Plan ahead, and you could be a winner

It’s the season for bees and buzzers.

Not the bumble variety: With springtime upon us, regional, state and national competitions are getting in full swing, and the number of contests available to students is astounding.

The challenges range from the Shakespeare Competition to Science Olympiad; from the Carolina Panthers Number Crunch to the Future City Competition. To get into the higher-level competitions going on now, students often have to have been involved in a club or team since the fall. But now is the ideal time to gauge what you might like. Check out these teams and clubs and competitions now and figure out what you’d like to sign up for next year. Approximate dates for competitions and sign-ups are usually the same from year to year.

Here’s a cursory – not exhaustive – sampling of what’s out there for Charlotte-area students throughout the year, and how to sign up.

Find your interests below and clip for your files. May the odds be ever in your favor!


N.C. Future Problem Solving State Bowl: Students in divisions for grades 4-12 are given a topic before competitions – human rights, invasive species, pollution – to research. At a challenge, they’re faced with an imagined scene from far into the future connected with that topic, then brainstorm potential social, scientific, political, economic or technical issues from the scene. Then they develop solutions, choose the best one and write an action plan. Students are encouraged to register through their schools in September. This year’s event is April 4-5 in Banner Elk.

Eco Footprint Challenge: A competition for students from public Gaston and Mecklenburg schools near the Catawba River to figure out ways to reduce the natural resources used in their schools. Principals of interested schools have to sign up by March 10, and schools need to submit a video outlining their plans to the Catawba River District by March 12.

eCYBERMISSION: Teams of three or four students (they must be from the same state) register online in January. Teams pick a mission challenge and come up with solutions using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) knowledge. Projects must be submitted online in March.

Odyssey of the Mind: Schools and communities choose teams and begin working between fall and January each year. A team chooses one of five competitive problems to solve (these can be technical, artistic or performance-oriented). Teams work on their solutions throughout the year and present them in spring competitions. The regional competition was March 8; the state one is April 5 at Wingate University.


Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: A national competition with art categories in architecture, ceramics and glass, comic art, design, digital art, drawing, fashion, film and animation, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and art portfolio (see writing categories below). Students can begin sending submissions in September.

Reflections: A national PTA arts program. The theme for the 2014-15 year is “The world would be a better place if ...” Arts categories include dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts. Submissions due Nov. 24.

Carolinas Freedom Foundation Patriotic Art Competition: Open to middle and high school students. The prompt for patriotic-themed art for the 2014-15 school year will be announced soon. Entries accepted until Oct. 24.

N.C. Theatre Competition: High school festival program that begins with eight regional festivals in the fall; winners advance to the state festival. State winners go to the Southeastern Theatre Conference (this year, Central Academy of Technology and Arts and Northwest School of the Arts advanced; the regional was held this past weekend.);

Art Showcase: An N.C. Association for Scholastic Activities competition (there are five, all contributing to the Scholastic Cup award; Students are typically given one month to submit a creation based on a prompt. Categories include painting, drawing, collage and photography. Schools can join NCASA any time of the year, but must register by Oct. 31 to compete.


Academic WorldQuest: High school students compete in teams to answer questions about global culture, current events, history and geography. The next competition is Nov. 12, and schools need to register by Nov. 5.

N.C. Junior Classical League: This offers spring and fall seasons for students; next available is this fall, with a Nov. 1 deadline. At spring conventions, competitions include a Latin-language quiz bowl, academic tests, costume contests and dramatic interpretations. The Certamen State Qualifier, a fast recall game about classical civilizations, is March 15 at Wake Forest University, and the state convention is April 11-12 at UNC Chapel Hill.

National Academic League: Middle school students can join their school’s league in the fall. NAL matches involve answering questions from 22 possible subject areas, presenting solutions to real-world problems and a speed round. South Charlotte Middle is currently competing in ongoing matches in the national tournament, through April 30.

Quiz Bowl: Another N.C. Association for Scholastic Activities competition. Two teams of four compete to answer questions by buzzer. Schools can join NCASA any time of year, but must register by Oct. 31 to compete in that school year.

Twelve: Another N.C. Association for Scholastic Activities competition. Teams of 12 are tested on 12 topics with 12 questions each. Middle school students are quizzed on their knowledge of N.C. colleges and state history. High school students compete in core curriculum knowledge and wild-card topics such as visual arts and television. Schools can join NCASA any time of the year, but must register by Oct. 31 to compete.

DECA: Competitions include tests and projects for high school teams about marketing, business management and administration, finance, and hospitality and tourism. Teachers recruit students to join the organization at the start of the school year and finalize teams by early October. The international conference will be May 2-7 in Atlanta, and in 2015, the state conference will be Feb. 26-28 in Greensboro.

