Nearly 400 middle and high school students from across the nation competed in the 10th annual National STEM League (NSL) finals competition April 29-30. This year, the event, sponsored by the Dean of Students Office at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was held in the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center (Armory).

The Student Racing Challenge is the flagship series in the National STEM League, a program of TEN80 Education. Through it, students “own” a motorsports business. The ultimate goal is to engineer performance: personal performance, team performance, and, of course, race performance.

During the two-day event, more than 30 middle and high school teams competed for the Grand Championship. Students put their innovation skills to the test in Student Racing and Student Rover Challenge competitions. The finals were the culmination of yearlong programs in which students were challenged to think innovatively about how engineering performance and emerging technologies can improve personal, academic, and professional pursuits.

“We are excited to host this year’s 10th annual National STEM League finals event,” said Cynthia Smith ’96, assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships, who worked to coordinate hosting the event on the Rensselaer campus. “As America’s first technological research university, we continue to offer students an interactive, interdisciplinary education—and a chance to be among the forces shaping the 21st century. Ten80 is a team of education and STEM professionals who saw the need for a more integrated, interactive way of teaching science and mathematics back in the 1990s. By sponsoring this year’s event, we are creating an opportunity to excite the next generation of students to pursue a career in STEM.”

“We are extremely excited to hold the National STEM League finals here in upstate New York,” said Terri Stripling, CEO and president of Ten80 Education. “STEM competencies and skills are key to helping students prepare to lead and thrive in our global economy. In preparing for events such as this one, students are encouraged to experiment with concepts learned in the classroom. Through working as a team and applying those concepts in different ways, seemingly disconnected ‘dots’ of knowledge connect to one another, ultimately creating a mosaic that is true discovery and deep understanding about how things work and how to work together.”

While at Rensselaer, students had an opportunity to tour the campus, engage in a skills workshop, and attend an opening banquet ceremony. The following day they took part in a fast-paced series of competitions. During the competitions, students are judged for their work in numerous categories, including: project management, business plan presentations, race engineering, aerodynamic design, alternative energy, creative engineering, and graphic design. Following the competition, teams were recognized in an awards ceremony to celebrate their achievements.

Students who are involved in competitive Racing and Rover Challenges develop skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), according to Ten80 organizers. They also practice communicating and collaborating as a team while using creativity and critical thinking to problem solve. Since its inception, the NSL has been engaging the imagination to pursue the STEM disciplines and the innovative spirit to turn ideas into realities.