Best Engineering and Technology Summer Programs for High Schoolers 2021

Engineering, technology and computer science programs are some of the most competitive to apply for as an undergraduate. Read more to find summer programs that will you stand out in these crowded STEM fields.

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By ALEX LOVELESS

Students interested in engineering and computer science don’t really have the opportunity to explore these subjects sufficiently in high school. If you’re lucky, your school has engineering courses that you can take as electives or computer science courses beyond AP Comp Sci. Most students interested in engineering and CS have had to be resourceful in finding opportunities to confirm their interests or hone their skills. You know the type. The self-starters who taught themselves to code since in elementary school. The serial hobbyists interested in robotics, 3D-printing, Arduino projects, or cryptography. But what if you have tech/engineering interests and don’t fit this mold? 

If you come from any kind of underrepresented minority in STEM (woman, black, latino, native american), there are often even fewer opportunities and resources to ever get involved in things like Python coding or FIRST Robotics competitions. Luckily, there are a number of summer programs that try to address these inequalities in opportunity. They are often free programs that explicitly say on their application pages that they are looking for a certain type of applicant. Given the inequities inherent in education, these programs are great for inspiring a more diverse, next generation of STEM students. 

If you’re not from an underrepresented minority, there are still a number of programs and opportunities to spend your summer. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth has some great lists for computer science and math internships and research programs that have some overlap with some programs on this list. Overall, if you’re a engineering, tech, or CS interested student, we advocate – more than anything – to get your hands dirty by working on independent projects, completing online courses, and just generally taking charge of your education. 

The following list represents engineering, technology, and computer science programs that most top schools have heard of. To get a better idea as to the competitiveness and admissions value of each program, I’ve tiered the programs into three categories: S-Tier, A-Tier, and B-Tier. 

S-Tier: Must Go If Admitted

1) Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)
Program Dates: Cancelled 2021
Application Deadline: Cancelled
Cost: Free  
International Students: No (US residents/citizens only)

2) Women’s Technology Program (WTP)
Program Dates: Virtual, June 26th – July 23rd (4 weeks)
Application Deadline: January 15th 2021 (passed)
Cost: Free 
International Students: No (US residents/citizens only)

3) NASA Internships
Program Dates: Start — Late May/Early June, End — August (ten weeks, numerous projects and locations) 
Application Deadline: February 1st, 2021 
Cost: Free (majority of interns are paid a stipend)
International Students: No (US citizens only)
***Fall and Spring session internships are also available

MITES and WTP are both extremely selective programs run by MIT. They were both created to help underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields learn more about technology and engineering. For MITES, applicants should be minorities from underrepresented ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. They also prefer to admit students who will be first-gen college applicants. Specifically, their website says they encourage students who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American. 

WTP focuses on addressing the under-representation of women in STEM fields. Each accepted student chooses the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) or Mechanical Engineering track and takes rigorous courses related to the field. WTP really tries to accept female applicants who are strong in math/science classes but don’t really know what engineering is. They seem to prefer students who apply to the program with somewhat limited engineering experience. While they are different from MITES in wanting to accept female applicants only, they also do give priority to students who come from underrepresented backgrounds.  

The NASA internship programs are available to high school students aged 16 or older. However, these positions are also available to undergraduate and graduate level students, making it extremely difficult to successfully get accepted. Those that are accepted certainly will see some admissions value in their participation, as these programs are quite long and contribute to actual NASA missions. If a student does have a dream to one day work for NASA, these internships could be worth applying for multiple times, even after they’ve gone off to college. I’d suggest reaching out to NASA’s STEM Engagement Offices to learn more about what you can do to prepare for your application to any of these internship programs.

” If you’re a engineering, tech, or CS interested student, we advocate, more than anything, to get your hands dirty by working on independent projects, completing online courses, and just generally taking charge of your education.”

A-Tier: Highly Competitive Programs

4) University of Pennsylvania – Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Summer Institute (M&T)
Program Dates: July 11th – July 31st 
Application Deadline: February 3rd, 2021 (passed) 
Cost: $7,500
International Students: Yes

5) Stony Brook University — Simons Summer Research Program
Program Dates: Online — June 28th – August 9th (six weeks)
Application Deadline: TBD
Cost: Free
International Students: No

6) Texas Tech University — The Clark Scholars Program
Program Dates: June 24th – August 4th
Application Deadline: February 8th, 2021
Cost: Free, ($750 stipend, $500 meal card)
International Students: Yes

7) Boston University — Research in Science & Engineering (RISE)
Program Dates: Online — July 6th – August 13th (six weeks)
Application Deadline: February 14th, 2021
Cost: $4,650 (financial aid available)
International Students: No

8) Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SEAP)
Program Dates: Various labs (eight weeks), online/virtual TBD
Application Deadline: TBD
Cost: Free ($3,500 stipend for eight weeks)
International Students: No (US citizens only)

9) Michigan State University – High School Honors Science, Math and Engineering Program (HSHSP)
Program Dates: TBD 
Application Deadline: TBD (Usually around March 1st)
Cost: Free
International Students: No

10) LaunchX Summer
Program Dates: Online — June 28th – July 30th
Application Deadline: Early — December 21, 2021; Regular — February 15th, 2021
Cost: $5,980
International Students: Yes

These next batch of programs are all quite different, but they all give students opportunities to learn about, explore, or even perform research in the fields of engineering and computer science. Each program’s acceptance rate here is still quite low and admissions are very competitive. These programs range from free to paid programs that cover a variety of fields and topics. The rankings here are, again,debatable, but overall, they are all programs that most admissions officers at top schools have heard of and provide invaluable science and engineering experiences that admissions officers will value. 

The Jerome Fisher M&T Program is quite different in scope but similar in how competitive admissions are. M&T is a joint engineering and business program, run by the Wharton Business School and Penn Engineering department. Students who are also interested in business would probably enjoy the M&T program. The mission for this program is quite different from MITES and WTP, in that it is an expensive program that doesn’t mention financial aid at all on its website. This is one of those rare paid programs that are just as competitive as some of the best free programs, and if you’re a student interested in applying to the M&T program at Penn, admission here can give you the opportunity to secure a recommendation letter that helps you in admission. As it is quite a competitive program, other engineering and business programs likely look at it favorably from an admissions standpoint as well, though I would caution students to be aware of the privilege that a program like this affords certain students. 

Simons, Clark Scholars, SEAP, HSHSP, and RISE are all research programs that give you the opportunity to research in engineering and CS fields. They are very competitive, as mentioned in our best science research summer programs article. LaunchX is a technology and entrepreneurship program that is somewhat similar to Jerome Fisher, though not quite as competitive. LaunchX focuses more on actual entrepreneurship through technology and centers it’s program on building your own startup company. Students work on actual product development with engineers and learn about the business idea pitch process with business mentors. For technology and engineering interested students who are also curious about the business/entrepreneurship side of things, LaunchX is the perfect program. 

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B-Tier: Great for Younger Students

11) University of Pennsylvania – Engineering Summer Academy Program (ESAP)
Program Dates: Online — July 12th – July 30th (3 weeks) 
Application Deadline: Priority — February 19th, 2021; Regular — March 26th, 2021
Cost: Online – $4,850
International Students: Yes

12) AI4ALL
Program Dates: Various locations and dates
Application Deadline: TBD
Cost: Free or provide extensive tuition assistance
International Students: Some programs may accept international

13) California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS)
Program Dates: Online, July 6th – July 31st (4 weeks) 
Application Deadline: February 19th, 2021
Cost: In-state — $2,177, Out of state — $4,500 (financial aid available for in-state)
International Students: No

14) Girls Who Code – Summer Immersion Program
Program Dates: Online — Round 1: June 21st – July 2nd, Round 2: July 12th – July 23rd, Round 3: August 2nd – August 13th
Application Deadline: Early — February 17th, 2021; Regular — March 19th, 2021
Cost: Free ($300 needs-based stipend provided)
International Students: No

15) Wharton Business School – Data Science Academy
Program Dates: July 11th – July 31st (3 weeks) 
Application Deadline: Priority — February 26th, 2021; Regular — April 15th, 2021
Cost: In-person — $7,599
International Students: Yes

These programs are still meaningful experiences and can be great for students in their sophomore year who are not quite competitive enough to apply to the higher tier programs. Each of these are quite specialized, ranging from engineering research to data science opportunities. AI4ALL focuses on teaching minority students about programming and AI to better prepare them for the quickly changing technology world. Girls Who Code focuses exactly on what you’d expect, helping more girls to get interested in coding and apply to computer science programs in college. There can certainly be admissions value in these programs in the form of an outstanding recommendation from a mentor or advisor in any of these programs. 

There are certainly a few more programs that belong in this category, but these are the ones that I have experience with. If you don’t care about admissions value, these programs can be a great option to spend time in the summer. However, without the residential experience and community aspects of the virtual programs, they might not be worth the cost. 

Bonus Program

The Ace Mentor Program is a year-long program that connects high school students interested in Architecture, Construction, or Engineering with mentors who are actually in those fields. Students get to work in teams and interact with professionals in a design team that emulates a professional setting. With over 10,000 students in the program and locations all over the US, ACE is an impactful and somewhat accessible opportunity that helps motivate students to get into architecture, engineering, and construction. While they do boast a majority of their students being minorities and one-third of them being female, there are students from all kinds of backgrounds who participate.

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