Online-Based Program

Competitions


Challenge Descriptions


Scratch Programming Challenge (Elementary Only)

Material Costs: $0

Scratch, a free software language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a great way for students to be introduced to computer programming. Scratch makes it easy for students to create and share interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art via the Scratch website. By creating Scratch projects, students learn important problem-solving skills and are exposed to higher-level mathematics, which will foster a deeper understanding of the programming process. Each team will develop a multilevel game related to “Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future.” Training for coaches is available ($25).

Theme for 2019–2020: Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

Challenge Components: The heart of this engaging challenge is the interactive video game that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just coding. Teams will submit multiple products, all designed to show off their hard work and creativity. Each component allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Game Design and Code: Students are encouraged to be as creative and imaginative as possible when creating their game. Games should give users the look and feel of a true commercially styled video game that kids want to play at home!
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing their game and the design process. This presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Narrated Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel virtual display board in PowerPoint. The team will also record a voice-over providing additional information.

Scoring: All entries will be submitted electronically in February. Projects will be scored by teams of APL staff. Results of the competition will be announced at the in-person awards ceremony in March.

Competition rules and requirements will be distributed to teams accepted into the MD MESA Online Competition Program.


Storybook Theme-Park Ride Challenge (Elementary Only)

Material Costs: $0

Students learn the engineering design process and some basic physics while exercising their creativity in this design-and-build challenge. Student teams design and make a functional model of a theme-park ride based on a storybook of the team’s choosing. The ride must be designed to safely carry four “passengers” (one marble [9/16-inch diameter], two ping-pong balls, and one golf ball) through two consecutive test runs.

Theme for 2019–2020: Students will draw inspiration from a favorite book to select the theme for their amusement-park ride.

Challenge Components: While the heart of this engaging challenge is the functional model of an amusement-park ride that students design and create, there is much more to this project. In addition to the model, teams will also create a video presentation and an electronic display board. Each component of the competition is designed to show off the team’s hard work, ingenuity, and creativity in a different way!

  • Design and Construction: Entries will be scored on the design, construction, and function of the working model. The ride must be designed to safely carry four “passengers” (one marble, two ping-pong balls, and one golf ball) through two consecutive test runs. The ride must be made primarily of repurposed and upcycled materials.
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing the amusement-park ride and the design process. The presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. During the presentation, students will also demonstrate that their ride can safely carry the passengers. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Narrated Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel virtual display board in PowerPoint. The team will also record a voice-over providing additional information.

Scoring: All entries will be submitted electronically in February. Projects will be scored by teams of APL staff. Results of the competition will be announced at the in-person awards ceremony in March.

Competition rules and requirements will be distributed to teams accepted into the MD MESA Online Competition Program.


Alice Programming (Middle School Only)

Material Costs: $0

Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy and fun for students to learn the fundamentals of object-oriented programming through the creation of animations and simple video games. Designed as an introductory teaching tool, Alice uses 3D graphics and a “drag-and-drop” feature for an engaging programming experience. Teams will develop interactive games that are fun, educational, and creative using the Alice 3 (v3.4) programming software. Each team will develop a multilevel game related to “Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future.” Training for coaches is available ($25).

Theme for 2019–2020: Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

Challenge Components: The primary focus of this engaging challenge is the interactive video game that students design and create. However, there is much more to this challenge than just coding an electronic adventure. Teams will submit several products, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing the game. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Game Design and Code: Students are encouraged to be as creative and imaginative as possible when creating their three-dimensional worlds in Alice. Games should give users the look and feel of a true commercially styled video game that kids want to play at home!
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation describing their game and the design process. This presentation provides judges with insight into each team’s approach to developing a solution to the challenge. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity!
  • Narrated Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel virtual display board in PowerPoint. The team will also record a voice-over providing additional information.

Scoring: All entries will be submitted electronically in February. Projects will be scored by teams of APL staff. Results of the competition will be announced at the in-person awards ceremony in March.

Competition rules and requirements will be distributed to teams accepted into the MD MESA Online Competition Program.


National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) Challenge (Middle and High School Only)

Approximate Material Costs: $100

NEDC is an Arduino-based challenge where students are asked to develop solutions for people using the human-centered design (people-focused) approach. Students identify a client in their community who has a need, engineer a solution for this need using Arduino as the key component, and present the solution and recommendation(s) for next steps.

