Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Many Middle School and High School students that study with AIClub have gone forward to apply their learnings to participate in and win STEM competitions. Curious as to how they have done it? In this blog, we capture some tips for students looking to be successful in competitions.
Tip 1: Select a great idea
At the core of any winning competition entry, is a great idea. Where can you find a great idea? From our experience, the best competition ideas come from your own experience and interests. Do you have a problem in your community that you would like to solve? Any area, like medicine or literature that excites you? These are all great sources of ideas.
You can also look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are shown in the figure below, These show the important problems around the world that we all need to work on. This is another great source of inspiration.
Tip 2: Understand your impact and be able to explain it
Once you have your idea, the next step is to consider the potential impact. Great ideas help people solve problems and live better lives. Try to be as specific as possible about who your user is - who are the people or organizations that your idea will help? This will also help you create a great prototype.
Some examples illustrating how this works
Anudi built an AI powered chatbot (COLBY) to help people with loneliness. Her goal was to help friends and family and her community, so those were her users.
Anika built an AI to detect Diabetic Retinopath from eye scans. Her goal was to help doctors who had the ability to get eye scans (ie scanning machines) but did not have enough skilled technicians to process the scans. Her user is the doctor and her innovation helps the doctor save time and treat more patients.
The more specific you can be about your user and impact, the more successful your competition entry is likely to be.
Tip 3: How do you compare to the competition?
Now that you know what you are building, why, and for whom, it is time to check out your competition. Note - competition here does not mean your fellow entrants to your competition - it is who else is solving the same problem as you. Are there already products in the marketplace that address your problem? How are you different from them? How are you better? Being able to answer these questions helps you explain to a judge why your solution is innovative and valuable.
As an example - see what Team MDS created for their project, CO2 Sensei, which helps business owners reopen safely after the pandemic. Their competitive analysis shows several other solutions and how their app and website compare.
Tip 4: Show off your prototype and results!
Many competitions require that you have a working prototype or experiments showing the results of your prototype innovation. In others, this is a very nice to have element. Demos help judges understand your vision and get excited about your innovation.
A great demo video is
Short and to the point
Shows off the key capabilities of your innovation
Demonstrates that you can bring your innovation to reality.
If you can make your innovation directly accessible to the judges to try, even better! Some competitions require that you upload your code. You can also make your code public on GitHub or via a website. If your project involves an app, try to put it in either the Apple App Store or in Google Play. This will prove that your app is real and ready for users.
For example - see the CO2 Sensei team’s app on the Apple AppStore.
Tip 5: Show off your user feedback!
Judges love hearing that you have taken the time to consult with experts and users. This is less critical for Science Fair competitions but is very important for Social Good and Innovation competitions. You can get user feedback from Surveys, app demos, or even from your family and friends. You can use the user feedback to form a plan for what you will do in the future. Particularly if your competition has prizes such as funding or mentorship to help you build out your innovation further, user feedback will help the judges understand what you will be able to do if you win.
To date, AIClub teams have scored more than 18 wins in national and international competitions by following these principles. We also provide 1:1 mentoring for students targeting competitions, science fairs, publications or patents. If you would like to talk with an AIClub expert mentor, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.