Academic Program Options

University of Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

Get InfoApply NowSpecial STEM Research and STEM Academies3 or 4 Week ProgramsTuition ranging from $5,999 - $7,799For students completing grades 9, 10, 11, 12 (ages 14-18)Photo Gallery
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Academic Options

CU Boulder offers 2 different types of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs for highly motivated students.

STEM Research Experience (4 Weeks)

  • CU-Boulder faculty and graduate students mentor students in this non-credit program. Each mentor works with 1-2 students, based on research interest. Students work on their research project 30-40 hours per week, Monday-Friday.
  • Work schedules may vary among different labs. Readings and assignments may be assigned prior to the start of the program. At the end of the program, students display their work during the Idea Forge Expo. 

STEM Academies (3 Weeks)

  • Non-credit STEM Academies are taught by CU-Boulder scientists, faculty, and outside experts and meet for 4 hours daily, Monday-Friday.

  • Academic content includes guided laboratory work, museum visits, field trips, guest lectures and discussion groups. Outside of class readings, library and internet research, and written or oral reports are assigned. At the end of the program, students present their experiments, reports, or products during the Idea Forge Expo. 

All students receive a Summer Discovery "Certificate of Completion" at the end of the program.

Choose one of the curriculum options below. Your choice indicates how you will spend your day academically during the program.

STEM Research Experience (4 Weeks)

The STEM Research Experience is an intensive program designed to engage highly motivated high school students in university level STEM research. Participants are selected through a competitive application process and assigned to a faculty or graduate student mentor based on their research interests. Specific research projects vary from year to year but involve a range of STEM disciplines, including ecology, geosciences, computer science, hydrology, environmental science, engineering, psychology, and STEM education.

During the 4 week program, participants will work in pairs on a specific research project under the guidance of their assigned mentor. Although work schedules may vary among different labs, participating students should expect to work 30-40 hours Monday-Friday on their research project and may be asked to complete additional readings and assignments prior to the start of the program.

In addition to working with their research mentor in the lab and/or field, Research Experience students will participate in a weekly Research Methods seminar course led by CU Boulder faculty. This course will cover topics such as literature review and library resources, data collection and analysis, and communicating research results, and will provide students with support throughout the research experience. The STEM Research Experience will culminate with a research poster presentation session in which participating students will share their research results with peers, mentors, and other university colleagues.

Admission to the STEM Research Experience is selective and based on a record of academic achievement. Students must have 2-3 potential research project topics. Completed applications are evaluated on a rolling basis. Admissions decisions are made by CU-Boulder. 

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3D Printing & Wearable Electronics Academy (3 Weeks)

This introductory academy combines technology, digital art, and physical computing in a lively, project driven environment. At the intersection of technology and digital art, physical computing is the newest, most appealing way to get "hands on" with your tech. Learn the fundamentals of programming, circuitry, and electronic communications in a lively, project-driven environment around Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs/Drones). Team up and create something completely new: attachments for the drones to carry weight or other small devices on it, work with sensors that fit with the drones, or design parts for the drones. Enjoy the autonomy to freely design, build, test, and interact with your creations. Building awesome stuff has never been more fun, or approachable. The rise of a maker culture is closely associated with the rise of hackerspaces, FabLabs, and other ‘maker spaces’ in libraries as well as other public spaces. Would you like to become a part of the maker culture? This Academy emphasizes learning through doing while students explore many maker technologies including: 3D modeling/printing, laser cutting, drones, and sensors/electronics. Bring your imagination and make your dreams into reality while learning valuable life skills. This class is taught in the new Maker Space on the CU campus called the Idea Forge.

In this academy, students will also apply the engineering design process to collaboratively create solutions to real-world problems using 3D design software and 3D printing. Students will research a problem that they want to address, and then design, plan, create, and evaluate their solution. They will learn how to incorporate key design principles as they develop their ideas, and then use modeling software to transform 2D images into 3D designs, and test their designs using Augmented Reality app. They will prototype their creations on 3D printers, refine their designs, and evaluate the pros and cons of different 3D printers and filament materials. (Materials Fee $150, you will be issued a Spark Fun kit of materials that are yours to take home.)

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Adventure Science Academy (3 Weeks)

The University of Colorado campus in Boulder offers a unique opportunity to explore a variety of scientific topics in an outdoor laboratory. We will use our proximity to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to learn about the geologic history of the region, the flora and fauna that inhabit it, and a variety of other Earth science topics. In addition, this area provides a plethora of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors including rock climbing, water sports, hiking, mountain biking, and much more. This class is intended to both expose students to a variety of different fields of scientific inquiry and also give them the freedom to explore and learn more about questions they personally find interesting. Students will have the opportunity to conduct lab and field work, and participate in the best the Rocky Mountains has to offer. Topics covered may include geologic history, formation of the Rocky Mountains, orienteering, meteorology, soil science, and ecology. The emphasis will be on using a place-based approach as a means for understanding the interconnections among various aspects of the natural world.

