Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs Celebrates 50th Year

Six SYP participants watch the sunset behind a lighthouse on Lake Superior.
Six SYP participants watch the sunset behind a lighthouse on Lake Superior.
Summer Youth Programs draws an average of 1,100 participants to the University’s campus each year.

Since 1972, Summer Youth Programs (SYP) at Michigan Tech has delivered hands-on educational explorations for tens of thousands of middle and high school students from around the world.

SYP draws an average of 1,100 participants to Michigan Technological University’s campus each year, many of whom go on to become Michigan Tech students. In fact, about 10% of currently enrolled students at MTU are SYP alumni.

“SYP kickstarted a long chain of reactions that has led me to where I am today,” said Magann Dykema, who attended in 2012 and 2013. “I attended the Engineering Scholars program in high school as a way to understand more about the world of engineering because I loved math. By the end of my first summer, I fell in love with Michigan Tech and the Keweenaw. I returned the following summer for the National Summer Transportation Institute as a way to dive deeper into the field of civil engineering. All of that together helped me decide that I wanted to attend Michigan Tech and pursue a degree in civil engineering.”

Three SYP participants hold their metal-working projects
Participants in SYP's Women in Engineering program show off their casting and blacksmithing projects.

SYP’s first focus was providing opportunities to students traditionally underrepresented in STEM, such as through its flagship Women in Engineering program. While early outreach and access are still critical components of its mission, SYP is now rising up to meet the challenges of tomorrow, offering new programming centered around the social, environmental, and technological needs of society over the next 10 years. In 2022, SYP will offer 72 explorations on topics including Climate and Sustainability, Economic Espionage, and Esports: Content Creation.

Of course, it's the instructors who make SYP a truly transformational experience. Participants often point to the 12-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio and mentorship offered in the classroom as hallmarks of their experience. Likewise, teaching for SYP is an opportunity to make a difference. As former instructor of Engineering 101 Colleen Hanson (Carbary) said: “I found an extreme amount of fulfillment in helping young minds be open to science and engineering. It was so amazing to watch them grow.”

Those who have been involved with SYP as participants, instructors or staff are invited to share their stories through the Humans of SYP campaign. Highlights will be shared weekly on social media leading up to a 50th anniversary celebration in summer 2022.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.