Essay Contest

Great Women in Engineering and Science
Essay Contest

To foster an interest in science, engineering, and technology and introduce students to female role models who have achieved significant success in science and engineering.


Essay Contest Details

Sixth grade students at schools in Colorado and Wyoming are invited to participate in the “Great Women in Engineering and Science” essay contest. The goal of the contest is to foster an interest in science, engineering, and technology in middle school students and to introduce students to female role models who have achieved significant success in areas of science and engineering. Over 250 students participate annually and prizes and certificates are awarded. Read about past contest award recipients on the RMS Blog – Outreach.

2024 Essay Contest Open, Entries Due March 15

To enter, write an original essay of approximately 500 words on one of the women engineers and scientists listed below:

  • Katherine Johnson – 20th Century Physicist and Mathematician
  • Mary Anning – 18th Century Paleontologist
  • Edith Clarke – 19th Century Electrical Engineer
  • Rosalyn Yalow – 20th Century Medical Physicist
  • Sylvis Earle – 20th Century Marine Biologist and Aquanaut

Winning essays should:

  • Describe in detail the woman’s life, achievements and any awards she received in recognition of her work
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the significance of her work
  • Show originality
  • Include three or more research sources from varying media (bibliography)
  • Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Present the information in an organized, neat fashion with good sentence structure

Submission details:

  • To enter, complete the entry form below and follow the instructions to either upload or email your essay. Be prepared to provide:
    • Your school’s name and address
    • Your teacher’s name and email address
    • The number of 6th graders in your class
  • The essay file name must include your first and last name
  • PDF, Word, and Google Doc file formats accepted
  • All entries must be received by Friday, March 15, 2024

Win These Prizes!

First Place: Science Kit, Science Book, and $250 cash prize

Second Place: Science Kit, Science Book, and $150 cash prize

Third Place: Science Kit, Science Book, and $100 cash prize

Honorable Merit: Science Kit

Honorable Mention: Science Book

School Awards:

All schools with 20% or more of their 6th graders submitting essays will receive a book award for their library.

Attention teachers, if your school won a participation award in previous years, be sure to check your school library for potential references for this year’s contest!


Upload essay to the Google form. Requires Google login.

For teachers submitting multiple entries, you may email a list of participating students along with the school name and address, your name and email address, and the number of 6th graders in your class to EssayContestSWERMS@gmail.com rather than completing multiple submission forms.

For additional details, please see below for the Essay Contest Flyer and Frequently Asked Questions and Essay Scoring Guidelines.

For further information or to sign up for the essay contest email list, contact the contest chair at EssayContestSWERMS@gmail.com

Attention SWE RMS members: Please contact the contest chair at EssayContestSWERMS@gmail.com if you are interested in being a volunteer judge for this year’s Great Women in Engineering and Science Essay Contest.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, the 500 word length is a guideline, not an exact word limit. Students will not be penalized for essays slightly over or under 500 words. It is possible that an essay that is significantly shorter or longer could lose points if the length affects the organization of the essay.

The contest is open to all genders. We hope to inspire all students to explore STEM fields and feel that it is beneficial for all students to learn about the achievements of these notable scientists and engineers, most of whom they would not otherwise learn about in school.

This number is used to determine which schools are awarded a book prize for high participation (20% or more participating). These books are great additions to school or classroom libraries and can be used as a resource for future contests.

You will receive an email confirmation that the submission has been received. Please contact us at EssayContestSWERMS@gmail.com if you do not receive a confirmation within 48 hours of submitting the essay electronically or within 5 days of submitting the essay by mail.

The contest results will be announced in early April after two rounds of judging. The announcement will be sent to participating teachers by email and will be posted on the SWE-RMS website. Prizes will be mailed to teachers shortly after the announcement.

Check your school or classroom library for book participation prizes from past years. These books all include biographies of female scientists/engineers and may include some of this year’s subjects. Some previous titles include:

  •  Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World
  •  Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine
  •  Remarkable Minds: 16 More Women in Science and Medicine
  •  A to Z of Women in Science
  •  Changing Our World: True Stories of Women Engineers
  •  Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers
  •  Women at the Edge of Discovery: 40 True Science Adventures
  •  Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures

Online and print encyclopedias also work well for these essays. For online research, encourage students to look for sources beyond Wikipedia – biographies of these women can often be found on the websites of professional societies, universities, or agencies like NASA.

The essay contest is a good opportunity to introduce bibliographies to students and to discuss how to incorporate information from various sources into an essay without plagiarizing.

  1. Ideas / Content – 20%
    • Top essays accurately describe a broad range of the subject’s achievements (research, awards, and/or prizes) across many years and/or areas with significant detail.
  2. Understanding / Interpretation – 20%
    • Top essays demonstrate understanding of the subject’s achievements by providing both facts and relevance (e.g. global impacts, why this person and their achievements are important).
  3. Organization – 15%
    • Top essays have a logical order of information (introduction, body of text, conclusions). Main points are vivid; key information is easy to spot; clear connections between paragraphs.
  4. Voice / Word Choice / Sentence Fluency – 15%
    • Top essays are clearly written in the “voice” of the student. Sentences flow smoothly – could be read aloud. May include anecdotal references to child’s own life, which support understanding of impacts of scientist’s achievements.
  5. Conventions – Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation – 10%
    • Top essays have few errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Paragraphs are indented to show where new ideas begin.
  6. Presentation/Neatness – 10%
    • Top essays are neatly laid out with even margins and clear type (or very neat handwriting). Student name and associated information neatly included.
  7. Bibliography – 10%
    • Top essays have three or more references presented in a neat, standard format. At least two different types of resources are used (books, periodicals, internet sources, encyclopedias). Judges are aware that students may be limited to internet sources for some of the more modern subjects.

2024 Essay Contest Sponsor

If interested in sponsoring the essay contest at $500-750, please email swerms@gmail.com. Your financial contribution directly supports students, cover prizes and shipping.