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Academic Competitions

Sonoran Schools offers the following competitive program opportunities. Not all programs are offered at every school.


Science Olympiad

Science Olympiad is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education, increasing male, female and minority interest in science, creating a technologically-literate workforce and providing recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers. These goals are achieved by participating in Science Olympiad tournaments and non-competitive events, incorporating Science Olympiad into classroom curriculum, and attending teacher-training institutes.

National Science Bowl®

National Science Bowl® sponsored by The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is a nationwide academic competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science and mathematics. Middle and high school student teams from diverse backgrounds are comprised of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an advisor and coach. These teams face-off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format, being tested on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy, and math. The Department of Energy (DOE) created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. It is one of the nation’s largest science competitions.

Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF)

The mission of SARSEF, the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation, is to teach Southern Arizona’s K-12 students as they use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). This non-profit, founded in 1955, fulfills its mission by teaching the process of critical thinking and problem solving through scientific research, engineering design and technology advancements to students, teachers and
parents. SARSEF’s more recent focus as an organization is on ensuring the diversity of our community is reflected in STEM fields by targeting assistance to underrepresented populations (female and minority) in areas of poverty and rural communities.

Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF)

The Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF) is the state fair for Arizona. Managed by the Arizona Science Center, AzSEF brings together first-place winners from school, homeschool, district, county and regional science fairs across Arizona to compete for thousands of dollars in prizes and scholarships. The Grand Award winners in the Senior Division from the state-level fair are selected to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Robotics and Engineering

FIRST Robotics Competition

(FRC) is an international high school robotics competition. Each year, teams of high school students, coaches, and mentors work during a six-week period to
build game-playing robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg). Robots complete tasks such as scoring balls into goals, flying discs into goals, inner tubes onto racks, hanging on bars, and balancing robots on balance beams. The game changes yearly, keeping the excitement fresh and giving each team a more level playing field. While teams are given a standard set of parts, they are also allowed a budget and are encouraged to buy or make specialized parts. The FIRST Robotics Competition is one of four robotics competition programs organized by FIRST, the other three being FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, and the FIRST Tech Challenge.

FIRST Tech Challenge

(FTC) challenges teams to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles (like keeping an engineering notebook), while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. Teams must also fundraise, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach. Each season concludes with Super-Regional championships and an exciting FIRST Championship.


(FLL) has a team research a real-world problem such as food safety,
recycling, energy, etc., and the team is challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build, and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology, then compete on a tabletop playing field.

It all adds up to tons of fun while they learn to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM), plus a big dose of imagination, to solve a problem. Along their discovery journey, they develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic STEM applications, and even presentation skills, as they must present their solutions with a dash of creativity to judges. They also practice the program’s signature core values.


(FLL Jr.) is a non-competitive robotics program designed for children ages six to ten. It is one of the programs established by FIRST. FIRST LEGO League Jr. follows the same theme given to FIRST LEGO League.

Future City

Future City is a flexible, cross-curricular educational program that gives students an opportunity to do the things that engineers do—identify problems; brainstorm ideas; design solutions; test, retest, and build; and share their results. This process is called the engineering design process. With this at its center, Future City is an engaging way to build students’ 21st century skills.

Students participating in Future City:

  • Apply math and science concepts to real-world issues
  • Develop writing, public speaking, problem solving, and time management skills
  • Research and propose solutions to engineering challenges
  • Discover different types of engineering and explore careers options
  • Learn how their communities work and become better citizens
  • Develop strong time management and project management skills
VEX Robotics Competition

Vex Robotics Competition presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, tasks student teams with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game – based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more. Tournaments are held year – round at the regional, state, and national levels and culminate at the VEX Robotics World Championship each April.


    Kidstruction is a design/build competition among middle school students sponsored by the Southern Arizona Chapter of The Society of Design Administration (SACSDA). The event takes place at the end of September/start of October every year. Students and teachers start on the project in August. In order to compete, teams from Southern Arizona’s middle schools have to design and build futuristic structures based on an annual theme. The student entries have to be built using only business cards, toothpicks and glue and must fit on a 12″ x 12″ base.



