Inspired by kids, built by Burns & McDonnell.


It’s Kansas City’s most exciting K-12 STEM competition — Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains. 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, collaborating and having fun. So far, nearly 20,000 students in 55 school districts have benefited from this immersive educational opportunity.


Ready to battle? Visit the Resources section and download the Competition Packet.



  • No-cost, high-reward and relevant experience for students and teachers
  • A competition for all — general ed classrooms, teacher-led enrichment, gifted programs, etc.
  • Project-based learning that aligns with NGSS Science & Engineering Practices and can be incorporated into existing curriculum
  • Encourages teamwork, collaboration and executive functioning skills with a real-world challenge
  • Process aligns with 21st-century skills used by Burns & McDonnell professionals every day
  • Supports big thinking, a growth mindset and developing the “whole child”
  • Clear expectations and rules with a high level of support from competition organizers


Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains has two divisions: elementary (K-6) and secondary (7-12). Each team must design a STEM exhibit focused around a single topic or main idea.

  • Entrants must be full-time K-12 students and be currently enrolled in and attending a public, private, parochial or home-based school in any of the following counties:
    • KS: Atchison, Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, Shawnee and Wyandotte.
    • MO: Bates, Buchanan, Caldwell, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Platte and Ray.
  • A school may submit an unlimited number of entries.
  • Each team may have one leader or two co-leaders.


Judges carefully assess each team’s proposal based on the competition rubric.

  • Round 1: Entries are screened for compliance.
  • Round 2: Ten entries from each division are elevated to a top 20, where they are then evaluated against each other regardless of division. These scores account for 70 percent of the final rankings.
  • Round 3: The public votes to determine the remaining 30 percent of rankings.

Grant Distribution

The Burns & McDonnell Foundation awards $155,000-plus in grants. The grand prize winner also has 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.