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10 Prestigious Research Programs for Middle School Students

Are you in middle school and already looking to build a skillset in your areas of interest? Partaking in research programs that allow you to learn hands-on while connecting you to mentors and experts is the perfect way to get started. 


Having research experience and exposure can prove to be a significant point of differentiation as you go on to high school and apply to colleges. These opportunities are highly selective and participating in any one of them is bound to help you upskill yourself and stand out amongst your peers. 


To help you get started, we have compiled a list of 10 research opportunities for middle schoolers interested in various fields!


The NASA Student Launch is a rigorous research-based challenge designed for students to explore rocket science. Students from across the US are divided into teams and tasked with designing, building, testing, and launching a high-powered rocket carrying a scientific or engineering payload. After a competitive selection process, student teams conduct a series of design reviews with a NASA review panel, providing a valuable experience that prepares them to join the STEM workforce. Built with several challenges within the primary challenge, the program encourages students to hone their research skills within the engineering space by collaborating and running tests throughout the 9 months. The program culminates with a final launch at the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. For students interested in aerospace engineering and developing some skills before they head to college, this program is the perfect opportunity. 


Location: Participating school or college

Cost: None (Travel costs for final launch not included)

Program Dates: October to April

Application Deadline: September 11

Eligibility: Open to all U.S. students currently in grades 6 to 12


The Lumiere Junior Explorer Program is an 8-week program for middle school students to work one-on-one with a mentor to explore their academic interests and build a project they are passionate about. Our mentors are scholars from top research universities such as Harvard, MIT,  Stanford, Yale, Duke and LSE


During this program, spanning weeks 1 to 4, participants will delve into four distinct topics within their selected track. In weeks 5 to 6, the focus intensifies as participants embark on a deep dive into one specific topic area and finally, weeks 7 to 8 are dedicated to project implementation, with participants receiving guidance and support from their mentors as they bring their projects to life.


You can find the application form here. 


Location: Fully Virtual Dates: Multiple cohorts available each year, deadlines vary accordingly

Cost: $1990 

Age requirements: Grade 6 - 8 

Deadline: Rolling deadlines for each cohort. If you'd like to take a look at the cohorts + deadlines for 2024, you can refer to this page!


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • AI Trailblazers - $1,790 

  • AI Junior Fellowship - $2,900 

Note. Need-based financial aid is available.

Application Deadline: February 25, 2024 (Winter Cohort). You can apply here!

Program Dates: 

  • AI Trailblazers - Runs for a total of 25 hours over 10 weekends 

  • AI Junior Fellowship - 12 weeks. The upcoming cohort for both starts on March 10, 2024.


Veritas AI is a virtual AI program for middle school and high school students founded and run by Harvard graduate students. Middle school students can pick from two options -  the first is the AI Trailblazers bootcamp. Through this program, you will learn the  fundamentals of artificial intelligence and machine learning, along with the basics of Python. You'll work on hands-on, real-world AI projects in areas like medicine, finance, autonomous vehicles, and more under the guidance of mentors from top universities. This is best suited for students who are beginners! 


If you have already gone through the bootcamp or have some experience with Python, the AI Junior Fellowship is a good option for you. You get to work 1-1 with a mentor to build out your own project or research paper over 12 weeks. This is a great way to work with AI at the intersection of various topics and showcase your passion. 


You can take a look at the program brochure here.


Science Club at Northwestern University is an opportunity for middle school students to receive high-impact science mentoring. Covering topics such as science of food, neuro-sports, and environmental science, the program is designed to help you explore hands-on research projects and learn real-world science skills in addition to the curriculum that you are already covering in school. Science Club recognizes the advantage in applying science in everyday life rather than memorizing facts and terms, and encourages students to develop skills in experimental design, data analysis, and making evidence-based conclusions through hands-on research projects and mentorship from real scientists. 


Location: Virtual or in member schools

Cost: None

Program Dates: Three quarters:

  • Fall: September to December

  • Winter: January to March

  • Spring: April to June

Application Deadline: None

Eligibility: Current middle school students


The Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a rigorous two-week residential experience that is designed to help middle schoolers develop higher-level thinking skills, explore their creativity, and nurture their passion for learning. Within STEP, students choose a challenge of their own and spend five hours researching it each day, while tackling complex questions and activities. Classes offered during this program include Building with Vex Robotics, Forensic Science, Human Body Systems, Game Design and more. This program is the perfect next step for students looking for an above-grade-level challenge as they prepare to start high school. 


