Historically black college and university (HBCU) engineering schools have some of the best science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) summer programs nationwide.

They all provide unique opportunities for high school and even middle school students to learn about anything from scratch.

Some run for six weeks, four weeks, three weeks, or a week. Many are offered free, supplemented by funding from federal and state agencies, while others provide tuition, room, and board at a nominal cost.

Whatever the focus is for an HBCU STEM summer camp, students are guaranteed real-life experiences with hands-on experiments in physics, biology, astronomy, Earth science, nanoscience, nanotechnology, data analysis, and teamwork.

The Hechinger Report, which covers inequality and innovation in education, calls summer STEM programs “Pathways to jobs of the future.”

At Tennessee State University, three STEM summer programs covered innovation in engineering, transportation, and drones, which are being put to work everywhere and creating a $100 billion industry according to Goldman Sachs.

This year the Engineering Concepts Institute held a four-week, residential program on the main campus of TSU for graduating high school seniors, who plan to major in engineering disciplines such as architectural, civil, computer science, electrical, or mechanical. Students were exposed to basic principles through industry tours, coursework, and other learning activities to increase their familiarity with engineering.

The National Summer Transportation Institute also ran a four-week, residential program to encourage high school students to consider transportation-related courses of study in their higher education pursuits. Each week covered a different aspect of transportation, Air, Land, and Sea.  Activities for the summer includes hands-on labs, field trips and presentations by various employees of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The Pre-Engineering Program to Stimulate Interest in Engineering, PEPSIE for short, was held July 9 – 13 for rising 9th – 11th-grade students. The one-week commuter program focused on hands-on-projects including product design, manufacturing, robotics, and aeronautics.

According to Tennessee State University (TSU) News Service, last year, PEPSIE students learned how to design and build an app.

“This year, we decided to do something very innovative,” said College of Engineering Dean Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, who’s been recognized nationally for his contributions as a STEM educator. “And so we have a curriculum whereby students learn to fly a drone, as well as build one.”

“It’s estimated there’ll be between 10,000 to 20,000 job opportunities for certified drone pilots over the next several years,” added Hargrove, “and getting kids excited about this at this early age is an opportunity for them to consider.”

TSU News also said the summer drone program was developed by Wendy Jackson-Dowe, a TSU mechanical engineering graduate.

“Drones are going to be so important to the future,” said Jackson-Dowe. “So I thought it would be great to introduce young people to this burgeoning industry by way of a hands-on camp.”

In 2014, JPMorgan Chase announced a commitment of $5 million to help underserved youth obtain the skills necessary to build lasting careers.

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