Best Robotics Summer Programs for High School Students

A robotics summer program for high school students can cover various topics depending on the specific program and its focus. 

Programming is a staple of most advanced robotics summer programs, enabling students to program robots using different programming languages, such as Python, C++, or Java.

The study of mechanics, electronic circuits, and sensors are also crucial components of most robotics summer programs: Students can understand how to assemble and wire components such as sensors, motors, and microcontrollers or assemble robots using metal, plastic, and even 3D-printed pieces.

Those who enroll in summer robotics programs at the high school level can expect a significant emphasis on teamwork, project-based learning, and – in general – advanced mathematics skills. 

Many programs are designed around competitions or efforts to program a robot to complete certain complex tasks.

Overall, a robotics summer program can provide high school students with valuable skills and knowledge in robotics, engineering, and computer science, while fostering creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Our compilation of the ten best robotics summer programs in the United States offers day or residential options specifically for high school students. 

If you’re a STEM aficionado or totally new to the world of robotics, a summer program on this list can meet you where you are and challenge you accordingly.

NYU Tandon SPARC (New York City, NY)

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

The first of two exceptional robotics offerings at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, SPARC stands for Summer Program in Automation, Robotics, and Coding. 

Taking place in the heart of New York City, SPARC is a two-week experience for high school students ages 14 and up. 

At SPARC, participants will immerse themselves in robotics 101, computer programming language learning, and mechatronics. 

Students need not have any prior robotics or STEM experience before signing up for SPARC; however, students with a genuine interest in robotics and a solid academic record have historically gotten the most out of the summer program.

Don’t be fooled – the lack of prerequisites doesn’t mean that SPARC is a more laid-back summer program; it certainly is not. 

Students can anticipate engaging in high-level robotics and coding. They will (quickly) learn about circuit configurations, microcontroller anatomy, and coding key constructs. At the end of the session, each student can take home their own kit to continue building skills and creating independent projects.

Illinois Tech Elevate College Prep Summer Programs (Chicago, IL)

Illinois Tech offers a residential high school summer program for students in grades 9-12 interested in STEM-focused, mentor-guided experiences (with the potential to earn college credit). 

In addition to robotics, existing programs challenge students to gain expertise in video game development and cybersecurity.

Elevate College Prep admits applicants on a rolling basis, so applying early to such a competitive program is always best. 

While staying on Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus, participants will also have the chance to enjoy the exciting city of Chicago. 

Whether soaking up the sun on Lake Michigan, watching a Chicago White Sox game, or visiting sites Chicago’s eArena, program attendees will enjoy the balance of hard work and hard play.

High school students will work with robotics kits and the Arduino platform to design their automated systems. In teams, students will collaborate to solve different design challenges. 

They’ll have to learn how to control robots’ gross and fine movements, work with various sensors, and other technical skills.

Engineering Summer Academy at Penn (Philadelphia, PA)

Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Located in another exciting American city, the Engineering Summer Academy at Penn is a highly competitive summer program requiring a solid high school mathematics, physics, and C programming background. 

In the robotics course, students will participate in experiential learning activities involving sensing actuation and embedded programming. 

In small teams, they will construct their own mobile robots which can be teleoperated. Projects require design expertise of 3D parts in a CAD system; interfacing with sensors, servos, and motors; and integrating sensors, actuators, and intelligence into a physical robot. 

Over three weeks, students will spend 14 days in class – this typically involves three hours of daily lecture, four to five hours of lab time in the afternoons, and two to three hours of homework in the evenings. 

The Engineering Summer Academy intentionally seeks to enroll high school students who yearn for this high level of instruction and commitment.

Education Unlimited Robotics (Stanford, CA)

Representing one of the best opportunities to take part in a robotics summer program in the United States, Education Unlimited Robotics is hosted at one of the best STEM colleges in the nation: Stanford University. 

Rising 9th to 12th grade students may attend as overnight campers or extended day campers (from 9 AM to 9 PM) over one week.

What will high school students learn at the Robotics Summer camp? They’ll build and program their own team robot from the ground up. 

They’ll control it and play with light and pressure sensors to program it to perform different tasks. Their robots may even be able to drive across complex terrains and engage in robot sports activities!

The efforts start with constructing a chassis – a foundational/skeleton-type structure upon which other pieces – like motors, wheels, and gears – will be added. 

Producing a robot vehicle necessitates immersion in electrical circuitry and built power basics. On the final day, each team’s robot will compete against the other bots to test their abilities in various categories. 

Learn Robotics at MIT (Cambridge, MA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Paweł Kusiak, William Barton Rogers Building, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CC BY-SA 4.0

We couldn’t provide the ultimate list of robotics summer programs without including MIT’s option! 

MIT actually hosts the Learn Robotics initiative, led by National Geographic Explorers. Through this ten-day endeavor, students in grades 9-12 attend lectures on topics like space exploration and microscopic robots, then participate in stimulating, relevant robotics experiments.

