On the day Blizzard Nemo buried the campus under two feet of snow, WPI’s K-12 Summer Programs opened for registration. The wintry weather didn’t deter online sign-ups: One session of Junior Robotics Challenge filled up before the end of the day. Other popular programs soon had waiting lists.
Summer programs might sound like a fair-weather endeavor, but assistant director Brian Degon and operations manager Kristin Goppel are on the job year-round, with two support staffers. “We start revamping the registration systems in the fall, and get going on program planning,” says Degon. “On January 1, the phone explodes.”
With almost 30 sessions running from late June to early August, these residential and day programs draw on almost every sector of WPI’s operations—from marketing and IT to the Housing & Residential Experience Center, catering, security, and health services.
The summer programs staff works with Admissions, Athletics, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs to bring more than 1,500 young people age 7-17 to campus for a fun mix of academics, activities, and personal development. In all, more than 100 staffers are involved, including about 50 undergraduate program assistants, or PAs.
“The overall goal is to broaden WPI’s audience,” says Degon.
““We want to bring science and engineering to life for these kids,” says Goppell, “by showing them that these fields involve a whole lot more than sitting and doing calculations. They can be creative, innovative and exciting!”
Designed to “Stretch Your Mind and Your Body,” the programs range from pre-college opportunities to sports camps. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is offered at no cost to historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities.
New offerings this year include Music Technology, Engineering Technology, preseason Girls’ Soccer Academy, Women’s Leadership Academy, and a series of fun physics demonstrations dubbed “Physicspalooza.” It’s all about giving potential students a taste of the WPI experience and whetting their appetites for STEM learning, Degon says.
Bringing kids to campus helps create a pathway to higher education, which in many cases can lead qualified applicants to WPI. Assistant director of admissions Sue Sontgerath notes, “Candidates for our Frontiers program are reviewed by the same rigorous criteria as WPI undergraduates. About 40 percent of Frontiers attendees go on to apply to WPI.” The ever-popular Camp Reach for girls uses a lottery system, but can accommodate only half those who apply. “It’s a good legacy builder,” says Jenna Noel-Grinshteyn, assistant director of admissions, as many WPI alumni want to send their daughters.
In a few weeks the campus will come alive with campers eager to shoot hoops, create computer games, or hear the details of crime scene investigation from actual police officers. Some will get their first taste of dorm life; others will start building a future with career workshops run by the CDC, and a college fair. Goppel and Degon take great joy in keeping them busy with everything from water-balloons to activities run by WPI’s student clubs.
After going “all in” for the 5-weeks of E-Term, the two will take some vacation time in late August (“That’s when we see our own kids,” quips Degon.) Then it’s time to gear up for Summer 2014.
Register for available programs : Children and grandchildren of WPI employees receive a 10 % discount on all sports camps and the Launch program; please contact the Summer Programs Office before making payment.
By Joan Killough-Miller