Rocket69 (national TV contest)

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Rocket69 (national TV contest)
Estonian Research Council
Education level:
Secondary Education, Higher Education
Year start:
Short summary:
"Rocket 69“ is an educational scientific entertaining TV contest for young people (15 years and up) developed by the Estonian Research Council and aired on Estonian public television. Its main objective is to show that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is fun and exciting. With a run-time of over ten years with a huge (and growing) audience it has impact countless students, influenced teaching methods (offering classroom materials based on the tv-show) and contributed to the popularisation of STEM careers in Estonia. 
Description and objectives:

"Rocket 69“ is an educational scientific entertaining TV contest for young people with the purpose to show that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) can be fun and show that everyone could perform the tasks that are given during the contest, while offering excitement and new knowledge. The name of the show comes from the fact that on 1969 the first man stepped on the Moon. All students starting from age 15 can apply for the show (until university students from 1st or 2nd year of studies). 15 contestants are chosen through casting and the casting process makes up the 1st episode of the show. From 2nd to 9th episode contestants solve the assignments in 3 competitive groups and from 10th episode individually. In the end of each episode one contestant has to leave after 1:1 scientific duel. All assignments require creativity, theoretical scientific knowledge and ability to use it in practices.


In the Grand Finale 2 finalists have to solve complex assignment that will show all their abilities. In the past 3 years the assignment has been to create and build Rube Goldberg machine. There is 1 personal winner who wins a EUR 10.000 scholarship to support his/her studies. The panel of judges consists of host of the show (young scientist) and 3 main judges who are also researchers. The first 9 episodes are shot in a studio specifically built for the show. Starting from 10th episode the locations vary and include science labs and research organizations, STEM companies etc.


All assignments and solutions of the contest are explained with a voice-over, by graphical illustrations during the show and also commented by judges. In addition, the Science Editor offers deeper explanations online for each assignment that can be used as STEM teaching material at school. The show is supported by cross-media approach combining radio, newspapers, internet, Facebook and other social media channels.


Rocket 69 is initiated by the Estonian Research Council in co-operation with Estonian National Broadcasting. The TV contest has been runnning for 10 seasons and will continue its course at least 2 more seasons (until 2022). The ultimate objective of the TV contest is to raise young people's interest in STEM education, professions and career in these fields. The aim of the show is also to engage parents, teachers and public in general (secondary target groups). There are no direct means for measuring the achievement of the objectives though indirect indication is evaluated based on the statistics of popularity of STEM specialties among the students enrolling universities, vocational schools and hobby education. Additionally, feedback from career specialists and consultants is gathered regarding the of (young) people’s interest towards STEM specialties.


The TV contest is produced within the science communication program “TeaMe+” that is developed based on the Estonian Research and Development and Innovation Strategy 2014-2020 “Knowledge-based Estonia”.

The reach of the TV contest has been growing each year. On 2016 the average reach was about 73.000 viewers per episode. By 2020 it has risen to more than 113.000 viewers per episode.   The objective is to maintain and increase the number of viewers on TV channels (first view and replays), as well as on Youtube and other social media channels. In addition, the programme aims to popularise the Science Editor episodes (which offer more extensive scientific explanations of the challenges) on the internet and social media channels (among teachers, hobby education supervisors and other science communicators) and for use in the classroom.   Achieving these objectives is supported by cross-media approach (radio, newspapers, web, Facebook and other social media channels) and direct contacts during various events the department of science communication is organizing or participating in. To increase the engagement of general schools and students (the primary target group) with the show all tasks in the episodes of the TV contest seasons were structured, labeled and linked to the curricula of general education school STEM subjects. It facilitates the use of the content of episodes (especially Science Educator explanations) as material of STEM subject lessons.
It is impossible to measure direct impact of a TV show, but there are indirect indications that there is an impact. On school level assignments from TV-episodes are used more and more in STEM classes and by teachers to generate ideas for creating their own team-assignments for the classes (each season covers 45 individual challenges). This way the Rocket69-format has become a teaching method which are leveraged in "Rocket69 roadshows". These roadshows go to schools and directly involve former participants and judges (reseachers). Previous Rocket69 participants have somewhat of a celebrity status among their peers due to the popularity of the show. As the show has been aired for 10 years, there are contestants (and winners) that have practically been growing up watching it and have been applied for participation as soon as they have turned 15.   The majority of the contestants have studied/are studying STEM specialties. Many graduates have chosen academic career in the STEM fields. There are also examples of contestants and finalist of the show that are working in leading positions in STEM companies.
Budget and funding model:
The format of the Rocket69 television show has been developed in the context of the "TeaMe+"-programme of the Estonian Research Council with co-financing from the European Social Fund, European Regional Fund and the Estonian government.   Production partner has been selected via public procurement typically covering a 3-season period. The majority of the funding for the show comes from the TeaMe+ programme. The production company has also recruited additional sponsors. As the show is aired on public television (Estonian National Broadcasting), there are limitations to sponsorships / paid promotion (advertising is not allowed in national broadcasting). To circumvent this some creative solutions have been implemented. For example, various STEM companies have hosted the filming of episodes on their premises..    Funding of the show is not directly related to the number of viewers, although the popularity and reach of the TV contest is monitored closely by the committee of the funding programme (TeaMe+).