University of Southern California


Students and teachers work together to create teams. For this competition, a team is defined as a group of up to six students from the same school with one teacher, advisor or mentor. (Exceptions are possible for informal science educators and educational groups: please ask for more information.) Middle school students must be in grades six through eight; high school students must be in grades 9 through 12.

Teams must submit a registration form by the date on the dates and deadlines page. Each middle school teacher and high school teacher may register up to two teams, and schools that are combined middle and high schools may register two teams in each category. Multiple teams and classroom entries will be considered upon request.

Teams will receive additional materials and instructions after they register. An information packet will be sent to each registered team with important dates, details and project formats for the competition. QuikSCience Challenge staff and USC mentors will also be available to each team to help with ideas and access to existing curricular materials.

Each team must submit a final list of team members by the date on the dates and deadlines page. (The listing of "alternate members" is no longer permitted.)


To compete in the QuikSCience Challenge, student teams must develop and submit a portfolio that documents all of the following components.

1. A lesson plan for an aquatic scientific topic

Students work as a team to create and teach at least one new lesson plan that addresses a topic related to the ocean, a freshwater environment or a watershed. The students should design the lesson plan to fit into their school's science curriculum for their grade or for a lower grade classroom. The team's teacher or advisor will provide guidance and oversight for content accuracy. The lesson plan should be related to the team's community service project.

For ideas on how to teach: The team's teacher or advisor can ask students to reflect on how they learn.

Think of your favorite teacher. How did he or she teach? What activities did you and your classmates enjoy? How did the teacher speak? What did you and your classmates find most interesting in the lessons? What resources or equipment did your teacher use?

What is your favorite way to learn?

How do you learn best?

What do you enjoy about school—music, drama, small group work, problem solving or something entirely different?

The team's teacher or advisor can help the students develop their own strategies for teaching and learning by encouraging them to create a lesson and teach it the way they would like to be taught. For more details, see guidelines and format for the lesson plan (PDF).

The description of the lesson plan should include the following:

  • How it fits into the class' science curriculum
  • What California state science education standards it meets
  • What grade levels it serves
  • How many times it was presented
  • The total number of students who received it
  • How the students responded to the lesson plan
  • How the lesson plan was modified in response to student reactions
  • Any improvements that could be made to it

For supplemental resources and examples of previous winning lesson plans, click here.

2. Community Service

The student team should lead a larger group of peers and/or members of the community in a public service activity involving the oceans or anything that affects the ocean and/or freshwater environments (like storm-water runoff). The students should be creative and link their community service project to educational activities in science classes at their school. If this component of the team's portfolio is part of an ongoing community service project at the school, the students should describe how their team expanded it.

The students' description of the community service activity should include the following information:

  • Date and location of the event or activity
  • Benefit to community
  • Number of people reached
  • Relationship to the school
  • Surprises or outcomes

3. A Solution for an Environmental Challenge

As the students work on the topic for their project, they should look for solutions to environmental problems connected to it.
For example, if the topic addresses the dangers of polluted runoff into the ocean, what are creative solutions to prevent runoff, to help animals affected by the runoff, or to reclaim beaches from runoff damage? The part of the student team's portfolio should describe the problem, a solution to it and the action that would be required to make their solution a reality. For high school teams, this should be a 1-2 page document; for middle school teams, this should be a half page to a full page in length.

For more information, see:

High School Solution for Environmental Challenge Guidelines (PDF)

Middle High School Solution for Environmental Challenge Guidelines (PDF)



4. Write a Proposal for an Ocean or Aquatic Science Research Project

The project can be on any science question or topic that interests you that is related to the ocean, an aquatic environment or a watershed. The proposal should describe the issue or question that you are addressing, what you hope to learn, and how you would go about completing it, including the methods and equipment that you would use. Consider the environmental challenge(s) that relates to your topic. Proposals should be a total of 5-7 pages in length. See guidelines and format for writing a research proposal.

*Note: This requirement is only for a proposal from the high school student team. The team does not have to conduct the research itself.

The research proposal requires some use of bibliographic citation. Check here for links to online guides.


5. Reflections

Each team member of the student team and the team's teacher or advisor must write a one-paragraph reflection on his or her personal experience in the QuikSCience Challenge. These reflections can be combined into one Word document.

6. Creative Presentations of the Project

The student team should create a visually interesting presentation that documents its project. Please remember that the judges must be able to view a team's entire creative presentation within 10 minutes to select winners. Additional materials will not be considered.

Each team in the QuikSCience Challege must submit their entire presentations in 2 formats: 

  1. A printed-paper version (double-sided preferred) of all project components (photos, photograph/copy of your posters, physical models, websites, etc.)

  2. A digital version on two disks (either on CD / DVD) Please present a duplicate copy of each disk (four disks in all).  Or submit (2) flash drives with everything on each drive.

Disk 1: “Text Documentation  must include the Portfolio Checklist, Project Summary, Lesson Plan, Community Service, Research Proposal (high school only), Environmental Challenge, and Student Reflections.  (Submit two copies of this disk.)

Disk 2.  “Presentation (Disk 2) must contain the team's unique project presentation, photographs, PowerPoint presentations, etc.  Additionally, we require a 2-minute Open House video clip.  (Submit two copies of this disk.)

Notes about presentation materials

Physical models or presentation boards should not exceed 30" x 48."

Individual photographs in digital format should not exceed 100 KB.

PowerPoint presentations should not exceed 10 MB.

Videos should not exceed 10 MB. Please use formats that work with RealPlayer, QuickTime or Windows Media. Video presentation are best linked to PowerPoint presentations using YouTube or Vimeo using a password.

If DVDs are used for the digital versions of the portfolios, use only conventional 12cm discs. (Do not use 8cm discs known as MiniDVDs.) Please remember that CDs are preferred.

Whenever possible, please limit the use of paper and plastic. For example, use both sides of sheets of paper for printing. Also, please do not use plastic sleeves to cover the pages in the printed-paper version of the project portfolio.

7. NEW! Create a 2–Minute Open House Video Clip:

Please include a short (2-minute maximum) video clip, or movie, with your school name, location, and have the team members present a brief description of the overall project and highlight any special event. This will be played at the Open House Awards Ceremony for everyone to see and may be posted to the QuikSCience You Tube page. USC mentors and staff are prepared to assist you in preparing this 2-minute video clip if needed.

8. A portfolio checklist and project summary

These documents record the details of each component of the project. The Portfolio Checklist and the Project Summary must be in the printed version of the portfolio and on the "Text Documentation" disk of the digital version.

9. Deliver Presentation of the Project

The project materials must be received by mail (not just postmarked) or delivered to USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, AHF 410, on the main USC campus by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 11, 2013. Please allow extra time for traffic if you plan to deliver the presentation in person.