Computational Science High School Summer Program Named Top 50



By Casey Moffitt

Illinois Institute of Technology hosts dozens of high school students for a variety of summer programs, one of which, for computational science, was named a top 50 program by Best College Reviews this year.

This three-week program introduces high school students to the concept of computational thinking, says Kiah Ong, Illinois Tech senior lecturer of applied mathematics, who serves as the main instructor for the program.

“This is different from just programming,” Ong says. “It’s about how you solve problems in science by breaking down a complex problem into manageable parts, recognizing the trend, identifying the general principles, and then developing an algorithm for solving this or other similar problems. This is known as computational reasoning.” The students learn to do all this by using Mathematica, a program that is intuitive to use and emphasizes computational reasoning over syntax. 

Students also learn how to analyze big data set in this class; in a previous summer they constructed protein-protein interaction networks using publicly available data, such as that from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. By using another set of data that came from the Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observation, students were allowed to analyze 73,000 data points to compute the average time span between solar maximum and solar minimum.

“The students are really exploring,” Ong says. “I also see this as an opportunity to show how science is different than what you learn in high school. Instead of presenting facts, we learn how to formulate questions, how to set up mathematical models, do the required computations, then interpret the result. A lot of them have never seen this done like that before.”

Best College Reviews included computational science in its national list of 50 Best Pre-College Summer Technology Programs for High School Students as it provides “hands-on activities that direct students to answer questions like ‘How does Google Maps work?’”

Computational science is just one of Illinois Tech’s summer programs for high school students. Illinois Tech hosts 13 different summer programs in the areas of engineering, science, human science, architecture, law, and college prep. Programs last from one to four weeks and meet three to five days a week, depending on the program.

Registration for Illinois Tech summer programs is available now. For more information, contact