Students construct face out of clay
Michigan Tech's Youth Programs specializes in providing great answers to the perennial question "What did you do over the summer?" Secondary school students construct a face à la CSI.
Students dissect the anatomy of a landslide during one of Michigan Tech's Youth Programs.
Students dissect the anatomy of a landslide during one of Michigan Tech's Youth Programs.

Summers of Discovery

They've designed and built rockets, studied wolf-moose ecology on Isle Royale, and learned about green energy initiatives by making a handmade batch of biodiesel fuel. Who are they? Not the scientists and researchers you might suspect. They're participants in Michigan Tech's Youth Programs, and they're all middle and high school students.

Every summer, Youth Programs hosts more than fifty weeklong explorations in areas like engineering, photography, video game programming, wilderness ecology, and more. Learning by doing is the name of the game—students get their hands dirty (and sometimes their feet wet) on innovative projects and research, from casting molten metal to studying forensic evidence and investigating a crime scene.

It may sound like serious business for a summer vacation, but the students will be the first to tell you that when learning is this much fun, it hardly feels like work at all.

"My favorite part of the week was . . . well, everything," said participant Andrew Meyer. "I got to make aspirin and see for myself how chemicals interact with one another."

As well, Youth Programs offers a variety of scholarship programs, including Women in Engineering (WIE) and the Engineering Scholars Program. Both are fully funded, competitive programs for academically talented high school students. Their focus is engineering—ten different fields are explored—and they feature hands-on projects, group activities, field trips, and more.

"We learned all about landslides and volcanoes," said Stephanie Squandra, a WIE participant. "Eventually we were given a problem to solve: how can you prevent a house built on the side of a river from being washed away? My team built a model, designed a dam around the house, lined it with rock—and it survived! So awesome!"