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Sally Ride Science Academy - 8 Reasons Why It's Worth It

If you’re a high school student, chances are you’re thinking about college and considering which field to study. Picking a subject to major in is an important decision that will likely shape your career. If you’re unsure about pursuing aerospace engineering and/or STEAM, or want to know more about its advanced theoretical or practical applications, a summer program is a great option! A program worth considering is UC San Diego’s Sally Ride Science Academy, which offers summer courses in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) for K-12 learners.


In this blog, we will review the Sally Ride Science Academy and the courses it offers to high school students, and give you eight reasons to apply!


What is the Sally Ride Science Academy all about?

Named after Sally Ride, the first American woman and the youngest American to go to space in 1983, UC San Diego runs the Sally Ride Science Academy to introduce elementary, middle, and high school students to STEAM, with dedicated course offerings for each level. The program offers students four-week and week-long in-person and online courses and workshops. UC San Diego faculty lead hands-on classes that cover astrophysics, film, microbiology, coding and computer programming, AI and machine learning, urban planning, engineering, digital design, literature, and more.


Is the program prestigious?

The program has low selectivity and limited prestige. The program is paid with limited financial aid available. It has open eligibility, which means there are no GPA requirements. You automatically qualify for courses depending on your school grade. 


What are the important dates?

Registration for all courses offered shut on 31 May 2024. The deadline to apply for financial aid is 29 April 2024. 


Note: Financial aid is limited to covering the cost of a single course, between $175 and $450.


How much does the program cost?

The total cost depends on how many courses you opt for. Online and in-person week-long courses cost $175 and $275 respectively. Different courses run in the morning and evening sessions, so you could opt for up to two per week during the four weeks the Academy runs.


Sally Ride offers two asynchronous online courses that run for four weeks and cost $450.


What is the eligibility criteria?

The Sally Ride Science Academy has open eligibility, i.e. you can join any course offered for your school level (elementary, middle, or high school). International students can apply for the virtual courses.


What will I study at Sally Ride?

The program offers week-long courses in STEAM and its various fields. There are dedicated a.m. and p.m. sessions, and you can opt for up to two courses weekly. Select asynchronous courses (which do not require you to attend within dedicated hours) run for four weeks.


You earn 4.0 credits for four-week asynchronous courses and 1.50 credits for week-long courses.


For high school students, courses you can register for include, but are not limited to:


  • Creating digital art using Google drawing (asynchronous online): You will learn about vector art and the polyline tool here. Your theory component will include learning about the history of pop art. Practical tasks include creating pop art using a photograph, making a nature mosaic with the polyline tool, and designing a vector portrait.

  • Introduction to Makerspaces (in-person): A makerspace is a community-oriented space where people learn and create together. In this course, you will about 3D printing and the underlying software, understand the basics of augmented and virtual reality, work with materials like wood, plastic, metal, etc., and ideate on new product designs. 

  • Deep space base building (in-person): Explore space exploration and the underlying environments necessary to establish colonies on another planet. You will learn about the various space-related resources available for research, read up on past and future space exploration missions, learn about the different environments on planets in the solar system, and create a 3D model for an off-world base.

  • Astrobiology (virtual): In this course, you will learn about how organisms in harsh conditions on Earth adapt to survive to better imagine what extraterrestrial life might look like. Literature includes NASA’s previous missions to find extraterrestrial life. At the end of the course, you will plan an astrobiology mission to Mars and define parameters for a planet that could sustain life.

  • Exploring Stephen Hawking and his science (online): Learn about the scientist’s life and his contributions to science, namely his theories of the Big Bang, radiation, and black holes. 

  • Designing sustainable cities (in-person): Use Google Earth to explore ancient and modern cities and understand why unsustainable cities collapse. Learn about “smart cities,” research population dynamics, explore architecture through case studies of different cities, and use digital tools to create a plan for a sustainable city.

  • Python programming (online): Learn how to code with Python and its various applications. Familiarize yourself with looping, variables, conditional statements, debugging, and other fundamental concepts. Later, you will use this knowledge to create a game.

  • iOS programming (in-person and online): Learn to code using Swift and cover topics like classes, functions, data structures, and more. You will also be introduced to Xcode, a platform to develop apps for Apple products. 


In all, Sally Ride offers high school students 22 unique courses to choose from! 


Here are eight reasons to consider registering for the Sally Ride Science Academy:


  1. You can choose from multiple courses and explore different fields of interest Sally Ride offers 22 courses that last between one and four weeks. Fields covered include astrophysics, astrobiology, computer science, architecture and urban planning, art, film, and much more. If you’re unsure about a major, this could be a sound way to gain practical experience in a subject!

  2. You earn credits! You earn 1.50 credits for each course you complete, which recognizes the work you’ve done during the program. Asynchronous courses earn you 4 credits.

  3. You can register if you’re an international student, without leaving the comfort of your home Sally Ride offers a mix of in-person and virtual courses. If you are not based in San Diego or live abroad, you can attend one or more virtual courses to learn more about a specific field. 

  4. Courses are (relatively) affordable Most courses offered by the program cost either $175 or $275; many other universities’ week-long programs cost upward of $1,000, making them inaccessible to many students. Sally Ride even offers financial aid to cover the cost of a single course.

  5. You can attend multiple courses in a single summer The program runs a morning and evening session daily, with different courses for each. This means you can attend up to two courses in a week, and even more during the rest of the summer.

  6. You can opt for asynchronous courses if you are pursuing other time-intensive opportunities in the summer  Sally Ride offers two asynchronous four-week courses on digital art and marine microbiology that you can complete at your own pace during the summer. There are no live classes that you need to be present for — you can watch recordings and do the projects accordingly.

  7. You can learn under UC San Diego faculty Faculty from the university teach the different courses offered, giving you a chance to learn first-hand from college professors, sample undergraduate life, and make connections with them.

  8. You can use this experience to bolster your college application Opting for a summer program is a useful way to show demonstrated interest in a subject and also give you a clearer idea of what you would like to study. Using this experience to shape your application can let recruiters know that you are focused and have a clear idea of your future. 



Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program!

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program in STEAM open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by 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!


Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain. 


Image Source: Sally Ride Science Academy logo

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