TCEA’s 3D Design Contest

Through the 3D Design Contest from TCEA, you will promote STEM thinking as your students develop and design an invention to solve a TCEA supplied real-world problem. From 3D printed prosthetics for amputees to emergency shelters that can be produced in 30 minutes flat, 3D printer technology has engineered some incredibly innovative fixes for the good of mankind.

This competition lets students become the creators. A prompt for an engineering design challenge is provided each year. Students will use the Engineering Design Process (see below) and 3D modeling software to create a solution. They will approach their like engineers and rely on critical thinking skills to create inventions that have a meaningful impact on the world.

Contest Dates and Registration Information

Contest Registration: March 15 – March 31, 2021
Contest Design Entry: April 1 – April 16, 2021

Registration fee: $50 per team

**Payments or purchase orders must be received by the design submission deadline or the team will not be able to participate.

2021 Contest Prompt:

A kinetic garden sculpture is an object that spins or whirls. Variations on this simple technology are also called pinwheel, buzzer, comic weather-vane, gee-haw (or gee-haw whammy diddle), spinner, whirlyjig, whirligig, whirlybird, or just a plain whirly.

Kinetic garden sculptures are most commonly powered by the wind, but they can be hand-powered, friction-powered, or powered by a motor. This whimsical mechanism can be used as garden ornaments, kinetic art, and even designed to transmit sound and vibration into the ground to repel burrowing rodents in yards and gardens, among many other practical and visual uses.

This year, teams are tasked with designing a kinetic garden sculpture. You can design an original product or improve an existing one. Your design can also be a scaled-down model of a design that would be much larger in real-life. What invention will you spin into existence with your 3D design skills?


Engineering Design Process

Student teams entering the competition will be expected to use the Engineering Design Process to create their designs. This process is a series of steps that engineers undertake to reach solutions. These steps may be repeated multiple times until the problem is solved:

  • Research
  • Plan
  • Prototype
  • Document and Test
  • Commercialize

The process is just as important as the outcome. Students will be expected to carefully log their Engineering Design Process in a digital logbook, in the format of their choosing.

Getting Started

No 3D printer is required for this contest. Students will be judged not on a physical final product, but on the design, presentation, and engineering process logbook.

Teams will however require access to 3D modeling software. Any software may be used to create the design, but the file must be submitted to TCEA in a .STL (only) file format.

There are numerous 3D design programs available at varying price points. Public schools can request copies of SketchUp Pro through TCEA. The software is normally $495 per license, but is provided by TCEA free of charge. Private schools can purchase copies of the software for as little as $15 per seat.

Contest Parameters and Rules


Student teams will need to provide the following deliverables to submit a complete contest entry:

  • The team’s final design in a .STL format. 
  • A digital logbook outlining the team’s step-by-step notes, sketches, and documentation from throughout the design process. The logbook should define the problem that is being solved and describe in detail each step of the Engineering Design Process taken during the creation of the invention.
  • A presentation—not to exceed one minute in length—that markets the invention. The presentation can be in the form of a video or through any presentation tool, including: PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Prezi. Presentations longer than the one-minute limit will not be viewed or considered for judging.
  • The Proof of Originality form and Non-Disclosure form, below, in the “Forms” section.

In entering the contest, all teams and sponsors must adhere to the following rules:

  • Open to grades 6-12, with a competition for grades 6-8 and another for 9-12. Students in grades 6-8 may compete in either intermediate or advanced divisions. Students in grades 9-12 may compete in the advanced division only.
  • Each team will consist of one team sponsor and no more than four students. Students may only participate on one team.
  • The team sponsor must be an active TCEA member for the duration of the contest season.
  • Team names should meet common school standards.
  • Contest work must take place between March 1 and April 16, 2021.
  • Participants must sign and submit the “Proof of Originality” form stating that they are the sole creators of their design.
  • Participants must sign and submit the “Non-Disclosure” regarding posting the designs online and other social media outlets.
  • Each school/educational entity may enter a max of (3) three teams per division. If a school/educational entity has more teams that want to participate, they are encouraged to run their own contest and submit the winner’s entry to TCEA.
  • Again, you do not need to submit an actual printed design as part of your entry

** TCEA will post to our website only those contest entries who place in the top three per division and give us permission.


