Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering icon for STEM Expo

Please note: Although we have updated our Category Descriptions for STEM Expo 5  (March 7, 2015), we are still in the process of updating the rubrics -- These should be completed soon!


Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a
device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation.
It often involves taking something (e.g., a mechanical device or electronic component)
apart and analyzing its workings in detail to be used in maintenance.

Pertinent Information and Definitions

Project Scope

  • A Reverse Engineering project should be of enough complexity to allow the student to gain an understanding of how something works in detail, without being overwhelming.
  • A successful entry may have sub-components that are further disassembled
  •  The tools used can be simple or complex, but the methods and sequence for disassembly should be documented.

Project Display and Description

A successful entry in this category will have the components of the disassembled object mounted and labeled to show the following:

  • Overall unit and operation of the unit is described
  • Each component is described adequately, material is identified, and its function explained
  • Components are arranged so that they are located to the assembled unit correctly

A paper describing the operation and functionality of all of the components should be created and may include:

  • Illustrations or images of components and how they fit together
  • A description of the steps for deconstruction
  • Any notes or logs that are taken during the disassembly
  • A description of how the original object actually functions

Entry, Review, and Judging

An entry in this category will be reviewed and judged on the following:

  • General requirements and judging points
  • Preparation and display of the components or subcomponents of the original object
  • Descriptive paper showing accuracy in explanation of components and overall operation.

Additional items which will affect the review and judging conclusions

  • Shows completeness of thought and cause and effect are clearly identified
  • Project scope is reasonable and allows for disassembly to adequate levels
  • The understanding of how the object works is not generally understood
  • High degree of complexity or complex disassembly procedure required


Please review the judging rubric for this category for other items that may be considered.