The Best Computer Science Summer Programs for High School Students

Put simply, computer science is the investigation of computers and computational systems; however, the implications and applications of a computer science background or college degree are considerably far-reaching! 

More specifically, computer scientists are concerned with software design and development.

Several sub-categories within computer science are also observed in STEM majors – artificial intelligence (AI), game design, robotics, and cybersecurity are a few popular fields.

On a daily basis, computer scientists design, test, and refine algorithms to improve existing technology or innovate new devices and systems. 

Much of their collaboration will increase functionality and convenience for people worldwide. Their skills apply to a range of industries, including finance, military, education, healthcare, and transportation.

Summer programs in computer science have the potential to ignite a passion for an area that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows a growth of 11% between now and 2029. 

It’s safe to say that young graduates with expertise in computer science will be highly desirable across a range of industries in the decades to come.

We have compiled an exciting list of 10 amazing computer science summer programs for high school students in the United States. 

While some of these programs are associated with the country’s most elite collegiate computer science institutions (like MIT, Georgia Tech, and Carnegie Mellon), others provide a fulfilling experience for high school students in other areas of the U.S.

Summer Programs at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering (New York, NY)

NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Jgunaratne, NYU Bioengineering building, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

STEM enthusiasts can choose among three exciting computer science programs at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering: Computer Science for Cyber Security (CS4CS), Machine Learning (ML), or the Summar Program for Automation, Robotics, and Coding (SPARC).

CS4CS is a three-week program for rising New York City high school students – it is the only tuition-free option of the three available programs. 

In CS4CS, scholars immerse themselves in topics like “white-hat” hacking, cryptography, digital forensics, and data usage, learning how to use diverse software tools to anticipate cyber threats and thwart phishing scams.

The ML option lasts two weeks, and on any given day, participants may be exploring video and image recognition technologies, autonomous vehicle operations, and voice technologies for smart homes. 

In SPARC, high school students will experiment with wiring various circuit configurations, understanding microcontroller anatomy, and building multiple robotic devices. 

Kode with Klossy (Virtual and Multiple In-Person Locations)

Kode with Klossy camps are offered virtually and in multiple in-person locations that differ from year to year. 

Those interested in applying can check the website in February when in-person locations are typically announced. 

All camps are tuition-free, and more than 500 scholarships have been awarded to participants in prior locations like Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; and Omaha, NE.

Young women and non-binary students ages 13-18 are invited to apply to any of the two-week programs, and they need not have prior coding experience to reap the benefits. In fact, prior to attending, only 20% of enrollees have had any exposure to computer science! Another remarkable statistic? Nine out of ten Kode with Klossy completers express an ambition to pursue higher education in computer science!

Upon arrival, admitted candidates will be sorted into one of three curricular groups based on their previous experience. 

All participants will have a chance to showcase their projects on “demo days” at the conclusion of each experience.

Carnegie Mellon Summer Pre-College Programs (Philadelphia, PA)

Carnegie Mellon Cohon University Center
Dllu, Carnegie Mellon Cohon University Center 2016 main entrance, CC BY-SA 4.0

Choose between the National High School Game Academy (NHSGA) or the Pre-College Computer Science Scholars (CSS) programs, the first experience lasting six weeks and the second option taking up four weeks.

The NHSGA challenges participants to design their own novel video games using cutting-edge technology. 

While the first two weeks are dedicated to learning essential skills, scholars spend weeks three through six in small teams of two programmers, two visual artists, and one audio designer. 

By the end of the program, they will have innovated two video games as a part of two different teams!

High school students belonging to demographic groups historically marginalized from the STEM fields are encouraged to apply for the CSS program

The curriculum comprises interactive research projects, guest lectures, and seminars designed to prepare students to thrive in a rigorous collegiate environment. 

After completing a program steeped in Python programming, “graduates” can return as rising seniors to participate in the AI Scholars program the following summer.

Women’s Technology Program at MIT (Cambridge, MA)

Another exceptional program created especially for budding female computer scientists, the Women’s Technology Program at MIT traditionally offers two tracks in mechanical engineering (ME) and electrical engineering and computer science (EECS). 

The mechanical engineering track is a free in-person program requiring students to commute daily to MIT. 

Once admitted, up to twenty rising seniors will spend four weeks working on collaborative engineering projects. The application process is highly competitive, with 400-650 applicants vying for a space each year. 

MIT graduate students lead mechanical engineering sessions with an engineering design approach, while MIT and Wellesley students and recent alumni run the EECS track. 

While the EECS program will not be offered in the summer of 2023, it is anticipated to make a comeback the following summer. 

Of those who have finished the EECS program, 65% have gone on to choose engineering or computer science majors, while 22% major in science or mathematics.

Georgia Tech AI4ALL (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia Institute of Technology
Davidhermanns, Kessler Campanile, Georgia Tech, CC BY-SA 4.0

AI4ALL actually maintains host campuses in most of the continental United States. We chose the Georgia Tech site for its location in one of the most up-and-coming tech hubs in the country. 

