HOUGHTON - There's something different about the students visiting Michigan Technological University the next few weeks.
They're taking the same kinds of classes, living in the same dormitories and exploring the Copper Country just like typical Tech students. The only difference: they're younger.
More than 1,000 sixth- through 12th-grade students from 23 states and four foreign countries are participating in Tech's Summer Youth Programs, week-long hands-on explorations into a wide variety of educational areas.
"Our programs have incredible impacts on students of all ages," said Steve Patchin, SYP director, in a Tech press release that also noted a particular increase in the number of middle school students.
"Parents are responding to current research showing that this is the age where students are now making career- and life-changing choices about which courses to engage in at school," Patchin said.
And there are plenty of options for SYP students, who must pre-register for the programs. This week, the first full week of courses, includes programs on introductory video game programming, general engineering, digital photography, mountaineering, women in computer science, medical physiology, chemistry and several others.
Three more weeks of camps will be offered through Aug. 3. "It's had a big impact on me," Emily Navarrete, an 11th-grade student from Hillsborough, N.J., who is in the Engineering Scholars Program, said in a Daily Mining Gazette interview Thursday. "I never thought I'd be interested in civil or geological engineering, and I had loads of fun.
" It's definitely widened my view, because when I came here I was just thinking I'm probably going to major in biomed engineering. Now I see that there are so many different kinds of engineering."
Adisha Kar, an eighth-grader from Green Bay, Wis., attended SYP's chemistry program last summer, only to find out she didn't really like it. She loved the camp experience, though - her first week-long time away from family - and is back this summer for digital photography.
"This camp is a really great experience," she said, noting how helpful it's been to learn about campus life in addition to exploring potential career paths.
"My sister goes to (University of Wisconsin) Madison, and I've always seen colleges in big cities with a lot of people walking miles to classes. When I came here I got a different view of what college life could be like," she added.
The same was certainly true for Navarrete, who admitted to experiencing a bit of culture shock coming from New Jersey to Houghton.
"It's a lot more quiet, a lot more spaced out. (In New Jersey) you can drive 10 minutes and get to a huge three-floor mall with every single store you can think of. Here it's a lot more friendship and family, and very close together, tight-knit, " she said. " I like the dynamic of learning, but also having the whole camp experience of hanging out with your friends."
A typical day Monday through Friday involves breakfast at 7:30 a.m., exploration sessions from 9 a.m. to noon, lunch until 1:15, exploration sessions again from 1:15 to 4:30, followed by dinner and various evening activities around the Keweenaw, with students wearing SYP's distinctive yellow lanyards. Bedtime is 11 p.m. each night.
Ian Klein, from Two Rivers, Wis., emphasized how nice the people had been throughout his introductory video game programming camp, and the experience has only solidified his idea of a possible college choice and career path, even though he's just entering eighth grade this fall.
"I came because we had passed by this city before, and I saw this school. My mom was telling me about it, and I decided it was probably
the college I would go to. I was interested in computer software engineering," he said. " I like this camp because the classes are really nice, people who teach it are really nice, everyone's friendly and I've made a lot of friends."
For more information on Summer Youth Programs, visit syp.mtu.edu.