2018 EngineerGirl Writing Contest - Engineering for Your Community

The 2018 Essay Contest is completed. Congratulations to our winners! Check back in September 2018 when we will post the 2019 competition.

Engineering for Your Community

Write a plea to convince others to improve your community’s infrastructure.

What is Infrastructure?

A collection of photographs depicting different elements of infrastructure


Communities, like people, need a few basic things to function properly:

  • They need to provide access to all the things people need to survive: breathable air, clean water, nourishing food, and basic shelter.
  • They need to provide people with opportunities to make a living.
  • They need to help protect the long-term health and safety of residents.

To provide all of these things, communities rely on several different systems of technology.  Each system is made-up of structures, machines, tools, people, and processes. They are a community’s infrastructure.

These systems can be divided into categories:

  • Transportation systems include roads, railroads, airports, and waterways.
  • Water treatment systems include wells, reservoirs, treatment plants, and pipelines.
  • Waste management systems include sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants as well as solid waste removal and recycling services.
  • Energy systems include generating stations, power grids, and tools or structures that store energy.
  • Communication systems include phone networks, postal services, and the Internet.
  • Financial security systems include banks, other institutions, and security measures that allow people to borrow, save, and move money.
  • Healthcare systems include hospitals and emergency medical help.
  • Public safety systems include structures, tools, people and services that protect the public from fire, crime, terrorism, disease outbreaks, and other hazards.
  • Recreation systems include parks, playgrounds, libraries, and public places where people connect with each other.

All communities have each of these systems in some form. And a significant breakdown in any one of them can cause serious problems.  All of these systems have something in common: engineers! 

From 9-1-1 emergency dispatch systems to wastewater treatment facilities, every part of public infrastructure relies on some form of engineering.

To enter the contest:

Look around your community for the different systems in each of the categories listed above. Choose one system and do some research on how it works where you live.  (It’s a big list to choose from, so find something that really interests you.)

Find one aspect or part of the system that can be improved and:

  • Describe all the things that this part of the system needs to do and the things that might make it difficult to change, such as cost or space. 
  • Think of at least two engineering solutions that could improve that aspect of the system.
  • Research those solutions. (Has someone else tried this solution? What worked well, and how could it be improved?)
  • Choose the solution that you think would work best for your community. 

Did you know? By working through these steps, you are using key elements of engineering design to solve a problem.  This will help you understand and write about your solution.

Elementary School Students (grades 3-5); Submissions must be 400 to 700 words.

Write a letter to your city or county council that describes the need for the improvement in your community infrastructure and the preferred solution from your research. Include a brief description of the challenges you identified and how you think engineers might address them.

Middle School Students in (grades 6-8); Submissions must be 600 to 1100 words.

Write a persuasive essay to present to your city or county council that makes the case for an infrastructure improvement in your community and your chosen solution to the problem. Be sure to fully define the problem and address the challenges engineers might face in implementing the improvements.

High School Students (grades 9-12); Submissions must be 1000 to 1500 words.

Write a summary report for your city or county council that makes the case for an infrastructure improvement in your community and your chosen solution to the problem. Fully define the problem and describe your solution in detail, including how and why it should be implemented.  Explain what has already been tried or is already known about this type of solution and what would be new or innovative in your community.  Describe how you will test or anticipate failure for any new innovations to minimize risk.

Be sure to read the full Rules and Requirements:
(Read Online) (Download PDF)

Contest Deadline February 1

Submit your essay via the
Online Submission Form
by February 1, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST.

This competition is made possible by the generous support of our contest sponsors:

Chevron Logo                 KIETS Logo


Submissions will be judged by a slate of volunteers that include professionals from various engineering fields.

Finalists will be judged by the EngineerGirl Steering Committee based on the following criteria:

  1. Effectiveness in communicating ideas and fully addressing the requirements of the contest;
  2. Accurate research and analytical thinking;
  3. Creativity and originality in the content selection and presentation

More Information


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.

More Information

Citing Resources:

All essays must be original work, and resources must be clearly cited.

Middle and high school students should use the APA citation style. 

Elementary school students may use simplified citations that include the following information for each reference (References are the resources you use to find information to write your letter):

  • 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 publisher.

Read the full Contest Rules and Requirements:
(Read Online) (Download PDF)