While teams are encouraged to identify a client in their community, they may alternatively focus on a broad area of need (for example, agriculture, physical disabilities) or choose one of two fictitious clients provided by Maryland MESA. The two (fictitious) clients are Disaster Action Network, a nonprofit organization looking for solutions to aid those affected by natural disasters, and Device Security Solutions, a small start-up interested in solutions to reduce mobile device theft. Training for coaches is available ($25).

Theme for 2019–2020: Arduino-Based Solutions

Challenge Components: The components listed below will be used to assess the effective implementation of a human-centered design approach, effective implementation of the engineering design process, functionality of the prototype, and successful integration of Arduino as the main component of the prototype. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Technical Presentation: The objective is to provide an overview of the prototype functionality, including a technical explanation of the mechanical operations and software operations and integration of the two. Students will deliver a video-recorded presentation and demonstration of the functionality of the prototype.
  • Electronic Poster: The objective is to provide an overview of the project, highlight key points of the design process, showcase relevant data, present the prototype, and share conclusions and recommendations for further development. Students will prepare an electronic academic poster that will provide an easily understood overview of the project and the prototype. The poster will also be used during the technical presentation.
  • Project Report: The objective is to provide an overview of the design process and demonstrate the team’s effective use of the engineering design process. Students will write a report (5–10 pages) that contains their problem statement, summary of the design process, results, conclusion, and next steps supported by pictures, charts, tables, and/or graphs. The report should be a journey through the design process, demonstrating key points of the process and offering justifications for design choices. The report will have an appendix containing the commented Arduino code and detailed budget.
  • Prototype Pitch: The objective is to convince investors or management that the design meets the client’s needs, is superior to other options available, and has business value as a product. Students will video-record a creative, engaging presentation to pitch their prototype. The presentation should define the problem, provide a detailed description of the client and the client’s needs, discuss current solutions to the problem and their weaknesses, provide a demonstration of the prototype highlighting its advantages, and demonstrate the business value of the product, including a market analysis and marketing plan.

Scoring: All entries will be submitted electronically in February. Projects will be scored by teams of APL staff. Results of the competition will be announced at the in-person awards ceremony in March.

Competition rules and requirements will be distributed to teams accepted into the MD MESA Online Competition Program.


Cyber Robot Challenge (High School Only)

Material Costs: $0

Student teams will use the Python programming language to program a virtual robot to navigate through a series of virtual mazes while executing a mission. For this year’s mission, the robot must collect packets in a predefined order, disable viruses in locked boxes, and collect clues to crack the mazes’ secret passphrases while avoiding bugs. Training for coaches is available ($25).

Theme for 2019–2020: To accomplish this year’s mission, the robot must locate and collect packets in a predefined order, disable viruses in locked boxes, and accumulate clues to crack the mazes’ secret passphrases. All of this must be accomplished while simultaneously avoiding dangerous bugs lurking in the mazes!

Challenge Components: The multicomponent nature of this challenge provides student teams with a variety of opportunities to show off their strengths. At first glance, this looks like an ordinary computer programming challenge. However, as students dive deeper, they will discover there is much more to it than simple coding. Teams entering the MD MESA Online Competition will submit several products, all designed to show off their hard work, creativity, and approach to designing an effective, efficient solution to accomplish the mission. Each component of the competition allows the team to shine in a different way!

  • Code Design and Implementation: The team will submit the Python code files created to control the virtual robot. The code should be written as generically as possible, keeping in mind that the aim is to design an autonomous robot that can navigate any maze. APL software engineers will evaluate the code based on demonstrated understanding of robot controls, code design, code efficiency, code correctness, code organization, and effort.
  • Game Performance: The game performance (maze execution) portion of the challenge will put the team’s robot controller to the test in never-before-seen mazes. During this live-action portion of the competition, teams will also demonstrate their ability to solve cryptographs, make number base conversions, and modify Python code on the fly.
  • Oral Presentation: Each team will produce a video-recorded presentation that describes, in detail, their solution to the MESA challenge, as well as the iterative design process used by the team. The presentation component is a great way for students to show off their creativity and communication skills!
  • Display Board: Each team will create a three-panel electronic display board in PowerPoint. The display board is an important element that as a stand-alone product should help an observer quickly understand the overall scope of the problem, the resulting solution, and next steps of the project. As a visual aid during the oral presentation, the display board can be a powerful tool providing important graphics and highlights related to the solution.

Scoring: All entries will be submitted electronically in February. Projects will be scored by teams of APL staff. Results of the competition will be announced at the in-person awards ceremony in March.

Competition rules and requirements will be distributed to teams accepted into the MD MESA Online Competition Program.