"Ready set go!" Opportunities abound for students and educators both, even in relation to GIS. The chance to match a set of criteria defined by someone else is excellent practice for all the years ahead. Understand what someone seeks, think creatively, and show what you can do. And for all the GeoMentors out there, this is even a chance for you to shine, with encouragement, instruction, and supportive critique.
Esri's ArcGIS Online Competition for US High School and Middle School students is underway. Work singly or in pairs, students investigate and report on a topic of interest within the state borders, and present findings as a web app or Story Map. Students submit their entries to the school, the school submits its top five to the state, and the state chooses 5-HS and 5-MS entries each to receive $100, then submits these to Esri for the next level, with top 1-HS and 1-MS awardees from the nation earning a trip to the Esri User Conference in San Diego.
Esri's Teacher Video Challenge is for US K12 teachers to create a 60-second video of how they work with ArcGIS Online, post it publicly, and create a database entry. Each month, Esri selects one for digging deeper with a richer video, and provides a $500 honorarium.
Even the US Congress is in the act, with the US Congressional App Challenge. This is for US high school and middle school students. While it is a much broader "STEM education" challenge, it is a great opportunity for students to submit an original application using GIS to a panel of reviewers who may be less familiar with, and thus more impressed by, the power of geospatial apps. This has a tight deadline -- Nov.1, 2017 -- but there can be winners within the boundaries of each participating legislator.
It takes courage to explore an opportunity, empathy to see the goals and constraints, dedication to do the work, and humility to propose a solution, on top of the technical skills. But all these traits are highly prized among adults, and take practice to develop, so every attempt brings rewards.