Camp Reach at WPI


"My daughter attended this summer’s Camp Reach program and had an absolutely wonderful time. She made great friends, learned a ton and challenged herself in ways she didn't think possible. It really was a tremendous opportunity for her, so thank you, to you and your staff, for the time and effort you put in to making that such a great success”- Camp Reach Parent 2018

Program Type

Hands on/Project-Based
Informal /Out of School

Target Audience





Grades 6 - 8

 Promising link

Program Impact

A longitudinal study compared 176 young women who had attended Camp Reach as rising 7th-graders to a control group of young women who had applied for the camp but were not selected to attend. (Participants are randomly selected by lottery.) Among the findings when the young women completed high school:

  • Compared to the control group, more Camp Reach participants enrolled in the Mass Academy of Math and Science as high school students.
  • Regardless of education or career plans, participants cited Camp Reach as providing a sense of empowerment and self-confidence.
  • Almost 18 percent of Camp Reach participants intended on pursuing an engineering major in college, compared to 2.9 percent in the control group and a national average of 2.5 percent for women.
  • 47 percent of Camp Reach participants chose to major in a STEM discipline in college, compared to 29 percent in the control group.

Program Overview

Camp Reach is not your typical pre-teen girls’ summer camp. Young women about to enter 7th grade have fun with technology, tackle real problems, and get up close and personal with the way things work.

Camp Reach is not your typical pre-teen girls’ summer camp. Young women about to enter 7th grade have fun with technology, tackle real problems, and get up close and personal with the way things work. Camp Reach runs for two weeks every summer for 30 girls at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

A summer residential program for Massachusetts girls who have an interest in learning more about science and engineering careers, Camp Reach exposes participants to science and engineering concepts through discovery workshops and field trips. Perhaps most exciting of all, the girls apply what they learn as they complete hands-on community service projects.

Design projects, each of which is carefully selected by a real “client organization” in the community, are a major focus. Each design team of girls meets with a client from a Worcester-area organization to learn about the problem and then work on a solution. With the support of staff mentors, they develop a solution that the organization will implement. Camp participants are invited back during the school year to see their solution at work. Among the projects completed:

  • Modifying a bedroom for a disabled child
  • Designing a recycling program for a business
  • Planning playground areas
  • Creating a computer workstation for an adult day program
  • Recommending trail improvements at a local wildlife sanctuary
  • Developing a landscape beautification plan for a homeless shelter

Since 1997, approximately 400 rising 7th-grade girls, 110 high school girls, 40 middle school math and science teachers, and 75 WPI students and faculty have participated in the program and created a mentoring scaffold of girls and women who support and celebrate each other’s interests in STEM.

Camp Reach received the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, awarded by the White House to recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering—particularly for those who are underrepresented in these fields.

How To Get Involved

Camp Reach relies on the generous support of the community—from the organizations that entrust campers with design projects to the corporations, foundations and individuals who invest in the program because they understand that “life takes engineering.”

A major focus of the camp experience, community-oriented design projects introduce campers to the nature of engineering as a collaborative problem-solving process. WPI is always interested in learning about organizations with meaningful problems to solve. If your project is chosen, a team of 10 campers—mentored by high school assistants and a middle school teacher—will develop a plan based on your direction and budget. The one requirement is that you must implement the solution in the six to nine months following the summer program so campers can see their work in action.

WPI also needs the support of generous and forward-thinking organizations that recognize the importance of encouraging students to begin exploring careers in science, technology and engineering.


Suzanne Sontgerath, Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs


Visit Website

Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.