Inspired by kids, built by Burns & McDonnell.


It’s Kansas City’s most exciting K-12 STEM competition — Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains. Metro area schools can earn a piece of $155,000-plus in grants for STEM education by dreaming up an exhibit concept for Science City — and one student team sees its idea come to life in a big way! It’s a fantastic, no-cost experience for students and teachers — thinking big, exploring new things, collaborating and having fun. So far, nearly 20,000 students in 55 school districts have benefited from this immersive educational opportunity. Battle of the Brains operates on a two-year cycle: one for competition and one for exhibit build-out.



Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains has two divisions: elementary (K-6) and secondary (7-12). THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF ENTRIES A SCHOOL MAY SUBMIT. Each team should have a maximum of two co-leaders and the same teacher may lead multiple teams. Each team must design a STEM exhibit focused around a single topic or main idea.


Entrants must:

  • Be full-time K-12 students.
  • Be enrolled in and attending a public, private, parochial or home-based school in any of these counties:
    • Kansas: Atchison, Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, Shawnee and Wyandotte.
    • Missouri: Bates, Buchanan, Caldwell, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Platte and Ray.


Battle of the Brains is judged by STEM professionals from Burns & McDonnell and Science City in a vigorous three-step process.

  • Round 1: Entries are screened for compliance.
  • Round 2: Entries are judged — and 10 from each division are elevated to a top 20. Once in the top 20, all entries are evaluated against each other regardless of division. These scores account for 70 percent of the final rankings.
  • Round 3: The public — anyone across the country with a valid email address — votes to determine the remaining 30 percent of rankings.


The Burns & McDonnell Foundation awards $155,000-plus in grants. The grand prize winner is also awarded the opportunity to work with Burns & McDonnell architects, engineers, construction managers, graphic designers and researchers to bring its ideas to life at Science City!

$50,000 grand prize
$25,000 finalist
$20,000 finalist
$15,000 finalist
$10,000 finalist
and 15 $2,500 finalists

The History

In 2011, our leaders created a gigantic idea: a competition to inspire kids to think big about STEM in support of Science City. The concept was truly unique in the academic space — students would compete to design a science center concept, which would come to life as a million-dollar exhibit at Science City. Since then, Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains has grown to become one of the most robust K-12 STEM competitions in the United States, with the participation of nearly 20,000 students in 55 school districts.