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10 AI Extracurriculars for High School Students

If you’re a high school student interested in pursuing a degree in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field, AI extracurriculars not only open the door to the realm of innovation but also cultivate essential skills you can carry forward. 


From battling it out in robotics competitions to delving into AI research projects, the landscape of AI offers a myriad of opportunities for students to learn, create, and excel. This blog will delve into ten such popular AI extracurriculars tailored for high school students and even include activities catering to all different skill levels! 


1. Join an AI Club

Consider joining an AI club at your high school to learn more about computer programming, coding and machine learning. Not only will you have a chance to gain hands-on experience, strengthening skills through collaborative projects and team building, but you’ll also connect with like-minded peers and faculty mentors. 


You can add school clubs to your student CV/resume and college applications, highlighting the coding projects and software you’ve worked with and any leadership experience gained. School clubs welcome members of all experience levels so those new to the field can connect with and learn from those with more experience. 


Difficulty Level: Beginner

Location: Varies

Resources/Coding Experience: Faculty support or mentor


2. Take Coding Classes

For those new to programming, consider signing up for coding classes. There is a wide range of classes to choose from — from local hybrid options to fully virtual asynchronous classes — so you can choose the best format for your learning style. 


For example, you can explore sites like Code Academy or Girls Who Code for free classes to kickstart your programming journey. Many universities also offer in-depth coding classes, such as Rice University’s summer coding camps


If you’re a beginner, these classes are especially helpful since they’ll act as a foundation upon which you can start working on projects or research that will contribute to your college applications. 

 

Difficulty Level: Beginner-friendly

Location: Varies

Resources/Coding Experience: No prior coding experience is required for introductory classes


3. Build a Portfolio of AI Projects

Create a digital portfolio of your AI projects to showcase your experience with various machine learning concepts. Include an overview of each project, along with the goals, parameters and various techniques used, to share insights into how you approached the project. 


From simple applications that showcase your understanding of the fundamentals to complex systems, this is a dynamic way to include your projects in college, internships, and even career application materials. 


Difficulty Level: Beginner-friendly to moderate

Location: N/A

Resources/Coding Experience: Experience in programming and design software


4. Attend an AI Summer Camp

At an AI summer camp, you can gain an in-depth understanding of AI fundamentals through hands-on projects in an immersive environment. Choose from virtual camps such as Veritas AI, MIT’s Cog*Works and STEAM in AI’s summer programs or in-person camps, like Princeton’s AI4All or Carnegie Mellon’s AI Scholars — both of which are hosted on the university campuses. 


Led by a combination of industry leaders, tech experts and highly regarded faculty members in STEM fields, summer camps typically offer a variety of learning opportunities, from lectures, AI research projects and either online or in-classroom workshops. Throughout the camp, you’ll also have the chance to ask questions and gain one-on-one support from these instructors, which can help you strengthen your skills and build your college application. 


Difficulty Level: Beginner-friendly to high (varies by program)

Location: Virtual (Cog*Works, STEAM in AI programs); Princeton, New Jersey (AI4All); Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (AI Scholars)

Resources/Coding Experience: Varies by program; typically demonstrated interest in AI and/or machine learning, though coding experience may not be required


5. Join a Drone or Robotics Club

Roll up your sleeves and get to building bots in a drone or robotics school club. Like an AI club, these extracurriculars allow you to delve into a specific area of interest and gain hands-on programming experience with like-minded peers. 


While designing and programming a drone focuses on flying — and requires knowledge of piloting an aerial object and understanding avian regulations — building a robot centers around a variety of specific tasks. Both projects give you the chance to learn coding skills firsthand. 


Difficulty Level: Moderate

Location: Varies

Resources/Coding Experience: Faculty support or mentor


6. Battle in a Robotics Competition

If you’re interested in robots, get hands-on experience designing, building and programming them by entering a robotics competition. There are several competitions open to high school students, specifically such as FIRST Robotics Competition, B.E.S.T. Robotics Design Contest, and FIRST: Tech Challenge, where you work collaboratively as part of a team of students — and sometimes with professional mentors — to design a bot to complete a specific task. 


