Deadline: Essay entries for the U.S. contest must be received by Feb. 12, 2021 at 9 p.m. Pacific Time.
Teachers: We encourage you to make the essay a class assignment, if you wish. You can decide whether you want your students to work alone on the essay, or in groups of up to four students.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the possibility that many schools will be teaching online for lengthy periods, we are allowing teachers and parents to submit essays on behalf of their children. We ask parents to please let their child's teachers know so the students get credit for their work. Please only submit each essay once, either by the student’s teacher or parent, but not both.
PLEASE NOTE: A submission form will be available Dec. 18.
This opportunity is open to all students in the United States who are in grades 5 to 12.
- Students can work alone or in teams of up to four students.
- All submissions must be students' original work. Entries containing plagiarized material will be disqualified.
- Each student may submit only one entry.
- Do not include direct contact information for students under age 18. All communication will be conducted between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the students' teacher, parent, or guardian.
- Essays that are longer than 300 words will be disqualified. Please note: this is a different length than our previous contests.
- The names and contact information will not be included in the word count for the 300-word essay. No personally identifying information (name, school name, city, or state) should be included in the body of the essay.
- For the purpose of this contest, students do not need to include a bibliography. Teachers who are making the essay a class assignment may decide whether a bibliography is required, but a bibliography is not required for the purposes of the contest.
- Use only plain text (no images or attachments). Attachments cannot be accepted. Do not include URLs (links to websites) in the body of the essay.
- Communication skills are an important part of being a scientist. Spelling and grammar will be considered in addition to the ideas expressed in the essay.
- Essays will only be judged in comparison with other essays from the same grade range and topic:
- Grades 5 to 6
- Grades 7 to 8
- Grades 9 to 12
- Topics: 1: Ariel, 2: Oberon, or 3: Titania.
Students who live in countries other than the United States should contact the national essay contest organizer in their own country.
A winning essay will be selected for each topic in each grade range.
Write an essay (300 words maximum) about which of the three moons you think is most interesting, and explain why. If you could send a spacecraft to explore your chosen moon in more detail, which of these three moons would you choose to visit? What do you think you might learn, based on what is already known?
To Enter the Contest
- By participating, students agree to assign copyright to JPL so that JPL and NASA can post the essays, as excerpts or in their entirety, on NASA Web sites, along with the authors' name, grade, school, city, and state.
- Those participating in the United States contest must use the online submission form, which will be ready in December.
- Students from other countries should contact their country's national organizer to find out how to submit their essay.
- Entries must be submitted by teachers, parents, or guardians, not by the students themselves, since we can’t communicate online directly with minors.
Please note that there are changes to the rules this year, since we realize some schools are teaching online this year, some are hybrid, and some are in person. To help students and teachers during these challenging times, we are modifying the submission process for students in the U.S.
Teachers please include:
- Your name, email address, telephone number including area code, and the name and address of the school. Let us know the best way to reach you in the Notes field. We realize you may not be teaching in person on campus at the moment, and that your situation may change at some point during the year.
- The name(s) and grade(s) of all students who contributed to each essay (a maximum of four students per essay).
- You are welcome (and encouraged) to use this contest as a class assignment.
- If you need help or have questions, please contact the contest organizers at email@example.com
- Once winning essays are selected by the judges, winners' teachers will be contacted and asked to provide a photograph of the student(s) to post on our website along with the winning essays. Parents/guardians must submit written authorization to let us post the photos online.
- Please print the certificates of participation, or send electronic copies to your students. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the contest organizers are working remotely, and will not be able to mail paper certificates this year.
Instructions for Parents and Guardians
- If your child writes an essay for the contest and the teacher cannot submit the essay to the contest, a parent or guardian may submit an essay on behalf of their child(ren). Please include your child’s teacher’s name, grade, school address. Please write your name in the Notes field, indicate that the entry was submitted by the student’s parent, and make sure your child’s teacher did not also submit the essay.
- Please let your child's teachers know so the students get credit at school for their work.
- Please only submit each essay once, either by the student’s teacher or parent, but not both.
