University of Southern California

About the Challenge

The Competition

The QuikSCience Challenge is a competition for teams of middle school and high school students that create projects and portfolios on a science subject related to marine or freshwater environments. The challenge is sponsored by the USC College Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies in partnership with Quiksilver Inc., an international producer and distributor of surfing apparel, and the Quiksilver Foundation.

The challenge uses a team competition to encourage students to learn more about scientific research and to enhance the students' capacity for leadership. To participate in the challenge, students assemble:

  • A team of up to six students
  • A portfolio that includes a lesson plan that they will teach to other students
  • A community service project
  • An Environmental Solution
  • A research proposal (high school only)
  • A 2-minute video clip
  • Team reflections

Please see the detailed guidelines for a complete description of the portfolio requirements.

For registration and other dates, see the dates and deadlines page.

The Prizes

The first place prize in the QuikSCience Challenge is a week-long expedition for the students and their teacher or advisor to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. The one-week trip will include expeditions to different parts of the island, visits to laboratories at the USC center, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.

The second place prize is an extended weekend expedition to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.

Honorable Mention teams will be offered an opportunity for a one-day trip to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. A list of dates for travel will be offered.

PLEASE NOTE: teams are responsible for their own transportation to the Southern California Marine Institute dock in San Pedro, California, from where the winning trips and day trips depart.

The teachers or advisors of winning teams will receive a cash prize for classroom supplies or for professional development.

  • First place: $500
  • Second place: $250
  • Third-Fifth place: $150

Every team that submits a complete project by the deadline will be entered into a raffle to win a field trip to a local aquarium or science center for their entire class (some limitations apply). The destination and exact date of the field trip will be arranged according to the needs of the team and availability of resources.


QuikSCience Challenge entries will be judged by a panel of scientists, educators, business leaders, artists and ocean athletes.

The QuikSCience Challenge projects will be judged on the following categories:

  • Scientific merit
  • Effort and thoroughness
  • Creativity
  • Overall skill

Projects will be judged on student ownership and if the students followed all the directions and met all the requirements. The presentations should be visually interesting and include overall project components to be viewed by the judges within a 10-minute time period. Judges are looking for strong science connections and the overall impact of each project on the students, school, peers and community. The project must meet all of the requirements outlined in the orientation letter to be eligible for the opportunity for a team trip to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.

USC Mentors

Graduate and undergraduate students at USC have volunteered to work as mentors with teachers and students to provide scientific and technical guidance on team projects. Terri Bidle, the QuikSCience Program Manager, will arrange for mentors to contact teams upon request.