By providing strict parameters, a timeframe and a clear objective, these competitions give you a chance to learn engineering principles, problem-solving, and even project management skills. As part of a team, you tackle the design brief collaboratively, putting programming and AI abilities to work in a real-world context.   


If you’re looking to participate in such competitions, take a look at our blogs that cover the VEX Robotics Competition and the MAVE ROV Competition


Difficulty Level: Moderate to high

Location: Varies, many competitions have regional and national competitions

Resources/Coding Experience: Basic understanding of robotics, programming (often in languages like C++, Python, or Java), and mechanical design


7. Compete in an AI Competition

Build your skills with techniques such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing in AI competitions. Many big names in the tech space host AI competitions with awards to match. For example, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is a global student tech startup challenge with the chance to win $100,000 and a mentorship season with the company’s CEO.


These competitions have the potential to open the door to powerful networking opportunities, giving you facetime with industry leaders, experts and fellow high-achieving STEM students. These awards also add value to your resume/CV, while the overall experience can translate into college application essays and personal statements. 


You can look at our blog on 13 AI Competitions for more information!


Difficulty Level: Moderate to high

Location: Seattle, Washington (Imagine Cup).

Resources/Coding Experience: Proficiency in programming languages like Python, basic understanding of AI techniques and open-source libraries


8. Engage in an AI Hackathon

Hackathons are collaborative events where several people come together to tackle a complex tech challenge. Whether designing a puzzle, prototype or other projects, these fun, focused events are typically centered around a specific theme and last 24 hours to a couple of days.


 From hackathons for female high school students like AIHacks in California to the world’s largest — and free! — a hackathon for high school students, Hack3; there are tons of options to choose from. 


Through hackathons, You’ll have the chance to work alongside experienced individuals to develop creative solutions through practical programming experience. At the same time, you’ll be able to strengthen team-building skills through peer-to-peer learning. 


Check out our list of 10 Best Hackathons for High School Students for more ideas. 


Difficulty Level: Moderate to high

Location: Varies (virtual and in-person)

Resources/Coding Experience: Foundational knowledge in programming software, such as Python 


9. Enroll in an AI Bootcamp

Looking for a high-impact immersive experience? Consider enrolling in an AI bootcamp. Led by industry professionals, these intensive training programs lead you with hands-on programming projects, step by step. They also often provide the opportunity for mentorship and peer-to-peer learning. 


If you’re new to programming, you can sign up for a beginner-friendly camp that focuses on fundamentals, such as the Mark Cuban Foundation’s bootcamps


Alternatively, if you’re interested in a deep dive into a specific area, such as AI in Medicine, you can opt for Stanford University's Summer AI Bootcamp, which focuses on machine learning in the healthcare field. This program blends online learning modules with group discussions, breakout activities and team building. 


Difficulty Level: Moderate to high

Location: Varies by program; virtual, hybrid and in-person

Resources/Coding Experience: Some prior coding experience, familiarity with basic math and statistics


10. Conduct an AI Research Project

Dive deep into an AI topic of your choice with an independent research project. From designing games and storytelling tools to image classifiers and spam filters, AI projects combine research methodologies, data analysis techniques and machine learning. 


You can either do this independently or opt for a more guided experience with programs such as Veritas AI. Regardless of which method you choose, this is a great way to delve into the subject matter and is a very beneficial way to signal your interest in AI to college admission officers!


If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our list of our 10 AI Project Ideas for High School Students.


Difficulty Level: Moderate to high 

Location: Varies

Resources/Coding Experience: Proficiency in programming (especially Python), familiarity with AI concepts and research literature, and access to relevant datasets or computing resources


If you’re looking to build a project/research paper in the field of AI & ML, consider applying to Veritas AI! 


Veritas AI is founded by Harvard graduate students. Through the programs, you get a chance to work 1-1 with mentors from universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and more to create unique, personalized projects. In the past year, we had over 1000 students learn AI & ML with us. You can apply here!


One other option - the Lumiere Research Scholar Program! 

If you’re interested in pursuing research in cybersecurity or related fields, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


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