As a high school student determined to pursue STEM and inspire other girls to do the same, I have found and participated in a number of STEM opportunities. Students entering high school may likely be uncertain about how to begin searching for STEM opportunities, and high schools typically do not promote information about such opportunities. I am sharing a list of high school STEM opportunities I have had the pleasure of participating in, tips for making the most of these opportunities, and ideas for opportunities students can create for themselves. Even if you are not in high school, you can consider starting your own STEM organization or opportunity for high school students, mentoring at one of the programs mentioned below, or sharing these opportunities with a high school student you know.
AwesomeMath Summer Program
This program focuses especially on Olympiad math preparation. I suggest attending all the special forums that are scheduled, completing each homework assignment, and using office hours to work on problems you find especially interesting if you already understand the course material.
At the end of the program, you are able to get notes from a class you did not take. Completing the problems in these notes is a great way to strengthen your contest math skills. AwesomeMath also offers a year-round program that I have not participated in, but nonetheless it is a wonderful opportunity to work with excellent instructors and peers.
California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science
During this program, you complete an independent research project with a few other classmates in addition to regular classroom instruction. I suggest speaking with the professors and teaching assistants during and after class. They are wonderful resources for more information on your topic of interest and possibly future opportunities at other summer programs, conducting research or accessing internships.
I also suggest working with your project group outside of class for as long as possible. The research project is whatever you want to make of it, so if you want to have an awesome project to present at the final ceremony, you should spend more time and use all the resources the host university can provide.
Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics
This is a six-week math research program with possibly the coolest teachers and students you will ever meet. I suggest engaging in class discussion as much as possible and not getting distracted during the three-hour-long daily proof-writing and problem-solving session. Why?
Each day, there is a guest speaker, either one of the instructors or someone from outside of the program. Speaking with these guest speakers after their lecture, asking questions during the lecture, and keeping in touch with the speakers after they leave the program is a great way to further explore your math interests at higher levels and possibly have access to even more STEM opportunities.
You have most of the afternoons free. Of course it is important to rest and relax during the afternoon to remain awake and alert for class, but spend at least some of this free time working on problems from class or the proof session that you found interesting, writing for the program journal or editing the program journal. There are also a number of math-related questions led by instructors and sometimes even students. These are great opportunities to learn more math in your free time.
MIT PRIMES Program
Because I live more than 50 miles outside of the Boston and Cambridge area, I participate in the MIT PRIMES-USA program. For participants in this program, I suggest regular communication with your mentor, even during the summer. If a video chat is not possible, you should at least send an email update.
Each year, during May, the MIT PRIMES conference takes place, and all MIT PRIMES students present their research. All of the student presentations are extremely interesting, and even if the topics are unfamiliar, I still suggest paying close attention to each and asking questions.
The Concord Review Tutoring Service
This tutoring service is an excellent resource for students in elementary, middle, and high school who want to go above and beyond what schools require. The service offers outstanding guidance in contest, research, standardized-test, and advanced math fields. All tutors have placed in the top of the country in the areas they are tutoring in.
The service helps each student based on his or her individual interests, background, availability and aspirations. All tutoring takes place virtually, so students from anywhere in the world can participate. You should be sure to complete assigned work in between sessions and be ready to ask questions about assigned work or new material during each session.
United States Mathematical Talent Search
This is a month-long contest where students solve proof-based math problems. I suggest you begin as soon as possible and use all available and allowed resources. Consider thinking about the United States Mathematical Talent Search while you are doing busy work. Even if you know how to solve a problem, you must still consider how to logically and clearly express your thought process as each problem requires more than a numerical answer.
The Math Madness contest is a contest of speed. Speed is taken into account in rankings, so skip over the problems you have difficulty solving and return to them later. To prepare for the contest, I would suggest completing American Mathematics Competition and American Invitational Mathematics Examination style questions. You are able to use a calculator during the Math Madness contest, but many times, questions are more easily solved without one. Having a calculator may encourage you to solve a problem the harder route which also leaves more room for careless mistakes.
Your Own Opportunities
Creating your own STEM opportunities is a wonderful experience in itself. Does your school have a math, Science Olympiad or robotics team? If not, start one. Even if you are unable or uninterested in starting an official school team, organize study sessions for classmates interested in participating in various STEM contests or just in doing some extra problems.
Do you have a research course at your school? If not, start one. Work with your current science or math teacher and department chairs. Design a curriculum and get interested students to sign their names or come to the meetings with the department as well. If you cannot start an official research course, start a research section of Mu Alpha Theta or Science National Honor Society.
Do you want to share your love of STEM with your school? Start a presentation series where you and other interested students can present research, explain STEM concepts, or share cool STEM problems and questions.
Do you want to work on research but need some additional guidance? Contact professors at local universities to see if they would be willing to work with you on one of their projects or your project. Some may be quite busy and not reply or say no, but hopefully some will give positive replies.
Do you want to create a platform for STEM students at your school and in your community to share STEM information? Start a journal that publishes research papers by students as well as informational articles and even interview transcripts.
Too often high school students think it is too early to pursue their interests, that there are little or no opportunities to participate in STEM or that STEM is too difficult for them. If people find and begin pursuing their love for STEM earlier on, they may be more likely to continue pursuing STEM in higher education and in their careers.
Do you want to get involved with a national platform for women in STEM? Apply to become a Scientista intern at http://www.scientistafoundation.com/join.html! Have you started a STEM organization at your school already? Apply to become an affiliate by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I hope this article will give high school students a glimpse of the STEM opportunities that are available just for them and inspire them to participate in these opportunities and create their own.