Curiosity, critical thinking, and a collaborative attitude might be three attributes all parents aspire to see in their children. These are also traits fostered at STEM summer camps where the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math are turned into hands-on group and individual projects. Whether your teen is itching to found the next hot tech startup or she’s just into robots or maybe biology, summer camp offers kids a great place to explore these subjects in-depth, away from the pressures of the classroom.
We’ve put together a list of some of the top science and tech camps that offer sessions in multiple cities and states across the country. Some offer programs for kids as young as 6; some are more focused on coding and computer science, while others include “STEAM” programming with design, music, writing, and other creative pursuits on the roster. All emphasize hands-on collaboration aimed at creating the next generation of engineers and inventors. In many camps, kids will also gain presentation skills, leadership traits, and most likely, the confidence to stick with these sometimes difficult subjects and tasks...even when they fail.
This list is just a sampling of the STEM summer programs available to kids, of course. You can find more local STEM or other summer camps in your local Mommy Poppins Summer Camp Guide and Directory. Rising teens might also look to the local science or engineering college for summer STEM programs for high schoolers.
Now let’s be honest. Summer camp isn’t cheap, and specialty camps often cost even more, so I’ve tried to mark those STEM camps that offer scholarships or financial aid, too.
Camp Invention makes complicated subjects accessible to curious kids.
Problem-solving, creative challenges, and working together make Camp Invention a leading STEM-based summer program. The camp introduces potentially tricky subject material in an accessible, kid-friendly way. For example, it’s “Farm Tech” program helps kids learn the basics of running a business with the help of a programmable bot, and in the “Deep Sea Mystery,” campers work in teams to build and invent tools to survive and find their way home from a deserted island. Entrepreneurship is encouraged, as is collaboration.
Grouped by ages, kids can explore topics like rocket space science, physics coaster, and science magic during a Destination Science summer camp session. Expect kids to try out projects and experiments at science stations, engage in STEM games, such as mini golf and bowling, and even classic outdoor camp fun like water play. Find locations in California, the greater New York City area, Seattle, and Dallas Fort Worth.
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Kids explore advanced concepts at college campuses through Digital Media Academy.
Digital Media Academy
Created a decade ago at Stanford University, the Digital Media Academy’s summer camps are now offered at major universities across the country, including UCLA, University of Chicago, University of Houston, George Washington University, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard, among others. It champions the caliber of its teachers, project-based curriculum—and its tech—as differentiators. The youngest campers can enjoy courses, such as 3D modeling and Lego robotics, while teens can explore AI, game design, VR, music production, filmmaking, various programming languages, and more. Digital Media Academy lets kids “unplug” throughout the camp day with outdoor breaks. Scholarships are available, half of which are reserved for girls.
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Girls Who Code offers an all-girls environment to bolster kids' confidence and demonstrate female leadership through its instructors.
Girls Who Code
This nonprofit dedicated to funneling more women into tech operates a popular, FREE summer program for teen girls
new to computer science, but also paid options at universities across several major cities, including New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Young women can sign up for two-week, full-day coding courses, such as wearable tech, iPhone app development, and website design. Girls are encouraged to build, collaborate, pitch their ideas, and generally gain confidence and leadership skills through the hands-on projects available in the Girls Who Code Campus program. Scholarships are available.
Campers collaborate on engineering, design, robotics, and more STEM projects during iD Tech summer camps.
Coding, engineering, design, robotics, and just about every complex STEM subject is available to kids through the dozens of summer camp courses at iD Tech. This national organization runs a multitude of year-round academies and classes. Its summer camps are often located at the local university, including prestigious science and engineering schools, such as CalTech, Virginia Tech, New York University, Stanford, and John Hopkins. Choose from among one, two, or three-week sessions, as well as co-ed or girls only options. Its all-girls Alexa Cafe summer program even offers overnight options. Some scholarships are available ahead of the application deadline, but it has closed for 2019.
Campers gain hands-on experiences in coding, robotics, esports (gaming), and more. Kids as young as 6 can try out specialty STEM camps with Lavner, such as Robotics Camp with Lego EV3 where they learn to build and program a robot. There’s a spy tech session, superhero camp with STEAM, YouTube, filmmaking, and Minecraft options, of course! And don’t worry: they separate campers into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sessions so as not to overwhelm the newbies, nor bore the pros. Its Tech R3volution camps take the STEM lesson a step further where kids select a “major” and a “minor” in various tech subjects, and there are artsy (and sporty) specialty camps at Lavner, too, including cooking, creative writing, theater, and more. There are about 20 locations nationwide.
Ages 5-13 (some preschool programs available)
Kids can choose from a range of options at this fun summer camp that is all about science, especially hands-on experiments and building. They'll "design, create, build, and assemble" projects every day, and even get to take some home. Subjects include slippery slime, red hot robotics, crazy chem, super spies, and even a Crayola-themed artistry course. Mad Science says it offers a structured science day, but also plenty of outdoor games to soak up the summer fun.
Sylvan STEM Camps
Coding, robotics, and engineering camp sessions are available at many of Sylvan's hundreds of locations nationwide. Typically hosted in half-day sessions, kids can dive into a morning of building and programming a Lego robot, advanced programming, or even designing their own video game. Kids in the upper grades can hone those math skills in a Fit4Alegbra camp, while engineering camp tests their problem-solving skills.
Photos courtesy of the camps