Taking part in a summer STEM program is a great way for students to challenge themselves between academic years and keep their minds engaged. Imagine the challenge of taking such a short course at the U.S. Naval Academy. Rising high school students can apply for the rigorous, week-long camp where they will “create, build and explore in world-class lab facilities and experience real-life application and learning,” according to the academy. To find out more about the program, we contacted Leigh McNeil, STEM Program Coordinator in the Naval Academy’s Office of Admissions in Annapolis, Maryland.

Q: Tell us about your role as STEM program coordinator at the U.S. Naval Academy.

A: I have responsibility for four programs here at the academy: a Summer STEM Program for current eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders; an academic-year program where I take STEM on the road and my students and I engage school and community groups in hands-on STEM activities (we call this a “remote STEM”); another academic-year program where I bring school and community groups to the academy for a mini-camp experience (we call this a “mini-STEM”); and our educator engagement program, where I bring educators, counselors, school and community staff members for a visit to the academy.

Q: Give us the basics on the academy’s Summer STEM Program: What is the goal, and what will participants do?

A: The students who attend my programs have an opportunity to engage in hands-on, problem-based STEM activities with our Naval Academy students (who we call midshipmen) and our academy faculty.

All of our activities are set in a real-world context, many with applications that are linked to a naval objective and mission. For example, an upcoming remote STEM event will focus on a humanitarian mission in a developing nation; others have focused on cyber-security, chemistry and ship maintenance; the physics of flight, both fixed and rotary wing; and more.

Our goal is to encourage young people to experience STEM in ways they might not be able to in their school, and inspire them to pursue STEM career fields.

Q: What is the involvement of the Society of American Military Engineers and the Naval Academy in the summer program?

A: The U.S. Naval Academy and the Society of American Military Engineers are partnering to establish a new summer STEM camp on the West Coast of the United States.

Q: How challenging is Naval Academy’s Summer STEM Program curriculum, and what can the students expect to gain?

A: The curriculum is challenging, and it asks students to use all their talents and skills — intellectual, physical, communicative and collaborative — to solve a problem.

Q: How can students apply for the program, how many are accepted and what is the acceptance based on? What are you looking for in a student participant?

A: Our Summer STEM Program here at the Naval Academy is open to current eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders (rising ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders). Last summer, we received 5,000 applications and selected 840 attendees.

We are looking for students who are interested in STEM, have distinguished themselves in their schools and communities, and demonstrated interest in the program overall.

The Naval Academy is mandated by Congress to have midshipmen from every congressional district in the country, and we want the Summer STEM Program to reflect that geographic diversity.

Q: How much does the program cost per student, and what does that amount cover?

A: Summer STEM Program tuition is $550, but we have scholarships for tuition and/or travel to Maryland.

Q: Are there side trips or other experiences planned for participants?

A: Attendees at the rising ninth- and 10th-grade sessions take an all-day field trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian Institution.

Q: Do you keep in touch with summer program alumni? Can participation in the program be considered a “leg up” into possible acceptance into the Naval Academy itself? 

A: We keep in touch with attendees through social media and email. While not necessarily a leg up in applying to the academy, attending the summer program is certainly an opportunity to get to know our school, interact with midshipmen and gain more understanding of the culture and application process.

Q: When will applications open for the 2019 Summer STEM Program, and how can interested students get more information?

A: Applications for the next Summer STEM Program will open at 1 p.m. January 3, 2019. For more information, visit our web site, https://www.usna.edu/Admissions/index.php, and click on “Summer Programs.”

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