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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. To participate in the Governor's STEM Competition, students must qualify by winning regional competitions.

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 $500 stipend to build a prototype of their device or project.

The state competition will be held virtually in May 2021 and will feature teams of high school students from across Pennsylvania.

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 regional qualifying competition.

Month of January 2021
Deadline for teams to email their device/project proposal (Phase 1) and student permission forms to their respective IU. NOTE: The final submission date is January 31.

February 1, 2021 - February 26, 2021
Regional qualifying competitions are hosted by each of the IUs.  A regional winner will be selected and will be moving on to the state competition.

February 26, 2021
Deadline for all regional competitions to be completed.

April 24, 2021
Deadline for regional winners to submit their written proposal and prototype presentation.  Preliminary judging begins
May 6 or 7, 2021
State competition held virtually in Harrisburg, PA.

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 $500 stipend from their regional intermediate unit (IU) to cover the costs of materials for their project/prototype. Any team that drops out prior to the regional qualifying competition will be required to return the stipend in its entirety to their regional IU. 

How many students can enter on one team?
A team consists of up to five (5) students in grades 9-12. Please note that the members of the winning team at the regional qualifying competition must be the same members competing at the state competition in May.

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?

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.

At what level does Project in the Box take place?
Project in the Box only takes place at the Regional Qualifying Competition.  Due to COVID-19 events, this portion of the competition will be eliminated during the 20-21SY. 

If a team advances to the state competition in May, are they required to attend both days?
Teams are encouraged to attend both days to experience multiple STEM-based events and activities.  Due to COVID-19 events, this portion of the competition will be eliminated during the 20-21SY.  The state competition will be held virtually in May 2021.

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 regional qualifying 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 COVID-19 events, 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 $500 stipend for the regional level of 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. The same is required if your team moves on to the state competition, whereby you will receive an additional stipend to put towards upgrades and improvements of your device or prototype.  Due to COVID-19 events, donated materials might be difficult to obtain due to social distancing guidelines during the 20-21SY.

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 for use during a virtual competition.  Teams will be provided virtual competition guidelines once moving on to the virtual state competition that address a variety of presentation formats.   

Are remaining funds from the stipend able to be put towards the improvement phase as our team moves onto the finals?
Teams may put any unused money from the stipend towards the improvement phase. Please note that all regional qualifying competition winners will receive an additional stipend to put towards upgrades and improvements of their device or prototype prior to the state competition.

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: