the title of Grand Champion (1st place), First Runner Up (2nd place), and Second Runner Up (3rd place).

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to participate?
The competition is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend a public, charter, or private school, a career and technical education center, or a student being homeschooled in Pennsylvania.

Does the Governor's STEM Competition cost anything to enter?
No. Registered teams will receive a one-time $600 to cover the costs of materials for their project/prototype. Any team that drops out prior to the competition will be required to return the stipend in its entirety. For more information, please visit the funding page.

How many students can enter on one team?
A team consists of up to five (5) students in grades 9-12.

Can my home-schooled student(s) be on a team?
Yes. Please contact your regional intermediate unit for more information.   

Do team members have to be from the same school?
Yes.

How do I know when submissions/deadlines are due and approaching?
Please view the "Important Dates to Remember" section of this page.

How do I know what Intermediate Unit (IU) region I am part of?
There are 29 Intermediate Units operating across Pennsylvania. View a map of IU locations by region across Pennsylvania.

My team's project is currently under patent regulations. Can our team participate in the competition?
Yes. We are aware of the boundaries related to intellectual property. While we certainly understand that there are opportunities for certain projects/prototypes to be under patent review, please note that you might be asked questions by the judges you may be unable to answer. In this case, please notify and send appropriate documentation to the IU competition coordinator prior to the competition.

Are teams required to partner with a local business, higher education institution, or community organization?
Yes. Part of the development, research, testing, and iteration of your device/prototype requires a local business, higher education institution, or community organization connection to be made. Due to recent mandates, teams are encouraged to work virtually in a mentorship capacity with any of these organizations in an effort to maintain proper social distancing.

What happens if our local business we partner with offers to subsidize beyond the stipend? What if our local business donates materials to our device/prototype?
Your team is required to remain within the $600 stipend for the competition. If your team should receive any donated materials, the cost(s) of the materials must be noted in your budget summary and deducted from the stipend.

Are we required to provide a multimedia presentation (i.e., video journal) of our journey through this process?
It is highly recommended that each team documents their journey throughout the development of their project or prototype using multimedia platforms/devices. Teams will be provided virtual competition guidelines that address a variety of presentation formats.

Are remaining funds from the stipend required to be returned after the competition is over?
Teams may put any unused money from the stipend towards enhancement of their school district’s STEM and/or Computer Science programs.

Should our team include references when submitting our written proposal at either the regional qualifying competition or state competition?
Yes. Please note that due to the nature of the content you will be researching and presenting, we highly encourage all teams to follow APA formatting. Visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab for help on formatting and style.

Are remote controls permitted to operate the device?
Mechanisms should be primarily autonomous. Remote control is permitted to initiate a command, but not control the function of a task.

Does our project/proposal need to be an original concept?
Yes. Look at programs from prior competitions to learn more about and reference the student projects: