Stories Engineered to Inspire

2019 Rules and Regulations

Download a PDF copy of the complete rules and regulations.

Participants will create and submit an original piece of writing that responds to the following contest prompt:

Write a story that celebrates engineering design and problem solving.


The EngineerGirl writing contest is, for the first time, asking students to submit works of creative fiction.

We want stories about women and girls saving the day with their wits, skill, and whatever resources they can find to solve the problem. Maybe they are working alone, maybe they are part of an elite team. Maybe they just find themselves in an unusual situation that requires some innovative thinking.

We want stories that inspire EngineerGirl readers to think, “I want to be able to do that” or “I can do that.”


To enter this year’s contest, write an original, fictional story in which the main character is a female who uses engineering skills to solve a problem.

There are three basic rules:

  1. Your main character must be female.
  2. Your main character must use engineering design principles to solve a problem - she cannot use or rely on magic or supernatural powers.
  3. Your story must be under the word limit for your grade level, which is listed below.

Elementary (grades 3-5): 800 words.
Middle School (grades 6-8): 1100 words.
High School (grades 9-12): 1500 words.

All stories must be original work. Any evidence of plagerism will immediately disqualify an entry.


Remember: Writers spend time doing research to ensure that story characters — their clothes, their tools, and especially their actions — are authentic. Take time to learn about engineers and engineering. The better you understand the engineering design process, the better and more believable your story will be.

What do I submit for judging?

Students should submit an original, fictional story in which the main character is a female who uses engineering skills to solve a problem.

Elementary School Students (grades 3-5): Submissions must be no more than 800 words.

Middle School Students in (grades 6-8): Submissions must be no more than 1100 words.

High School Students (grades 9-12): Submissions must be no more than 1500 words.

While not required, you are strongly encouraged to also submit an annotated bibliography with your story.

A submission may not contain offensive, libelous, sexually explicit, disparaging or other inappropriate content and may not defame or otherwise violate the rights, copyrights, trademarks, or rights of publicity, privacy, or reputation of any third party. Submissions may not contain any material to promote sale of a product or service.

Each entrant is solely responsible for the information, data, text, graphics, and other materials included in the Submission, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted. A Submission must be original and the entrant must (1) hold all necessary rights to all the materials and information in the Submission or (2) have permission from the holder of such rights, or (3) the materials and information in the Submission must be in the public domain. Winners will have to ensure that they have all rights necessary to permit them to transfer ownership of the essay, including transfer of any permissions and rights obtained from third parties, to the NAE.

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Can I include images or diagrams?

Yes. Each contestant may include one, and only one, image or PDF document file to accompany his or her submission. Only .jpg or .pdf formats will be accepted.

Attached files could be a single image or diagram, a collection of images with captions that have been saved to a PDF document, or the complete formatted text of your submission with embedded tables, diagrams, or images.

While including images may improve your submission, they are not required. Judges will be scoring the text of your submission; attached material may be used to break ties.

PLEASE NOTE: Your name, address, phone number, or any other personally identifying information should NOT appear in the attachment. If it does, the file cannot be considered as part of your submission.

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What is an Annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of resources that your readers can go to for more information about something you mention or use in your story. It can also be a list of the resources you used to research and prepare for writing your story.

When creating your annotated bibliography, elementary school students may use simplified citations that include the following information for each resource on the list:

  • Title – The name of the resource. A resource can be a webpage, article, person, or other reference.
  • Author – The person who wrote or created the resource.  There may be multiple authors or sometimes an author can be an organization.  If you cannot find an author you may write, “No Author Available.”
  • Date – The date the resource was created.  If there is no date (for example on a webpage) the citation should include the date the page was reviewed for your essay.
  • Location – Where we can find the resource.  For webpages this is the URL. For printed resources include the name of the publisher.
  • Annotation — One sentence that explains what useful information can be found in this resource.

Middle and high school students should list each resource using the APA citation style along with 1-2 sentences that explains why the resource is recommended reading.

The annotated bibliography does not count toward your word limit.

The quality of the annotated bibliography submitted with a story may be used to break ties.

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How do I submit my entry?

To submit an entry, entrants must have completed the online Entry Form.

What is the deadline for submissions?

The Competition will close at 11:59 PM, February 1, 2019, U.S. Eastern Standard Time. All entries must be received prior to this date and time in order to be considered.

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Who is eligible to compete?

The contest is open to individual girls and boys in the following three competition categories:

  1. Elementary School Students (grades 3-5)
  2. Middle School Students in (grades 6-8)
  3. High School Students (grades 9-12)

The category for entry must be based on US grade categories.  Home schooled or international students who are unsure of their grade should choose an appropriate category based on where the student would be placed if attending public school in the US.  Prior winners of the Essay Contest who have received a cash prize from EngineerGirl in any of the above grade categories may not enter again in the same age group.

