What is a flame? What is time, color, sleep, or sound? These questions were asked by students around 11 years old and answered by real scientists in past years of The Flame Challenge. The responses were then judged by some of the same students based on how well they understood and enjoyed the entries. After reviewing hundreds of questions submitted by children from around the world, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University has announced the question issued to scientists for The Flame Challenge 2017 – What is Energy? 

Accept the Challenge: What is Energy?

The contest deadline has passed. Please enter next year!

Enter the contest for a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to New York City* to meet acclaimed actor, writer and Flame Challenge founder Alan Alda and to be honored at a special presentation during the World Science Festival. * New York City trip includes travel and accommodations for two nights for the winner. A guest is welcome to attend the meet-and-greet with Mr. Alda and the festival but travel will not be covered. 

Please see below for links to download our Scientist Guide, which includes rules for the contest as well as other helpful information. There's also a link to a form where you can submit your contest entry when you're ready. If you have any questions that are not covered in the guide, please email We look forward to reviewing your entry!

Download the Scientist Guide for 2017

Key Dates

Don’t miss out on important deadlines! We know scientists are concentrated on the demands of their important work. Please review the timeline and make sure it fits into your schedule.

  • October 24, 2016: Announcement of The Flame Challenge Question
  • November 1, 2016: Release of Scientists' Survival Kit for The Flame Challenge 2017
  • November 16, 2016: Informational Webinar for Participating Scientists
  • February 3, 2017: Final Contest Entries Due for Participating Scientists
  • February 28 - April 7, 2017: Students Vote on Contest Entries on a Rolling Basis
  • April 7, 2017: Voting Begins for Finalist Contest Entries
  • April 14, 2017: Last Day for Schools to Submit Scores for Finalist Entries
  • April 24, 2017: Worldwide Assembly with Alan Alda (via web conference)
  • May 15, 2017: Winning Scientists Notified and Invited to Award Ceremony in New York City
  • June 4, 2017: Announcement of Contest Winners at World Science Festival in New York City

Past Challenges

Please browse our Past Challenges to get ideas for your own submission to the contest. 

Helpful Hints from Previous Judges