Reading, writing, speaking

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: A national competition with writing categories (see art ones above) in dramatic script, flash fiction, humor, journalism, personal essay/memoir, persuasive writing, poetry, science fiction and fantasy, short story and writing portfolio. Students can begin sending submissions in September.

Wordwright Challenge: National competition for high school students with questions about analytical reading of prose and poetry. Enrollment deadline is Sept. 30.

N.C. Advocates for Justice Mock Trial Competition: High school students prepare mock cases for trial as if they were attorneys, witnesses and other court roles, then participate in mock court proceedings. Registration will be available mid-July at, and the season’s case (all teams work with the same case) will be released at the beginning of September.

The Quill: Another N.C. Association for Scholastic Activities competition, this one in writing for middle and high school students. Students respond to three to four prompts. Schools can join NCASA any time of the year, but must register by Oct. 31 to compete.

Poetry Out Loud: High-school-level poetry recitation competition. Students whose schools don’t participate can contact the state coordinator, Banu Valladares, at The program runs at schools in fall and early winter, and state finals this year are March 15 in Greensboro.

Shakespeare Competition: Open to middle and high school students; occurs in mid-February at Wingate University. In the preliminary round, students recite a sonnet and part of a Shakespeare play. Winners advance to the final round the same day. The high school division winner wins a trip to New York City to compete in the National Shakespeare Competition the first week of May.

Tarheel Forensic League: Most high school speech and debate teams in the area belong to the Tarheel Forensic League, which hosts tournaments from September through June. State champtionships are in February, and more championships run from April through June (including two national championships). Check to see if your school has a speech and debate (or forensic) team.


Carolinas Student Hunger Drive: Area high schools compete to collect the most tons of food that will be donated to the hungry. The competition typically runs six weeks between October and November. Check to see if your school participates in the fall.

N.C. FCCLA Culinary Competition: High school students who are in the FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) must prepare one menu, chosen from a few they’ve received beforehand, at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. The challenge is typically in February (this year, weather has moved it to April), and schools have to register a week in advance.


Science Olympiad: Middle and high school divisions competed regionally last weekend, and the elementary division competes May 17 at UNC Charlotte. Students work in teams of two in academic and building events (think model bridges, paper airplanes and bottle rockets). Schools can form teams anytime between September and January by registering at

NC-HOSA State Conference and Competition: Students should sign up in the fall to participate in their school’s Health Occupations Students of America club. This year’s competition., including events in public health, parliamentary procedure, a quiz bowl and tests on topics like nutrition and human growth and development, is March 27-29 in Greensboro.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology: Individual students or teams of two or three high school students can submit their STEM-related research projects for a national competition. Registration opens May 1.

Charlotte Regional Science and Engineering Fair: Occurs every February. Winners from school fairs typically attend, but if students who attend schools without fairs have done research or have an engineering design they want to enter, they can do so online later in the year at

Super Competition: A science and math competition open to middle and high schoolers that takes place the first Monday of UNC Charlotte’s spring break. It’s a timed 20- to 25-question multiple choice test. Students who win go on to compete at the state level for the American Regions Mathematics League. Schools can register students for the contest.


MATHCOUNTS: Middle school students can sign up at school in the fall. Student teams work together on timed word problems. Competitions within schools happen in December or January, and regional rounds take place from mid-February to early March. This year’s state competition is March 14 in Durham.

Carolina Panthers Numbers Crunch: This year’s competition is delayed until the fall because of ongoing stadium renovations. High school students compete in teams of five – three who have taken calculus, two who haven’t – to solve problems in time increments. Interested students should ask their schools about participating. Space is limited, so all schools that want to participate compete in preliminaries about a month before the challenge.

Math Olympiad: Students (divisions for grades 4-8) compete in five contests from November to March. Students should check to see if their school has a club.

N.C. Personal Finance Challenge: Students grades 6-12 should ask teachers to register them (registration is March 18-20) for the online contest. It challenges students to use knowledge of personal finance literacy. Winners move on to the state championship in April.


Future City Competition: Teams create a virtual city design, research essay and city narrative. National finals were in February; registration for a new season is now open at

Livingston & Haven competition: High school student design competition using aluminum extrusion. Design categories include industrial, art, home furniture, gadgets, renewables and auto industry. Schools that want to participate can register through March 21. To sign up or ask for more information, email Danielle Ferguson at

FIRST Robotics Competition: For high school students. Teams have six weeks to build and test a robot for the mid-March competition (this year’s is March 13-15 in Raleigh).