Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Engineering

Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Engineering

As part of your college application, extracurricular activities—including those over the summer— help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).

But “programs” are not the only way to explore academic interests. You can join clubs at your school or locally, take free online classes via edX and Coursera, shadow, or intern (aka volunteer for most students)—there are tons of options ranging from super formal (and pricey) to those as simple as reading in your free time.

The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in exploring engineering.

Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (LLRISE)

The LLRISE program is a two-week summer institute for rising seniors that teaches students how to build small radar systems. The project-based enrichment program challenges students to build a Doppler and range radar.

COSMOS UCSDUS IrvineUC Santa CruzUC Davis

The COSMOS program is a four-week residential program designed by the UC schools. Each campus focuses on different subject areas, all admitting their own “cluster” of students. The courses are taught by UC faculty and researchers. Students choose from nine different clusters, which include engineering design, biodiesel from renewable sources, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and more.

Penn Engineering Summer Academy 

The Engineering Summer Academy at Penn (ESAP) welcomes highly motivated and talented students to explore Engineering at the college level.  The Academy’s intensive, three-week programs combine sophisticated theory with hands-on practical experience in cutting-edge technologies. Work with leading faculty while earning college credit, live on Penn’s historic campus, and connect with new friends from around the world.

MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute

The MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is a rigorous, world-class STEM program for talented students who will be entering their senior year in high school. The four-week program teaches STEM skills through project-based, workshop-style courses. BWSI began in 2016 with a single course offered to 46 students, a mix of local daytime students and out of-state residential students. In this course, RACECAR (Rapid Autonomous Complex Environment Competing Ackermann steering), students programmed small robotic cars to autonomously navigate a racetrack. It is a 4-week residential program for rising high school seniors and the program is free.

Google Computer Science Institute 

Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) is a three-week introduction to computer science (CS) for graduating high school seniors with a passion for technology — especially students from historically underrepresented groups in the field. CSSI is not your average summer camp. It’s an intensive, interactive, hands-on, and fun program that seeks to inspire the tech leaders and innovators of tomorrow by supporting the study of computer science, software engineering, and other closely-related subjects. It is a 3-week program and it is free.

AI Scholars

A 10-day program that exposes students to fundamental AI concepts, and guides them to build a socially impactful AI project. The program runs as a 10-session (40 hour) project-based Bootcamp.

CATALYST Academy

CATALYST Academy is a one-week residential program for rising high school juniors and seniors from underrepresented backgrounds who desire to learn about engineering and careers within an interactive milieu.

MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP)

The MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP) is a rigorous four-week summer academic experience to introduce high school students to engineering through hands-on classes, labs, and team-based projects in the summer after 11th grade.

WTP is designed for students who are excited about learning, have demonstrated their ability to excel at math and science in their high school classes, and who have no prior background (or very little) in engineering or computer science, with few opportunities to explore these fields.

WTP is a women-focused, collaborative community aimed at empowering students from groups historically underrepresented and underserved in engineering. We especially encourage students to apply who will be the first family member to attend college, who come from high schools with limited access to STEM classes and activities, or who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American.

Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

The MITES program is a six-week long residential program geared towards rising seniors from underrepresented or underserved communities. The program aims to provide the skills and knowledge necessary for pursuing a career in the STEM fields. Students take one math course, one life sciences course, one physics course, one humanities course and an elective course. Placement is determined by diagnostic tests that are administered to all students during the orientation period of the program.

 

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From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

Brendan Barnard wrote a three-part series where he asked admission leaders to focus on what they wanted students and families to know about applying to college next year. The common theme in their responses was, “WE GET IT!” They know that there has been major disruption and that everyone is learning virtually. They know that sports competitions, musical productions, and internships have been canceled. They are aware that many students will not take standardized tests and that grading policies in high schools are in flux. 

A few important insights/quotes for students and parents to take note of:

On transcripts/grading…

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College agrees, saying, “there will be a big asterisk on spring 2020 transcripts for all students and colleges and universities are aware and understanding of that fact.” He adds, “we will work with college counselors to understand and accept the choices individual schools and districts make during these challenging times.

On activities/summer…

Often, students and parents mistakenly believe that they need to build a long list of activities and involvement in the name of admission to college. “More, more, more” is their mantra as they try to do—and be—everything to stand out in the application process. In some communities, daily schedules for high school students become unsustainable, as families rush from one commitment to another—usually leading to sleep-deprived, burnt-out young people (and parents). In other communities, students are working long hours at a job or caring for a younger sibling, and therefore worry that their college application will lack what they perceive as “traditional” extracurricular involvement. This resume building approach to admission is flawed and the current crisis has forced us all to slow down and look critically at what we do. Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost and director of admissions at Virginia Tech, says, “We recognize that organized extracurricular activities will be impossible, but we are impressed, by how students are finding ways to give back to their communities.”

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College tells students, “many of you may have a little more time on your hands these days. Rest. Read. Reassess. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I pursue this activity or that program?’” He adds, “many students believe we count activities and that more is better. What we seek is commitment to a few activities, though there is no formula for a successful application.” He advises, “pursue what you want, and find the college that matches, and you will be much more satisfied in the end. You may also have less choice as you care for siblings and families, and there may not be the ability to work. We value all commitments.” Bock encourages students to “think about what has motivated you to do what you do? Would you do it all the same? Why are you doing it? When things return to the new normal (whenever that happens) how do you envision engaging with and impacting your family, your faith community, your school, or your larger community?” He says, “regardless, take care of yourself first and take it slow. There is time for reflection.” 

Some students had grand plans for the summer. Maybe they had been looking forward to being a camp counselor or participating in an internship. Perhaps they were eager to volunteer or work a steady job. Research, travel, spending time with a relative—many summer experiences have been, or likely will be, closed down by the pandemic. Applicants fear that dashed plans will ruin their college dreams. Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University suggests looking at it in a different way. He says, “summer presents an opportunity to be productive even if in different ways. For example, a student might not be able to secure a coveted internship, but they could still plant a garden in their yard or design a smartphone app or read books by authors from marginalized communities.” 

Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina explains that “thirst for learning and knowledge is always valuable and appreciated by the admissions committee.” She tells students that given that they are operating in a non-traditional classroom this spring, “consider other opportunities to pursue learning beyond the classroom over the summer,” adding, “you’re probably already doing something that could be considered an internship or research project of sorts. Perhaps you’ve taken on new responsibilities in your home or family. Is there a new skill that you are trying to learn online? Are you working toward a finished project or artifact that can show off what you’ve learned? These can be applied, creative, or reflective in nature. We find that students are pretty imaginative on this front and are self-taught in many areas.” 

Swarthmore’s Bock also points out that, “self-care is critical, and if you are unable to care for yourself, it will be difficult to care for others.” He encourages students to give themselves permission to prioritize their own health in the same way one might put their own oxygen mask on first during an emergency in flight. He says, “finding a way to give back to your team, club, faith community, family will come with time. Taking care of yourself in this crisis is a way to help others. It will take time, but there will be ways for you to share and care for others beyond your computer screen and devices.” 

On essays…

Temple’s Abbott, says, “I would advise to resist against writing about something that has consumed all of us around the world. Know in advance that colleges will fully recognize the impact of what COVID-19 had on your high school experience. Don’t let this one public health crisis (as dramatic as it was!) define you.” 

Source (three linked here). 

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