For over 30 years, competitions have been an integral part of the programs offered by the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME). Annual STEM Competitions help to focus student effort in TAME Clubs and provide an exciting incentive to work hard; they connect students to academic and corporate partners; and they foster friendships and mentoring relationships. Year after year, we’ve seen how participating in our competitions inspires students to think big. We’re very grateful to our community, corporate and academic supporters who have made this possible year after year.
And now we’re at a turning point. The world has changed a lot in the past 30 years. It’s time for the Competitions to change, too.
TAME has grown by leaps and bounds, expanding our programs to thirteen regional chapters and counting. We now have an unprecedented number of schools wanting to participate in the STEM Competitions. That’s exactly the kind of problem we want. But as the competitions grow, how do we make sure that the events are intellectually challenging, but physically safe and welcoming?
The more participants we have, the less functional our current model becomes. More choices in STEM electives mean that students are asking to be tested in more specific subject areas. More dietary restrictions make the old pizza-and-milk solution seem shockingly limited. More freedom for gender diversity compounds the complexity of hotel room assignments. And this year, we have more student groups wanting to participate than we have community chaperones to accompany them.
A new model:
Over the next two years, TAME will roll out changes to the Competition to better address all of these challenges:
- Starting in 2017, only seven individual tests will be offered. These tests will be administered by grade level and will combine math and science, including questions from all subject areas. Few students will know all of the material presented, but the tests will be a comprehensive assessment of knowledge and skills and will provide a solid baseline for measurable growth.
- Starting in 2018, Area STEM Competitions will be offered at multiple locations across Texas. Each of these events will be a one-day event, with students traveling a maximum distance of 4 hours. These Area Competitions will replace the Divisional and State Competitions, which will be retired after the 2017 competition season.
- Each Area Competition will be held at a local college or university, with the hosting school offering scholarships to high-achieving students.
- Outstanding seniors will be honored at each Area event. This allows for more students to be recognized and to receive laptops and other prizes.
- Evening entertainment will be replaced by daytime workshops that complement the Competitions, like hands-on activities and workshops on financial planning for college sponsored by local banks.
- The popular Engineering Design Challenges will remain as a primary component at each Area STEM Competition.
We believe these changes to the Competition structure will make for a better event overall, and will allow for more Texas students to benefit from participating. As we make the transition to the new model, we welcome your feedback, and as always, we appreciate your hard work and support!
New Test Format for STEM Competitions