Location: University of Wisconsin-Madison campus

Cost: $3,000

Program Dates: June 16, 2024, to June 29, 2024

Application Deadline: May 1, 2024

Eligibility: Current 6th to 8th grade students 


The Junior Scientist Training Program (JSTP) at Scripps Research offers a unique summer camp experience for middle school students interested in pursuing a career in science. During the program, you will take on hands-on science experiments and design challenges, while learning firsthand how scientists conduct research and the many possibilities that it brings with it. As a final deliverable, you will have the chance to design and conduct an independent research project that will be presented and will earn a certificate of completion from Scripps Research. 


Location: Scripps Research campus

Cost: $300

Program Dates: June 3, 2024, to August 9, 2024

Application Deadline: May 13, 2024

Eligibility: Current middle school students


The P.E.A.K.S at Georgia Tech University are experiences designed for middle school students to increase their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) knowledge through various hands-on activities including research projects and experiential activities. This in-person summer program is part of the Expanded Learning Programs at Georgia Tech, geared towards implementing and advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, through enhanced learning opportunities that prepare future leaders in STEAM. These programs are designed to be one to two weeks long and provide opportunities to interact with esteemed mentors across several STEAM fields. 


Location: Georgia Tech campus

Cost: $450 to $640

Program Dates: June 6, 2024, to July 22, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1 (tentatively, based on previous years)

Eligibility: Rising 6th to 8th grade students 


The On Being Human program by Johns Hopkins University is designed to help middle school students question their sense of “knowing” through biological, psychological, and philosophical methods. Within the program, three main topics are covered: Math: Paradoxes and Infinities, Science: Anatomy and Physiology, and Writing: Crafting the Essay. Through these different topics, students will be encouraged to conduct research and create reports on their findings while receiving mentorship that helps them hone their skills and deepen their quest to go beyond what they already know. Additionally, you will also be trained to question the interconnectedness between various topics through lab research work that uses propositional logic, precision, and critical thinking. 


Location: 

  • Session One: Ursinus College, Pennsylvania 

  • Session Two: Skidmore College, New York

Cost: $6,599

Program Dates: 

  • Session One: June 23, 2024, to July 12, 2024

  • Session Two: June 30, 2024, to July 19, 2024

Application Deadline: May 3, 2024

Eligibility: Current 7th and 8th grade students 


The ActivityBots Camp at Oregon State University was created to introduce middle schoolers to robotics through innovative projects and techniques. Students will be put into teams of two and using ActivityBot 360 robot kits, they will be guided on a research project. With the end goal to create a robot and move it via remote control navigation, students will research important topics like touch, visible light, infrared light, and ultrasonic sensors. The program is designed in a way that allows even those with little to no mechanical, electrical, or coding experience to excel and successfully build circuits of their own. For middle schoolers with a keen interest in robotics and engineering but don’t know where to begin, the ActivityBots program is a great stepping stone to laying a strong foundation. 


Location: Oregon State University campus

Cost: $170

Program Dates: July 15, 2024, to July 19, 2024

Application Deadline: May 1 (tentatively, based on previous years)

Eligibility: Rising 6th to 8th grade students 


The Duke Marine Lab, located on the coast of North Carolina, provides middle schoolers interested in marine biology with a unique interactive learning experience. With access to research labs and experienced industry professionals as mentors, the program is designed to help you study and take on research projects related to sustainability, conservation, marine biology and more. You will be able to live and learn on site and have access to all the resources that the Marine Lab has to offer. This one-week intensive program is currently open only to North Carolina residents. 


Location: The University of Chicago campus

Cost: $3,100

Program Dates: July 14, 2024, to July 20, 2024

Application Deadline: April 1, 2024

Eligibility: Current 6th to 8th grade students 


The College Academy at College Gate is designed for students who excel in fast-paced learning environments and are looking to challenge themselves further. With a research and project-based curriculum that promotes collaboration, the STEM focused summer programs offer courses like marine biology, advanced robotics, science discovery, rocketry, and graphic design. With a unique 10:1 ratio for each course, the program encourages engagement and positive peer interaction amongst students as they work on their projects. The goal of the programs is to hone the development of skills through research that will prove useful in college and the workplace. 


Location: Stonehill College, Massachusetts

Cost: $1,100

Program Dates: 

  • Session One: July 8, 2024, to July 26, 2024

  • Session Two: July 29, 2024, to August 16, 2024

Application Deadline: Rolling applications, based on first come first serve

Eligibility: Current 4th to 8th grade students 


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. 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.


Image Source: NASA logo


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