Employees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and their immediate families or those living in the same household as a National Academies employee are not eligible to enter this competition.

Entrants may enter one Submission in one of the three competition categories. Entrants must select one competition category at the time of their entry. Each individual contest participant is restricted to one Submission only.

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How will entries be judged and by whom?

Submissions will be judged by a slate of volunteers that include professionals from various engineering fields. In addition to checking that submissions meet all of the basic rules, they will be looking for:

  • How well engineering design principles are conveyed by the actions of character(s) in the story
  • How inspirational the main character is: how well she models the thinking habits and attitudes of great engineers
  • How original, creative, and well-written the story is

Submissions with annotated bibilographies will be preferred over those without in the event of a tie.

Finalists will be judged by the EngineerGirl Steering Committee. 

The decisions of the judges are final and incontestable.

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When will the winners be announced?

Finalists will be notified in writing via email by May 1st 2019 and will be required to submit a signed copy of the EngineerGirl Use License and Release giving the NAE permission to publish the entry should it be selected as a winner.

Winners will be notified in writing via email by June 1, 2019, and the winning entries will be posted on the EngineerGirl website by July 1, 2019. A list of contest winners may be obtained by submitting a request in writing to: EngineerGirl Essay Contest, National Academy of Engineering, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

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What are the prizes, and how will they be distributed?

Winners in each grade category will receive the prizes listed below:

  • First-place winners will be awarded $500.
  • Second-place entries will be awarded $250.
  • Third-place entries will be awarded $100.

All winning entries will be published on the EngineerGirl website.  Honorable Mention entries will not receive a cash award but will be published on the EngineerGirl website.

Prize funds will be distributed to an individual winner (or the winner’s parent or guardian, if the winner is under 18 years old). Any federal, state, and local taxes, and all similar fees and assessments, are the sole responsibility of the prize recipient.

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Additional Requirements and Disclaimers

By entering this competition, each individual entrant (for individuals under 18 years old, the individual’s parent or guardian) grants the NAE a worldwide nonexclusive, royalty-free, transferable license to use the essay, or any portion thereof, for NAE purposes, and grants NAE a world-wide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable license to use the entrants’ names, likenesses, photographs, and/or biographical information for advertising, publicity, and promotional purposes.

If selected as a winner, each individual (and for individuals under 18 years old, the individual’s parent or guardian) hereby agrees to irrevocably grant and assign exclusively to the NAE all rights, including copyright interests in the essays, under all laws, treaties and conventions throughout the world, in all forms, languages and media, now or hereafter known or developed without limitation. Use, publication, or dissemination by winners of their respective essay may be permitted at the discretion of NAE, as approved in writing in advance by the NAE.  Submitting an essay to this competition does not guarantee that the Submission will be displayed or used by NAE.

Use by NAE of a Submission does not necessarily reflect the views of the NAE, and in no event shall NAE assume or have any responsibility or liability for any Submission, in whole or in part, or for any claims, damages, or losses resulting from the use and/or appearance of any Submission or the contents thereof.

NAE reserves the right to refuse any Submission in its sole discretion. NAE also reserves the right at any time during the competition to remove or disqualify any Submission when it believes in its sole discretion that the entrant has: (i) infringed any third party's copyright; (ii) failed to comply with these Terms and Conditions; or (iii) failed to obtain the necessary consents as set out in these terms and conditions.

NAE shall not be liable for any claims, costs, liabilities, damages, expenses, and losses arising out of (i) NAE's use of the Submission; (ii) the entrant's participation in the competition; (iii) technical failures of any kind including but not limited to problems or delays arising from software or equipment malfunctions or computer viruses; and (iv) any events outside NAE's reasonable control.

By entering this competition, each individual entrant, (and for individuals under 18 years old, the individual’s parent or guardian) represents and warrants that: (i) the entrant is the sole author, creator, and owner of the Submission; (ii) except for material used by permission, none of the intellectual property rights in the Submission, or any portion thereof, has been assigned or transferred to anyone other than the entrant; (iii) the Submission, through its creation and its submission as an entry, does not violate any applicable laws; and (iv) the Submission, through its creation and its submission as an entry, does not infringe upon or violate intellectual property rights held by any third person or party.

Any entrant who supplies false information, enters the NAE EngineerGirl Writing Contest by fraudulent means, or is otherwise determined to be in violation of the eligibility criteria or terms of EngineerGirl Writing Contest shall be ineligible for any prize and shall be required to forfeit any prize obtained based on such information or means.

By entering a Submission in the Contest, each individual entrant (and for individuals under 18 years old, the individual’s parent or guardian) agrees to comply with and be bound by the official rules and decisions of NAE.

All references to NAE contained herein refer to the National Academy of Sciences on behalf of the National Academy of Engineering.

This Contest is void where prohibited. The Contest shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the District of Columbia.

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