Columbia Engineering Launches SHAPE for High-School Engineers

Feb 16 2017 | By Allison Elliott

New Summer Program Immerses Teenagers in Robotics and Programming

Imagine building a robot prototype under the guidance of world-renowned professors or learning to program in Java, all while you’re still in high school. This summer, New York-area students will have those opportunities through a new project of Columbia Engineering Outreach Programs called SHAPE (Summer High school Academic Program for Engineers).


Students get a first-hand look at engineering in practice through the Inside Engineering program.

The new summer program is part of a broader effort by Columbia Engineering to encourage youth interest in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – through hands-on learning and discovery.

Taught by top Columbia Engineering faculty with assistance from current Columbia students, the intensive, three-week program in robotics and computer science exposes students to college-level instruction and hands-on learning in high-tech facilities, such as the Columbia MakerSpace, which has 3D printers and tools for digital fabrication, and Mech-Tech Lab, with equipment and materials to build technology projects. Participants will supplement their chosen track with sessions in entrepreneurship or research skills, college preparation workshops, and optional field trips.

Dean of Columbia Engineering Mary C. Boyce often speaks about how critical exposing students to engineering at a young age is for interesting students in STEM careers. She believes programs like SHAPE will help better prepare students for college and increase diversity in both higher education and the professional world.

“This is a unique opportunity for students in the New York City area to get world-class, college-level experience and preparation for engineering education,” Dean Boyce said. “We have an enhanced curriculum that will not only give them instruction in the exciting fields of robotics and computer science, but also provide practical, hands-on experience to help students lay the groundwork to become leaders.” 

In addition to SHAPE, Columbia Engineering Outreach Programs oversees numerous efforts to improve the quality and reach of STEM education for K-12 students and equip educators by connecting them with STEM resources at Columbia. The office directs a number of research and student-driven programs, including E.N.G., a summer research opportunity for under-represented high school students; Inside Engineering, which brings school groups into Columbia Engineering labs; and Robogals, which teaches design and programming to girls between the ages of 9 and 16 using Lego robots.

“SHAPE fits well with our outreach commitments by offering more students opportunities to engage in engineering and creative problem solving before they reach college,” Director of Outreach Programs Emily Ford said. “The landscape of engineering is changing, and it’s important to prepare future engineers for success.”              

Columbia Outreach Programs offers need-based scholarships for the SHAPE program, which is now taking summer 2017 applications. The first of the two sessions kicks off on July 3.