A typical cohort includes roughly 50 students and eight leaders. MIT researchers serve as guest speakers, and the MIT campus provides access to state-of-the-art facilities and devices like 3D printers, wind tunnels, and “green” roofs. 

A stay at MIT wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Self-Assembly lab, where current robot experiments are being prototyped and tested.

A final capstone project prompts high school students to utilize robotics principles and hardware to propose a resolution to one of society’s most pressing problems. 

For example, MIT researchers explain how they use robots to rebuild disappearing coastline in the country’s coastal areas that are most vulnerable to climate change.

iD Tech Robotics Camps for Teens (Multiple U.S. Locations)

Robotics camps are hosted by iD Tech at various prestigious universities across the nation (and the world!) Northwestern, the University of Florida, Stanford University, and the University of Singapore are just a few of the many host sites where students ages 13-17 can attend in-person programs.

Teens can select from one-week or two-week robotics camps. Online private lessons are also available for those who miss the deadline or aren’t accepted into the program for whatever reason. 

In the BattleBots Camp: Robotics Engineering with VEX, participants work with a VEX v5 Robot Kitt and learn C++ programming. 

The Coding and AI Academy: Autonomous Robots with Take-Home Bot also exposes participants to Sphero RVR, Raspberry Pi, and Python programming.

Classes are intimate and gamified, allowing for ample one-on-one instruction and feedback. Competitions and challenges are interspersed throughout the program options, and at least nine out of ten iD alumni progress to study STEM subjects at the collegiate level. 

The overwhelming majority of “graduates” remark that the iD Tech experience ultimately played a significant role in shaping their career trajectory.

American Robotics Academy (Locations in TX & NC)

We’ve included many superior robotics summer programs in the Midwest and New England areas of the nation – the American Robotics Academy offers the best experiential learning opportunities in robotics in North Carolina and several locations within Texas (Houston, Austin, and Dallas).

Participants will work primarily with LEGO building blocks to create high-tech robots. LEGOs include unique pieces like axles, wheels, microcomputers, and other tools to enable animation and mechanical movement.

While working to build robots in small teams, students will advance their grasp of AI, machine learning, and coding. In addition to offering summer programs for high school seniors, the American Robotics Academy travels to schools nationwide to perform “in-house” field trips. 

They assist Boy Scouts in preparing for their robotics badges and additionally maintain a Robots for Assisted Living senior program. 

Frontiers STEM Summer Program (Worcester, MA)

9th, 10th, and 11th graders may enroll in the Frontiers STEM Summer Program, which takes place on the campus of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

A week in length, the program is in-person and day-only, committed to helping students gain laboratory proficiency and exposure to different STEM technology.

The Robotics Engineering session is just one of at least ten options at Frontiers. Participants explore the interdisciplinary requirements of designing and operating robots in that concentration. 

They will use C programming language to code prototypes and build familiarity with sensors, motors, and basic electrical engineering. 

Explore the World with MATLAB is another exciting session that might attract students interested in robotics. 

Here, participants gain experience with MATLAB programming by designing graphics to understand data. In the Electrical and Computer Engineering session, smartphones and autonomous robots are at the center of inquiry. Students cover topics like AI and computer vision, algorithms, and object recognition.

NYU Tandon Machine Learning (New York City, NY)

NYU Tandon offers summer programs so nice, we had to mention them twice! Machine Learning (ML) is an alternative to the popular SPARC program. 

A two-week experience, Machine Learning at NYU Tandon is open to high school students ages 14 and older. The camp runs during the day, and participants must have completed Algebra 2 coursework and some basic programming introductory work.

During the program, students will merge learning about data analysis, high-level math, logic, and computer science in order to understand the forces that drive machine learning and AI forward. 

Coursework involves working with tools like image recognition technology, voice controls for smart homes, traffic control sensors, and diagnostic medical devices.

Participants will leave the summer program with a deeper understanding of systems and processes like linear regressions, neural networks, and cross-validation. 

They will be able to teach a computer how to understand and perform specific behaviors and use their knowledge to (hopefully) propose prototypes of their own for modern social challenges.

Northeastern University’s Young Scholar’s Program (Boston, MA)

Northeastern University
Edward Orde, Northeastern University Veterans Memorial 1, CC BY-SA 4.0

Rounding up our compilation of outstanding robotics summer programs, Northeastern University’s Young Scholar’s Program (YSP) takes place in Boston and is a free experience open specifically to rising high school seniors attending school in Massachusetts.

Within Northeastern’s laboratories, participants will collaborate with faculty researchers to innovate agent-based modeling simulations, design model compression algorithms, and optimize battery chemistries. 

In addition to lab work, career exploration, and field trips to engineering sites, students will utilize advanced math and science concepts to engage in tasks like biomechanically assessing the heart’s tricuspid valve, developing high-throughput organs on a chip, and identifying cardiopulmonary dysfunction (CPD) after chronic wildland fire smoke exposure. 

YSP participants can expect a summer program as fun and relevant as it is challenging!

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