With more than 350 student team applications received by the Feb. 12 deadline, the 2021 Virtual STEAM Tank Challenge is already a resounding success.

But for the students, the hard and rewarding work of preparing for regional virtual competitions is just beginning. STEAM Tank encourages students to work collaboratively, to identify and develop innovative solutions to issues such as climate change, the environment, societal problems, the COVID-19 pandemic, or whatever important problems engage them.

“At a time when many students are coping with the effects of isolation caused by the pandemic, the Virtual STEAM Tank Challenge brings students together online to invent and build a marketable product that is limited only by their imaginations,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA’s executive director. “I encourage students, parents and teachers to take advantage of this exciting – and fun – learning experience.”

STEAM Tank can be viewed, not as an add-on activity, but as a highly motivating and engaging chance to develop skills and interests. Student teams work toward solving a problem as they learn about sustainability and I-STEAM (integrated science, technology, engineering, the arts and math). They can experience and apply systems and design thinking while they are at home or in school.

For the last several years, as part of its collaboration with the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), the U.S. Army has placed a STEAM Fellow on the NJSBA staff to expand training and consultation in STEAM education subject areas. The strong partnership between the NJSBA and the Army is unique in the country.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 STEAM Tank regional and finals competitions were canceled. Over 450 teams were scheduled to pitch their ideas and inventions before STEAM Tank judges. However, during this 2021 season, the 2020 regional qualifying teams will move directly to this year’s competitions, in addition to those submitting new entries.

The regionals will begin in March and continue through April. The teams will be provided a timeslot where they will meet in a virtual platform with the judges and have five minutes to pitch their concept. After their pitch, the judges will have five minutes for questions and answers. Guests will be able to attend and observe their student teams. The winners of the regional competitions will move onto the virtual finals held in October 2021.

Please keep in mind that your school does not have to be in the competition to be part of the STEAM Tank community.  In addition, consider joining the NJSBA STEAM Team every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. for a Webex meeting with the STEAM Tank Community. These meetings are intended for teachers and student teams to connect with subject matter experts from the NJSBA, the U.S Army and other partner organizations to share best practices within the community.

To learn more about the STEAM Tank Entrepreneurial Challenge, including how to join a meeting, how to obtain support for student designs, or to learn how to join the STEAM Tank Community, please email steamtank@njsba.org.