Each team’s entry will be judged on the following categories:
  • Originality
  • Feasibility
  • Functionality
  • Sustainability
Additionally, the deliverables will be weighted in importance accordingly:
  • Engineering Design Process Logbook (50 percent)
  • 3D Design (25 percent)
  • Marketing Plan Presentation (25 percent)

** The top three designs per division will be announced in May. Teams will be awarded trophies for their schools and medals for each winning team member.

Forms and Resources

*Please submit the 3D Design, logbook, and other supporting documents via the TCEA contest submission tool.

Top Designs of 2019

Pecos Barstow Toyah ISD • Genius!!!

It has been established that engagement and challenge positively affects learning​. Students at PBT CISD invented Genius!!! to address issues of boredom, anxiety, stress, apathy, and burnout associated with testing. Their goal is to make education fun again by providing an exciting, game-based platform for memorization, drills, and test preparation.

Plemons-Stinnett-Phillips CISD • Hula-Hooray

This team wanted to encourage healthy habits and physical well being in a fun way in effort to combat obesity in children. By adding a progress-tracking device to a hula hoop along with lights and sounds, they hope to encourage kids to keep active in a fun way.

Sabine Pass ISD • LUM-N-8

The goal for this team was to create a safe toy for students to aid in developing their motor functions as well as hand-eye coordination. They laser cut holes into a foam board for a game surface and created light-emitting pegs. Using a LED surface under the game board, light shown through the pegs. The pegs are designed to be safe in the event a child were to swallow them, and small enough to help them develop their motor skills.

Lewisville ISD • Bulldog Mobile

The Bulldog Mobile was designed as a remote control stroll-car for children 2–3 years of age. The idea is that, if parents were disabled or just tired of pushing the stroller, they could put their child in the car and control it with their phones.

Diocese of Corpus Christi • Eagles Project

This team recognize how parents always have trouble with their children leaving crumbs all over the place. They designed a toy car with a crumb scraper attached, so kids could have fun and clean up their snack crumbs at the same time!

Lumberton ISD • Quantum

Team Quantum were inspired by others to clean up the environment using drones. This drone is designed to collect all forms of debris from the surface of the planet.

Past Resources

Policy for Changes and Cancellations

TCEA accepts American Express, VISA, MasterCard, Discover, checks, and school purchase orders (POs) for payment. Purchase orders must include the following information: registrants’ names, a breakdown of coverage, a dollar amount for each item, and a total amount the purchase order.

Payment or purchase order must be received for your game materials (i.e. game pieces and mats) to ship.

Payment or purchase order must be received by the date of the contest, or your team(s) will not be able to participate.

Cancellation Policy
Cancellations must be made in writing via email to no later than five days before the submission deadline. Cancellations received by the deadline will receive a full refund. Cancellations received after the deadline, but before the contest, will receive a refund, less a $25 cancellation fee, per team. After the event has taken place, no refunds will be given.

Refund Policy
If you registered with a purchase order, your purchase order will be charged the cancellation fee. Refunds will be processed after the event has taken place.

Changes to Registration
Changes in registration may only be made via email to The email must include the sponsor’s name and a list of items to be changed. A confirmation email will be sent to the registrant once changes are made.

Responsible Party
Regardless of the situation, it is the responsibility of the individual registrant to pay any balance that was not paid for by the employer, including cancellation charges.

Registration Payment
Send registration payments and :

Fax: 512 476 8574

Mailing Address:
TCEA Registration
P.O. Box 18507
Austin, Texas 78760

Physical Address (for overnight payments)
TCEA Registration
3100 Alvin Devane Blvd.
Bldg. B
Austin, Texas 78741