What Happens Next
- When essays are submitted, electronic certificates of participation are provided. Please save a copy of these certificates. We will not be able to mail out paper certificates this year, as we have in past years.
- You will receive an email confirming that we received the essay. Keep track of the essay ID#, in case you need to reference it later should you have questions.
- The decision of the judges is final.
- The winning schools, and as many other schools as possible, will be invited to participate in a teleconference or videoconference with NASA scientists and/or engineers.
- Winning essays will be posted on a NASA website.
As a teacher, parent, or guardian, how do I submit my student's essay?
Teachers, parents, and guardians in the United States must use the online submission form. Please only submit each essay once, either by the teacher or by the parent or guardian, but not both. The online entry form will be ready in early December 2020. Students participating in the contest from other participating countries outside of the United States should contact their national organizers for instructions. A link to the list of national coordinators will be posted when it is available.
Who can participate in the essay contest?
This contest is open to all students in the U.S. in grades 5 to12. Parallel contests are being run in other countries around the world. We will soon add a list of participating countries.
Can home-schooled students enter this essay contest?
Do I need to include citations or a bibliography?
Your teacher may require you to include citations and/or a bibliography if the essay is a class assignment. For the purposes of the contest, however, we don't require one, and the judges won't read bibliographies. You do not need to send us a bibliography along with your essay.
What is the prize for U.S. contest winners?
All U.S. winners of the Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on a NASA website. U.S. winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a videoconference or teleconference with NASA scientists and/or engineers so the students can ask questions about the moons of Uranus, robotic planetary exploration, or other space-related topics. Other participating countries may offer their own prizes.
What is the prize for international (non-U.S.) contest winners?
All international winners of the Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on a NASA website. Each participating country may offer its own prizes. All national coordinators will receive a template for the certificate of participation so that they can acknowledge all of their country's participants and/or winners.
Can students at a Museum, Science Center, Astronomy Club or After-school program participate?
Yes, but please have your program coordinator contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the details on how to submit.
My country doesn't have a contest, but I would like to participate. What can I do?
- Contact us first. We may have a national coordinator for your country in mind already. We will try to keep our list of national coordinators up to date on our website.
- If your country has a space agency, ask if they would like to host a Scientist for a Day contest in your country.
- Some countries don't have national coordinators, but there may be a contest available to students in your region.
- You can always do the research and write the essay anyway. It's good practice for writing essays in college or university, even if you don't write the essay for the purpose of entering the contest.
Can I choose to write about more than one moon?
No, you have to choose just one moon in your essay. Being able to describe which target you think will return the most interesting scientific data is one of the main points of this activity.
English is not my first language. Does my essay have to be written in English?
The contest for students in the United States is only accepting essays in English. Each country that participates in the essay contest may choose the language(s) in which entries will be accepted. It depends in part on the languages the contest judges can read. If you live outside of the United States, check the rules for your country's version of the contest. The National Coordinators webpage lists which languages are accepted in each participating country.
I live in the United States, and I'm enrolled in school, but I'm not a United States citizen. Can I still send my entry to enter the U.S. contest?
Can students from different grades work together?
Yes, but you must indicate the grade level for each student who wrote the essay, and the essay will be judged in the grade category of the oldest student who collaborated on the essay.
I’m a teacher. I have given this assignment to my classes as a project. Can I send all the essays I collected?
You are welcome and encouraged to use this contest as a class assignment. Unlike previous years, this year we will accept all essays written by your students, not just the top three per class.
Either teachers or parents may submit students’ essays this year. Please make it clear to your students whether you will be submitting their essay or whether you would like the students’ parents or guardians to submit the essay. We would only like to receive each essay once. We have asked parents to let teachers know if their child is participating in the essay contest. Please communicate with the parents to make sure it’s clear whether the parent or the teacher is submitting the essay.
It is up to you to decide whether to give credit, extra credit, or no credit for the essay, in Science, English, both, or neither.
Is grammar important?
Yes, your peers - the jury judging your essay - must be able to comprehend your argument.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
Send an email to email@example.com or to your country's national essay contest coordinator, if you're not in the United States. When communicating with the contest organizers, please indicate which country you live in so that we can better assist you.