According to rankings in the U.S. News, Georgia Tech also holds #1 or #2 positions in various realms of engineering, such as the biomedical, aerospace/aeronautical, and industrial domains.

Georgia Tech’s iteration of AI4ALL is a non-residential program centering artificial intelligence at the core of its curriculum. Each year has a different theme, with the 2022 theme being “Revolutionizing Wellness.”

 With each theme, participants investigate how to utilize AI to innovate solutions for urgent societal needs.

Rising high school sophomores and juniors may apply to participate in the two-week immersion, where each admitted candidate will work directly alongside Georgia Tech faculty and graduate students to design a culminating project. Talk about a résumé enhancer!

UT Computer Science Summer Academies at the University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)

UT Austin
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

UT Austin might just have the most exciting and wide-ranging computer science summer program offerings on this list, with options existing in both application-based and tuition-based categories. 

The former category entails the Academy for Women and Academy for All, both zero-tuition programs focusing on growing diversity and inclusion within the STEM realm, exposure to college life, and teaching the basics of coding.

There are three additional tuition-based programs. The Academy for iOS App Development is a one-week residential program that prepares participants to develop their own apps. 

Covered subjects include gesture recognition, augmented reality, and graphic design. You should be able to download your app on your own device by the time the program ends!

Over in the Academy for Robotics, students develop basic proficiency in C++ programming to assemble and program the Bot’n Roll One A robot. 

They’ll compete in a robot race against their peers while simultaneously learning about future career opportunities in the robotics realm. 

The third tuition-based program – the Academy for Game Development – is offered in one-week virtual or two-week hybrid, virtual or residential iterations and challenges participants to design their own video games.

Berkeley Summer Computer Science Academy (Berkeley, CA)

There are numerous excellent computer science summer programs in California, and especially in Silicon Valley. 

We selected the Berkeley Summer Computer Science Academy for its unique curriculum design: the Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) curriculum designed by Berkeley computer science professor Dan Garcia.

The BJC prioritizes intensive daily coding challenges paired with off-campus excursions and is identical to what UC Berkeley undergraduates will experience in introductory computer science courses. 

Participants use the Snap! programming language to investigate major computer science topics like algorithms and simulations, abstraction and data structures, and the social implications of computing.

16- to 17-year-old students are eligible to apply and can anticipate additional support in college exploration. 

For example, they’ll attend workshops like “College in Perspective, “Anatomy of the College Application,” and “Personal Narrative” in order to gain a head start on the competitive college application process.

Summer Liberal Arts Institute at Carleton College (Northfield, MN)

Carleton College
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Representing one of the best summer computer science programs for high school students in the Midwest, the SLAI at Carleton College offers courses in four topics: robotics, computer vision, game theory, and game development. 

Something we love most about SLAI is that summer “Carls” can earn up to six Carleton course credits, which typically transfer as three semester credits, in a mere three-week period!

Within the robotics realm, students learn how to program LEGO Spike Prime robots using Scratch or Python coding platforms before moving on to research projects where they have the range to design robot pets or athletes that will navigate complicated mazes. 

In the computer vision topic, participants gain proficiency in manipulating images to extra essential data, using means like face recognition and autonomous vehicle navigation.

While the game theory domain focuses on applying Python programming to areas like resource conservation, the game development topic immerses students in challenges where they will be assessed on completing games similar to Frogger, Minesweeper, and Connect 4.

Champlain College Pre-College Summer Programs (Burlington, VT)

Champlain College
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Two enthralling academies draw countless students in grades 9-12, as well as recent high school graduates, to the beautiful, exciting college town of Burlington, Vermont. 

In fact, Champlain College was ranked a top 10 school for game design by the 2022 Princeton Review

There are two levels of the Champlain Game Academy, as well as the Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics Academy. 

Level 1 of the Champlain Game Academy exposes beginner designers to all facets of game development, including animation, marketing, programming, and prototype testing. 

In Level 2 Advanced Game Academy, participants build even more complex prototypes and take part in workshops designed to prepare them for rigorous collegiate computer science coursework. Level 1 is a prerequisite for Level 2.

Cybersecurity industry experts lead immersive educational experiences in the Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics Academy

Participants work in fast-paced teams to safeguard networks against digital crimes and solve authentic digital forensics threats encountered by American law enforcement agencies.

EXPLO Pre-College at Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)

MIT isn’t the only Massachusetts institution offering dynamic summer programs in computer science! 

Only half an hour away, rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors can participate in the EXPLO Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning concentration at Wellesley College.  

Core components of the experience include Socratic discussions, case studies, coding experiments, and projects conducted in collaboration with AI artists, data scientists, and business leaders. EXPLO is another offering where participants can attain college credit.

As part of Bias in AI, EXPLO scholars analyze the functionality of AI software, while in Deep Fakes, they go through a simulation in which a rogue foreign leader makes a threat of a U.S. nuclear attack, which they are charged with preventing. 

A COVID-19 Vaccine Case Study challenges them to use technology to mitigate biomedical issues, while the Machine Learning Projects prompt them to write machine learning code for various purposes.

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