I recently came across this listing of engineering summer camps for kids and teens: Engineering Education Service Center – Engineering Camps Directory.
It is one of the more comprehensive such lists I’ve seen, though it is still very far from complete—I know that there are many more computer and engineering camps around than are listed there. (None of the UCSC camps are listed, for example.)
I’ve often wondered why it is that the engineering camps are so hard to find. I suppose that part of the problem is that many are day camps on college campuses, and so only advertise locally. Many are also specifically designed as outreach programs for women or under-represented minorities and so advertise in places where I’m less likely to see the ads. There is good reason for the focused outreach: engineering programs in colleges are probably the furthest from proportional representation by gender or race of any of the degree programs.
I’ve also noticed that many of the engineering camps are for computer programming or game design. That’s probably because programming is an easy sell to parents and (at the level taught in summer camps) does not need much prior preparation. Game design is an easy sell for kids, and again requires little. The equipment is also fairly standard, so programming classes can be set up fairly cheaply, often using borrowed equipment.
I think that another part of the problem is that K–8 educators do not distinguish between science and engineering, and that high schools do only occasionally, with all “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, and math) categories dumped into one bucket. Thus a lot of people feel that a nature camp with naturalist walks is a science camp, and so meets the need for all STEM summer camps.
Because the raison d’être for most of the engineering summer camps is outreach, they are aimed at kids of average or only slightly above average ability. The situation is quite different for math—math camps are mostly aimed at the very brightest math students (MathPath, Awesome Math, MathZoom, MathLinks, for example). The mathematicians are trying to attract the brightest students into their field, while the engineering faculty are making almost no effort to do so. This is a shame, since I think the world needs brilliant engineers more than it needs brilliant mathematicians.