The 61st Annual Central New Mexico STEM Research Challenge will be held virtually March 22-27.

Nearly 200 4th through 12th-grade students will exhibit their research projects and compete virtually for the chance to move forward to the New Mexico State Science & Engineering Fair and/or directly to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. Students will also compete for monetary and other awards provided by local businesses and private donors.

"This event provides a great opportunity to showcase The University of New Mexico, recruit from a pool of excellent future student candidates and promote science, technology, engineering, math and health sciences (STEM-H) education in New Mexico,” says Karen Kinsman, director of UNM’s STEM-H Center.

The 2021 Central NM STEM Research Challenge Virtual Lobby will be available from March 22 through April 30 and is open to the public ( From the lobby, visitors will be able to:

  • View on-demand videos of Health Professions, Energy & Engineering and Alumni Panels, as well as several individual speakers
  • Browse the Student Researchers’ Showcase
  • Check out all the organizations and resources in the STEM Hall
  • Participate in a social event (Trivia Night, Movie Night and Stretch Break/Mindfulness Event)
  • View the March 27 Grand Awards Event
  • Learn more about major sponsors
  • Engage with social media platforms using #STEMrc21

The Central New Mexico STEM Research Challenge is one of three signature regional STEM competitions managed by the STEM-H Center team. Students qualify to compete by entering a research or engineering project in a local or school-level science fairs and being selected to move on to the regional event.

They also must comply with all Regeneron ISEF Rules for Pre-College Research. For students whose projects involve humans, vertebrate animals or potential biosafety hazards, this means starting their projects months in advance in order to gather the necessary approvals to proceed with their projects.

The UNM Office of the Vice President for Research and the UNM Health Sciences Center are the institutional sponsors for all events and competitions hosted by the UNM STEM-H Center.

Other major sponsors for this year’s research challenge include the UNM HSC Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, UNM Alumni Association, Sandia National Laboratories, PNM Resources, the Albuquerque Journal, General Mills, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Boeing and the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association. A number of other individuals and organizations donated prizes for the Participant Scavenger Hunt.

Nearly 400 volunteers donate nearly 3,000 hours of their time to help mount the Research Challenge in normal years, Kinsman says, but the number of volunteers needed will be smaller this year during the remote, COVID-safe events.

“Our small team continues to rely on sponsors and volunteers donating their time and resources to help to make the Research Challenge an event that often literally changes the lives of students who participate,” said Kinsman.

For more information, email