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10 Research Opportunities in Mechanical Engineering for High School Students

If you’re potentially looking into a career in mechanical engineering, exploring the discipline while in high school is a fantastic way to test your interest. Familiarizing yourself with the research process and building a network of highly recognized professors and professionals will create many more opportunities for you down the line. As an added bonus, having experience on your resume is a great way to signal to colleges that you’re an incredibly passionate, motivated individual, willing to pursue your interests!

To help you find the right experience for yourself, we’ve compiled a list of engineering-focused programs and opportunities students can take advantage of.

Here are 10 great mechanical engineering research opportunities

1. MIT's Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES)

MITES Summer is a six-week MIT hosted program for rising high school seniors with an interest in science or engineering. The program is focused on catalyzing change in STEM, prioritizing diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. During MITES, students take rigorous courses, build lab and research skills, and explore careers in science and engineering, while also benefiting from college admissions counseling. To elevate your understanding of mechanical engineering, the program offers work on robotics, thermodynamics, and design thinking projects—just to name a few. As one more perk, each student receives a written evaluation from their instructor at the end of the program. Many students choose to submit this as supplemental material with their college applications.

Cost: None

Eligibility: Juniors at the time of application

2. MIT's Women’s Technology Program (WTP)

This year, WTP is specifically focused on following a mechanical engineering track. The program is completely free, a rigorous four-week experience aimed at providing high school students with mechanical engineering-focused curricula and lab experience. For example, you can expect in-depth study of subject areas such as fluid mechanics, materials, statics, heat transfer, thermodynamics, and engineering design. The program is led by graduate students in the MIT mechanical engineering department and focuses on empowering underrepresented students.

Cost: None

Eligibility: Female-identifying juniors at the time of application

3. NYU's Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE)

ARISE at NYU is a free seven-week summer program for 10th and 11th graders residing in New York City. During their seven weeks, students will work under the guidance of NYU’s top research faculty, gaining authentic research opportunities in various STEM disciplines, such as mechanical engineering. ARISE participants will train in college-level research, professional development, presentation and colloquium, and make substantial contributions to their laboratories. This is a great interdisciplinary STEM program; while it has specific subject areas involving mechanical engineering (such as robotics), you can also easily explore topics in chemical engineering, computer science, etc. as these pair very well with mechanical engineering.

Cost: None

Eligibility: Sophomores and Juniors in NYC

4. Office of Naval Research Science and Engineering Apprentice Program

The Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) places high school students as apprentices in one of twenty-five Department of Defense (DoD) labs for eight weeks, allowing them to work closely under research mentors in their field of interest. Students will gain firsthand scientific and engineering experience while earning a stipend, gaining unique and positive experiences to help with their understanding of a STEM career.

Cost: None, first-year interns receive a stipend of $4,000, returning interns receive a stipend of $4,500

Eligibility: All high school students

5. Michigan State University High School Honors Science / Mathematics / Engineering Program (HSHSP)

As the oldest, continuously running program of its kind, HSHSP has developed into a highly selective research program offering research apprenticeships in all areas of science, engineering, and mathematics. Each participant indicates a preference for their research area, then works with faculty advisors, undergraduate, and graduate students to identify the research methodology and begin the procedure. Students are able to fully immerse themselves in the intensive research process for seven weeks, often producing award-winning research projects under the mentorship of the university’s faculty and graduate students.

Cost: $4,000

Eligibility: Juniors at the time of application (in the upper 20% of high school classes)

6. MIT's Beaver Works Institute

The Beaver Works Institute at MIT, a rigorous, world-class STEM program, is leading a variety of courses this summer. One such mechanical engineering-focused course is “Build a Cubesat.” Dedicated to building, testing, and flying a Cubesat, the four-week course guides students through design trades, assembly, and testing of the space system. After going through online sessions, the in-person session heads into the lab to assemble the working satellite, giving students hands-on developmental experience, exposing them to real-world trades when designing systems for space.

Cost: Tuition is free; for out-of-state students who require lodging, there is a fee of $5,000 for 4 weeks, waived or partially waived based on family income

Eligibility: Juniors at the time of application

7. Princeton University's Laboratory Learning Program

Princeton University offers 5-6 weeks of summer research experience for high school students interested in the natural sciences and engineering. Students will apply to a specific research opportunity; if accepted, they'll receive actual engineering experience within a Princeton lab and work closely with the university’s top faculty and researchers. At the end of their internship, students will write a two-page research summary report—a great addition to your college applications!

Cost: None

Eligibility: High school students aged 16 and older

8. UMD's Engineering Science and Technology to Energize and Expand Young Mind (ESTEEM) / Summer Engineering Research Quest

Students at ESTEEM/SER-Quest will participate in an intensive 4-week research-focused program. At the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, participants will develop a research proposal on a topic of their choice, complete a literature review, and conduct a research project in engineering. They’ll be given the chance to meet undergraduate and graduate students in engineering programs, as well as learn all about the college application process and professional development.

Cost: $350

Eligibility: Juniors at the time of application

9. MSOE's Women in Engineering

The Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) Women in Engineering summer program offers female students entering 10th through 12th grades the chance to explore multiple engineering disciplines, including mechanical engineering. Led by MSOE faculty and MSOE female engineering students, students participate in various hands-on engineering projects. The program hopes to teach its students how to apply their skills and knowledge to the real world, while also promoting female opportunities in a male-dominated field.

Cost: $950

Eligibility: Female-identifying students from grades 10-12

10. MIT's Research Science Institute (RSI)

Every summer, the prestigious RSI at MIT holds a free six-week science & engineering research program. Students go through the entire research cycle, from drafting a detailed research plan to delivering oral and written reports on their findings. The first week is spent attending college-level courses, taught by some of the country’s most accomplished professors. The next five weeks are when students participate in their research internships, conducting individual projects under the mentorship of experienced professionals. You can pick a topic involving mechanical engineering and its applications. RSI is incredibly prestigious and most attendees are accepted into colleges like MIT.

Cost: None

Eligibility: High school juniors at the time of application

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Amelia is a current junior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Lumiere’s students as much as she can!

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