Have you ever seen a concrete canoe float? I did, last summer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's "Frontiers in Math, Science and Engineering" program. Kids from all over gathered together at WPI's small campus to spend twelve days together, 5 to 6 hours a day in courses in their concentrations, and have more fun than many people would think going to school in the summer could be.
The areas of study included mathematics, computer science, chemistry, biology, civil engineering, physics, and electrical engineering. The civil engineering group constructed a canoe out of cement and painted it red. We all meandered down to the banks of the small pond at Institute Park to watch the maiden voyage of the great ship. To our amazement, it not only floated, but maneuvered quite well as two of the students decided it would be a neat idea to chase a duck across the pond.
Not all of the concentrations got to sail canoes in the pond, but they managed to have some fun. The computer science students learned how to use the international networking system, Internet. Other students went on field trips to various places like M.I.T. and the Computer Museum in Boston.
But the true taste of college life came from living with each other in the dorms, getting to know new people, and learning how to get along in a college-type environment. All sorts of free time activities were arranged. There wasn't a moment to be bored. There were always soccer games on Alumni Field, movies at Gompei's (the campus Pizza Parlor), TV in the lounge in the dorms, bunches of people just sitting around talking in the big main lounge in each of the two dorm buildings, a dance one night, and even a big Trivial Pursuit competition.
The courses were thorough and informative. During the computer science concentration I participated in, we learned to program using Scheme, a dialect of LISP. Each of the courses was informative and fun. In such a short time they accomplished a lot. If you really want to learn something in the field of engineering, science or mathematics, this is definitely the place for you. If you're planning on applying to WPI, they will apply the cost of the program toward your tuition if you are accepted.
The two weeks went by too fast as everyone grew to know each other. The subjects were interesting and though we had homework, little quizzes, and classwork, it was nothing like summer school. We were there because we wanted to be, studying subjects we were interested in. I strongly suggest applying for the Frontiers program if you are a junior in high school. It'll be one of the best summers you've ever spent. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.