I first wrote about a new type of summer camp that focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) a few years ago. There were only a few programs at the time and it seemed an unusual, niche STEM topic for kids and teens. But in the short time since then, interest in AI has grown significantly, and the offerings have increased in response. If your teen or middle-schooler is curious about AI, they now have many options for exploring the field.
Many kids are intrigued by the idea of AI, but know little about what it means to work in the field. Summer is a great time for curious students to explore AI—learning the basics of AI and machine learning capabilities, gaining computer science skills through hands-on real-world projects, and learning about the field as a potential career, while adding to their college application portfolio.
Why the Interest in AI?
Artificial intelligence is a field within computer science where machines imitate intelligent human behavior and perform tasks that humans do on a regular basis, including speech recognition, visual perception, and decision-making. Once the stuff of futuristic sci-fi, AI is now at the forefront of technological innovation and is one of the fastest-growing fields within the computer science industry. We already see it in smart speakers, chatbots, and driverless cars, to name just a few applications. Candidates for AI-related jobs are already in demand today, and AI will account for a significant number of well-paying tech-related jobs in the future.
The wide range of employers with AI needs includes government agencies, academic institutions, and industry, especially healthcare, transportation, climate, consumer products and services, and e-commerce, to name just a few. Students interested in pursuing AI as a career typically major in computer science, mathematics, or engineering. For teens, investigating this field could focus them on a college major that will launch them into a well-paying and intellectually stimulating career.
What’s Available in the Summer?
In the list below, you’ll find a mix of summer AI programs in both in-person and online formats. These programs are dedicated to AI and generally geared toward teens, although there are some for middle school students and even younger children. Many are for students who already have an interest or experience in computer science. While some are intended for beginners, others require some coding experience, so be sure to review each program’s website to see if there are prerequisites.
Each organization has a different take and focus, so it’s important to visit websites and read course descriptions to see what piques your teen’s interest and matches their current skills and needs. If you don’t have an in-person program near you, online is a great option!
There are a number of companies with a national reach that offer AI summer camps around the country. iD Tech, which kicked off AI summer camps a few years ago, has now expanded to offer a variety of programs. Other companies offering AI camps include Lavner Education, theCoderSchool, and iCode School. But you don’t have to confine your search to this list alone. There may be organizations in your community that offer AI camps. You can search for programs in your community to find even more. For example, use the search term “AI summer camps for teens” or “AI programs for teens” and your area or zip code.
Since AI programs are still relatively new, I have found there is a robust number of online options. Some are one-week programs, but many are multi-week and project-focused. Here is a sampling of well-known programs.
- AI Camp offers one- and three-week programs for ages 13–18 where students learn coding and AI skills in small group settings. Topics start with programming, command lines, and statistics, move on to data manipulation and machine learning, and conclude with fundamentals of deep learning.
- CodeConnect offers an AI & Big Data camp where students in grades 9–12 can delve into machine learning and, through hands-on learning, work on projects such as image classification, all while developing programming skills in Python.
- Create & Learn offers a variety of programs tailored for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Young students learn about the importance of AI and get to train their own models, while older students learn about machine learning and create AI apps with Python.
- iD Tech offers AI Experimentation Lab, introducing students ages 13–17 to using Python fundamentals to explore advancing AI technologies with popular tools like OpenAI, ChatGPT, and TensorFlow.
- Inspirit AI offers a 10-session pre-college enrichment program that exposes high school students to fundamental AI concepts and guides them to build a socially impactful project. Through their projects, students tackle real-world problems that matter to them. Taught by Stanford, MIT, and Harvard graduate students, the program provides all students with a personalized, interdisciplinary learning experience.
- MehtA+ offers two summer camps in AI/Machine Learning taught by MIT & Stanford engineers—an intensive 6-week machine learning research boot camp for grades 8–12 and an introductory 1-week AI in visual arts camp for grades 5–12. In the research boot camp, students will be able to work closely with top university professors to complete an AI research project in the sciences or the humanities.
- Veritas AI is an AI program for high school students, founded and run by Harvard graduate students. In the program, students learn the fundamentals of AI, interact with world-class AI practitioners, and build personalized projects that they can use for college applications and beyond. No coding skills are required, and the program has levels for advanced students.
There are a number of ways to find university programs, but it can take some time and effort to find them. Your local university is a good place to start—see if they offer a pre-college program or summer course. If you’re willing to travel, you can expand your options by doing an online search for “AI summer programs for high school students” and including the relevant geographic area. Another option is AI4ALL, an immersive AI program for high school students offered by a select number of universities, including Boston University, Princeton University, Stanford, University of Maryland, and UC San Francisco. Be sure to review the eligibility requirements for university programs; many require applications.
Want to Explore AI During the School Year?
If your child wants to continue exploring AI during the school year, some of the best opportunities can be found through online classes offered by the companies in this article.
I’d also encourage you to learn about Day of AI, a program designed by MIT that introduces AI to students of all ages in classrooms and after-school programs. This free program includes a curriculum, hands-on classroom activities, and rich online resources. All of the resources are freely available under a Creative Commons license. While the program is geared towards teachers, students and parents can participate independently! Anyone who registers on the dayofai.org website can access the curriculum and activities.