Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering icon for STEM Expo

The rules and information presented below are for STEM Expo 5 (March 7th 2015).

Rules and information for STEM Expo 6 (March 5th, 2016)
will be released on December 1st 2015.

Although there will be changes, the general concepts (and most of the details) of the rules will remain the same as the 2015 event. But be sure to get the current rules after they are released!



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

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.

  • Select and acquire at least one product (typically, mechanical in nature), disassemble the unit, then mount and label all components.
  • 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.