Columbia University Teachers College Summer Humanities & Engineering Academy


summer humanities and engineering academy


Program Summary

  • Available for rising 10-12th grade students
  • 2-week multidisciplinary course at Columbia University, in which students investigate the complex relationships between human culture and the contemporary environment
  • Students participate as researchers, engineers, and ethical and creative contributors to an academic community
  • Students are immersed in rigorous study from three complementary perspectives:

1. Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs serve as a laboratory and site for observation and extensive data collection, enabling students to engage in inquiry-based learning and experience first-hand the complex relationships between people and their natural and constructed environments

2. A rigorous course of study in engineering requires students to identify and solve problems through real-world applications of robotics, electronics, 3D modeling, app development, and design

3. In the Humanities course, students participate in college-level academic discourse, refining their mastery of academic language as they read, write, and discuss a range of texts that frame humanistic and scientific perspectives on environmental problems

  • Instruction from professionally distinguished teachers and graduate-level instructors from Columbia University and other top-tier American universities
  • Students who complete the course satisfactorily receive a certificate of course completion

Each strand of the course fosters the dispositions of innovators: students are invited to take risks, ask questions, and develop provisional solutions. As students create and exchange new knowledge through reading, writing, and discussion in an academic community, they also design and engineer practical solutions to real environmental problems. The course culminates in a symposium in which students present processes and prototypes that address how we might mitigate the negative effects of human culture on the environment.

Humanities Coursework

The Humanities component serves as an academic apprenticeship in the spoken and written discourse characteristic of elite high schools and highly selective colleges and universities, where students read, discuss, and write responses to complex texts in whole-class seminars, small groups, and individualized conferences.

Throughout the two-week course, students read and discuss historical documents, personal and scientific accounts, and imaginative literature that provide context and layers of meaning to New York City’s cultural, literary, and environmental history. By studying classic and contemporary works, students travel to real and imaginary landscapes—local and distant—in which writers stage complex and sometimes volatile interactions between humans and their environments. Place-based texts inform students’ exploration of the specific New York City environments they visit (e.g., Harlem, Times Square, Central Park) and inspire students’ own writing in descriptive, reflective, analytical and imaginative modes.

Through reading, discussing, observing, writing, and creating, students consider the questions: What is the relationship between human cultures and the environment? Must human culture be dangerous to the environment? How might we mitigate the negative effects of human culture on the environment?

Like its Engineering counterpart, the Humanities course operates as an academic knowledge-building community, where students collaborate in focused research teams to address real world philosophical, ethical, and technological problems. To this end students, produce field notes, commentaries, and multimedia presentations as they take multiple perspectives to understand complex problems in greater depth and construct possible solutions.

The Humanities course helps cultivate the skills and dispositions of critical and creative thinkers who can communicate clearly (in spoken and written English) about their emerging questions, ongoing discoveries, and future inquiries.

Engineering Coursework

The Engineering component exposes students to different fields of engineering, while helping them develop practical skills and principles of practice for use in a variety of engineering contexts. The course is built on the principle that learning is the most meaningfully and usefully acquired through hands-on experiences in a workshop environment, where students can collaborate with their peers and be assisted, when necessary, by expert teachers. Workshop experiences enable students to gain an understanding of general principles of electronics and more specific operational skills as they engage in projects involving microcontrollers and coding, app development, and 3D modeling. During the first week, students are exposed to an overarching problem involving human interaction with the environment. Field trips to different parts of the city enable students to investigate genuine questions about the relationship of humans to their environment in particular local settings. Using the design thinking process as well as their newly acquired engineering skills, students create real solutions to some local aspect of identified problems, which they prototype, test, iterate and finally present to a real audience on the final day of the program. Like the Humanities course, students collaborate in focused research teams, make observations about the places they visit, interview experts, and synthesize collected information to further define their focus. They learn to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, aided by their interviews and observations, and use this information to develop a unique solution.

Monday – Friday


  • Breakfast (students in residence)
  • Class


  • Lunch
  • Class
  • Research Excursion

Evening (students in residence)

  • Dinner
  • Study Hall
  • Evening Activities

Course Schedule

Day 1

  • Humanities: Becoming Members of a Knowledge-Building Community
  • Engineering: Developing Skills and Knowledge (Arduino, Application Development, Robotics, 3D Modeling)

Day 2

  • Humanities: Experiencing Texts and Contexts: Human Culture and the Environment
  • Engineering: Developing Skills and Knowledge & Collecting and Synthesizing Research Data

Day 3

  • Humanities: Expanding Exploring Texts and Contexts: Human Culture and the Environment
    • Reading and Writing Across Genres and Disciplines
  • Engineering: Developing Skills and Knowledge & Collecting and Synthesizing Research Data

Day 4

  • Humanities: Expanding Texts and Contexts: Human Culture and the Environment
    • From Observation to Reflection and Interpretation
  • Engineering: Developing Skills and Knowledge & Collecting and Synthesizing Research Data

Day 5

  • Humanities: Creating Texts in Contexts: Human Culture and the Environment
    • Imaginative Invention as Inquiry and Interpretation
  • Engineering: Developing Skills and Knowledge & Collecting and Synthesizing Research Data

Day 6

  • Humanities: Writing as Inquiry: Interrogating and Discussing Texts and Contexts
  • Engineering: Solution Ideation: Exploring Potential Solutions from Newly Acquired Skills and Knowledge

Day 7

  • Humanities: Writing as Inquiry: Interrogating and Discussing Texts and Contexts
  • Engineering: Solution Ideation: Exploring Potential Solutions from Newly Acquired Skills and Knowledge

Day 8

  • Humanities: Contributing to a Community: Ethical and Intellectual Responsibility in Research
  • Engineering: Testing and Refinement: Testing Prototypes with Users, Reiterating, and Creating New Solutions

Day 9

  • Humanities: Engaging an Audience: Revising and Editing for Publication
  • Engineering: Finalization: Refining Prototypes to Achieve Working Status, Representative of the Best Solution to Date

Day 10

  • Academic Symposium

Required Materials for the Course

  1. Notebook(s)
  2. Writing tools
  3. Laptop or tablet

Admission to the Summer Humanities and Engineering Academy at Columbia University is highly selective. The admissions committee looks for academically accomplished, self-motivated students who are interested in attending the academy because they have a passion for working in an intellectually intense project-based collaborative environment.

Application Deadline – TBA

Application Materials

  1. Complete Registration Form
  2. Complete Online Application Form
    1. Official Transcript in English
    2. Personal Essay
      • In a brief (500-1000 word) essay, talk about what kind of student you are and describe what you believe to be your strongest assets as a student or learner and what you regard as your most troubling weaknesses. Also describe the skills and knowledge that you can contribute to this program’s learning community and what you hope to achieve if you are selected to participate in this program.
  3. Complete Behavioral Consent Form

For students requiring financial aid, scholarships are available to cover part or most of the costs associated with the program. The awards are based on:

  • A family’s demonstrated financial need
  • A student’s academic achievement and promise
  • The availability of funds


Students are considered for financial aid scholarships:

  1. After we have received all of your completed admissions materials
  2. If you have been accepted into the program
  3. After we have received all of your financial aid materials

Affiliated high schools may nominate students to receive a scholarship that covers program tuition. Students who are tuition scholarship nominees should register an account and complete the program application by the deadline.

If your school is not an affiliated school, please speak with your school’s administration about registering as an affiliated school. All related inquiries should be directed to