      MATHCOUNTS is a nationwide middle school mathematics competition held in various places in the United States. Its founding sponsors include the CNA Foundation, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

      MATH League

      Math League offers a number of services focused on enhancing the quality and quantity of competitive mathematical opportunities available to students everywhere.

      MATH Kangaroo

      Math Kangaroo is an international mathematical competition with more than 50 countries represented. There are twelve levels of participation, ranging from grade 1 to grade 12. The competition is held annually on the third Thursday of March. It is the largest competition for school students in the world, with over 5,000,000 participants.

      The Noetic Learning Math Contest

      The Noetic Learning Math Contest is a semi-annual math problem-solving contest for elementary and middle school students. The goal of the competition is to encourage young students; interest in math, to develop their problem-solving skills, and to inspire them to excel in math. During the contest, students are given 45 minutes to solve 20 problems. Many problems are designed to challenge students and to enrich their problem-solving experiences. The contest is for students in grades 2-8.

      The Mathematical Association of America’s American Mathematics Competition

      The Mathematical Association of America’s American Mathematics Competition program leads the nation in strengthening the mathematical capabilities of the next generation ofproblem-solvers. Through classroom resources and friendly competition, the MAA AMC program helps America’s educators identify talent and foster a love of mathematics. The MAA AMC program positively influences the analytical skills needed for future careers in an innovative society. (AMC 8, AMC 10, and AMC 12)


      National History Day®(NHD)

      National History Day (NHD) is a non-profit education organization based in College Park, Maryland. NHD offers yearlong academic programs that engage over half a million middle- and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Since 1974, NHD has continuously improved history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators. The largest NHD program is the National History Day Contest that encourages more than half a million students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice. Students enter these projects at the local and affiliate levels, with top students advancing to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.

      English Language Arts

      Scripps National Spelling Bee

      Scripps National Spelling Bee (formerly the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and commonly called the National Spelling Bee) is an annual spelling bee held in the United States. The bee is run on a not-for-profit basis by The E. W. Scripps Company and is held at a hotel or convention center in Washington, D.C. during the week following Memorial Day weekend.

      Poetry Out Loud

      Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

      The National Shakespeare Competition

      The National Shakespeare Competition provides teachers across the country with a performance-based program for the study of English Language Arts and Shakespeare. It is a school-based program serving Grades 9-12. Through the competition, students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature. The competition has engaged more than 300,000 young people since its inception in 1983. Through the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, students:

      • Develop essential skills: critical thinking, close reading, and public speaking
      • Increase self-confidence through reading, analysis, and performance of Shakespeare
      • Explore the beauty of Shakespeare’s language and classic themes
      • Bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity
      • Meet local, state, and national standards in English Language Arts and Drama.

      Students read, analyze, perform, and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets in three qualifying stages: at the school, community, and national levels.


      Academic Decathlon

      Academic Decathlon is a scholastic competition for teams of high school students. Just like its ancient Greek counterpart, the Academic Decathlon® consists of ten events; success does not come from being the best in a single event, it comes from mastering ten varied skills and disciplines. Every Academic Decathlon competition, whether it is a regional, state or national final follows the same format. Students compete in art, economics, essay, interview, language & literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, and speech. Teams also compete in Super Quiz, the public quiz-show-style culmination of each competition. Each school enters a team of nine decathletes: three Honor (“A”) students, three Scholastic (“B”) students, and three Varsity (“C”) students.


      DECA is a not-for-profit career and technical student organization. It is organized into two unique student divisions each with programs designed to address the learning styles, interests, and focus of its members. The High School Division includes 215,000 members in 3,375 schools. The organization’s mission statement is to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. The four components of the organization’s Comprehensive Learning Program are that DECA integrates into classroom instruction, applies learning, connects to business, and promotes competition. DECA prepares the next generation to be academically prepared, community-oriented, professionally responsible, experienced leaders.

      Odyssey of the Mind

      Odyssey of the Mind, often called OM (although the official acronym is OotM), is a creative problem solving program involving students from kindergarten through college. Team members work together at length to solve a predefined long-term problem and present their solution to the problem at a competition. They must also participate in the spontaneous portion of the competition by generating solutions to a problem they have not seen before. While the long-term problem solution often takes many months to complete and involves various elements of theatrical performance, construction and design, the spontaneous portion occurs the day of the competition.

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