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Aerospace Engineering Academy (3 Weeks)

Sixteen CU-Boulder Astronaut-affiliates have flown on forty space shuttle missions. Join some of the leaders in Aerospace technologies in learning about what it takes to be an Aerospace Engineer. In this class you will meet scientists from LASP (the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics), learn about astrobiology, and plan your mission to Mars.

You will also get a chance to see one of only a few university-based Mission Operations Centers, where LASP undergraduates and graduates perform mission operations for NASA satellites totaling more than $1.5 billion in value. Additionally, you will get to work on gliders, airfoils, jet engines, and testing composites for aircraft wings. You will also get to work with alternative applications of Aerospace such as wind turbines and parachutes.

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Exploring Engineering Academy (3 Weeks)

At one of the top-ranked engineering schools in the nation, students get an introduction to the engineering design cycle through a series of hands-on engineering design projects. Working in interdisciplinary teams, students will learn fundamental engineering concepts and develop valuable skills, including communication skills, how to work collaboratively in teams, and the basic steps in the engineering design process. Students in this course will take on three unique engineering challenges and learn about the engineering design cycle as they compete with fellow classmates.

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Medical Sciences and Research Academy (3 Weeks)

Learning Objectives: This course will cover state-of-the-art topics in biotechnology to provide students with an overview of current and future technologies that make up our current medical sciences and research field. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with scientists from industry to gain knowledge of how basic research can generate biomedical tools and products. During this exciting course, students will be exposed to the latest and greatest research coming out of CU Boulder. Through a series of guest lectures, lab tours and field trips, students will be exposed to research in a variety of topics including, Engineering, Biotechnology, Integrated Physiology, Biomimetics, Neuroscience, Biomaterials and many more. Students will learn important lab techniques and get some hands on experience in a variety of topics. Students will learn to think critically about current research, identify reliable sources, interpret data and design experiments. Field trips during this course could include a tour of an emergency facility, on-site visits to research labs, a visit to the Anschutz medical campus to learn about medical basics and see where future doctors are getting trained. Technologies, skills, and new techniques learned by the students will be utilized to address a problem chosen by the student in a final project to culminate the course.

Upon completion of this course, students will understand:

  • How we discover and transform natural systems and products to advance human medicine and our understanding of the world around us
  • Regulation of gene expression in bacterial and mammalian cells
  • Cutting edge technologies for genetic engineering, personalized medicine, and drug discovery
  • Knowledge of current research topics in the field of biomedicine, biomaterials and neuroscience. 
  • Ethical considerations in biotechnology 

Laboratory Experience: Students will learn basic molecular and microbiology laboratory techniques, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), gel electrophoresis, fluorescence microscopy, and essentials of culturing and manipulating simple model organisms (baker’s yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cells). Students will also become first aid and CPR certified.

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Neuroscience: Inside the Brain Academy (3 Weeks)

How does the brain control all that we do and how do scientists study this largely unknown frontier? This Academy will dive into topics such as sensory systems, learning and memory, and behavior, and explore numerous questions about the mind and brain from a variety of different perspectives, including anatomy and physiology, neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science. This course begins with an introduction to the anatomy and physiology of the brain, as we learn about different brain structures and their related functions. Hands-on activities and experiments, together with laboratory tours and guest presentations, will build on this foundation and develop our understanding of the brain. We’ll explore the topics of intelligence and artificial intelligence, brain plasticity in the context of development, and the role that genetics may play in behavior. Students will also engage in mini-experiments on topics such as memory, sensory processing, and cognitive load, in order to learn how scientists conduct research on the brain.

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Robotics & Programming Academy (3 Weeks)

In this Academy students will have a chance to play with many new robotics systems and see cutting edge robotics in action in research labs at CU-Boulder. Students will interact with Cublets, Sphero, Dot and Dash, and the RedBot. Each student in the class will be issued a SparkFun RedBot robot. The SparkFun RedBot is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of robotics. Students will go through nine different experiments, ranging from learning how to drive your RedBot to using an accelerometer to trigger your RedBot to move. Once you’ve mastered each experiment, you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to creating your own robot platform. The ‘brain’ of the robot is the RedBot Mainboard, an integrated microcontroller board. The Mainboard is essentially a standard Arduino Uno with an integrated motor driver and various headers and connections, making it easy to connect motors, servos, and sensors for the RedBot.

(Materials Fee $150: This will cover the RedBot robot and accessories that you will take home.)

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