Technology and Innovation High School Workshop in the Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is a thriving ecosystem of visionaries, where companies, start-ups, and creatives are rapidly evolving the technological landscape to tackle the world’s greatest challenges. From our base at the University of California, Berkeley, go behind-the-scenes at the laboratories, workshops, and studios of some of National Geographic’s most creative thinkers, and at influential companies like Google; and learn how unbridled innovation can harness tools and technology to generate change and improve society on a global scale.

June 24 - July 3, 2019
Airfare is not included. The program begins and ends in San Francisco, California.

Trip Highlights

  • Work with Google engineers who are designing mapping and virtual exploration software.
  • Meet the teams behind OpenROV, Rainforest Connection, and EMOTIV, tech companies started by National Geographic Explorers, and test out the revolutionary devices they’ve created.
  • Visit a Stanford Lab that studies virtual reality, and spend time with a Stanford creativity coach.
  • Get a unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge as you hike to a hawk's eye vantage point, or cruise around the Bay on a private sunset ride.


Join a diverse group of students, instructors, and National Geographic experts at the University of California, Berkeley—our base for exploring Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Settle into our dormitory and get to know your group during a campus tour.

The workshop will be led by instructors who have experience in the themes of our program: Technology for Social Change, Innovations in Design, and Unleashing Creativity. Each day begins with a lively, discussion-based seminar followed by a hands-on workshop or field project to further examine and apply what we’ve learned. Our instructors will guide us through each activity and facilitate workshops and discussions with National Geographic Experts. Innovation labs at local universities, start-ups, and tech companies will serve as our classroom as we explore how technology is propelling us into the future.

Kick off the week working alongside National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tierney Thys, and hear how innovative technologies are used for oceanographic research and exploration. Then tour the OpenROV lab in Berkeley with our National Geographic expert Eric Stackpole, co-creator of these underwater drones and National Geographic's Open Explorer citizen science website. Create your own prototypes to navigate through OpenROV's underwater tank.

Meet with technology innovators from EMOTIV, a bioinformatics company founded by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tan Le that designs devices to measure neurological activity. The company’s revolutionary EEG headset is able to measures the brain’s cognitive and emotional states. Hear how Tan Le and Tierney Thys have partnered to understand the powerful effects nature has on the human brain. Test out the headset, and watch your brain respond to different stimuli. We'll also visit Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, where scientists are studying the use of immersive virtual reality (VR) environments, as well as how VR experiences may be used to improve everyday life by promoting conservation, empathy, communication, or enhanced learning.

Visit the headquarters of Google for a behind-the-scenes look at this powerhouse of digital technology. Tour the campus and learn the latest on the company’s ambitious projects, like self-driving cars. Then attend a tech talk by a team of Google Education engineers who are developing software that allows students to virtually explore the globe alongside National Geographic explorers via the Google Earth Voyager platform.

Throughout the week, collaborate with your group leaders and a Stanford creativity coach to generate ideas for innovation, and use what you have learned during the program to develop your own solutions to an issue that motivates you.

Take breaks from seminars to explore the San Francisco Bay Area. Cruise the bay for a unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge, hike through soaring redwood forests, or lay back and enjoy the spectacular beaches along California’s golden coast.

Our university workshops are for students in grades 9-12. Based at a top university, students delve into issues impacting the future of our world, and examine solutions offered by engineering, technology, journalism, and more. Students participate in stimulating seminars and hands-on workshops, and meet National Geographic experts to hear about their innovative work in the areas of focus. At the end, students develop a capstone project to pitch for a chance to receive funding from National Geographic to launch their initiative. Students work alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. Our university workshops accommodate up to 50 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
The University of California, Berkeley is located in the heart of Berkeley, a vibrant university town that plays host to an array of youth-oriented restaurants, shops, and cultural events. Located just across the bay from San Francisco, the campus offers easy access to world-class museums and some of the country’s most famous hubs of innovation. From our base at the University of California, Berkeley, we’ll utilize space at the university student center to work on collaborative projects, and we’ll visit nearby research start-ups, research centers, and university campuses, including that of Stanford University.
We stay in a comfortable dormitory on the University of California Berkeley campus. Rooms are single or double occupancy with shared bathrooms. We will utilize the university’s state-of-the-art classrooms for seminars and expert talks.
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Eric Stackpole, Co-Founder at OpenROV

Meet Our Experts

Eric Stackpole created the OpenROV submarine, an open source, low cost "Remotely Operated Vehicle" (or ROV) underwater robot that can be piloted from the surface and stream live video to its operator. He co-founded OpenROV, Inc., with 2016 National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Lang. Their intention is to democratize underwater exploration by making tools capable of exploring the deep available to anyone. OpenROV has grown into a business that distributes kits for the submarine to researchers, educators, technology enthusiasts, and explorers across the globe. Eric has worked on numerous other projects that utilize telerobotics as a means for exploration, including piloting ROV submarines under the Ross Sea in Antarctica and developing low-cost spacecraft used to carry out scientific missions in low Earth orbit. Eric will join the Technology and Innovation university workshop in the Silicon Valley.

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Tierney Thys, Marine Biologist and Filmmaker

National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee Dr. Tierney Thys is a marine biologist and filmmaker studying some of the ocean’s largest animals, including the giant ocean sunfish. She has led and participated in research expeditions worldwide from Alaska to the Galápagos, Indonesia, and Africa. Tierney works with all ages to promote ocean conservation through numerous creative means: from exploring how nature imagery impacts the brain to filmmaking to serving as a digital explorer in National Geographic’s online world, Animal Jam. She is currently working with National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tan Le to study the brain’s response to nature. Tierney will join both departures of the Hawaii middle school expedition and the Technology and Innovation university workshop in the Silicon Valley.

Program Themes

Explore each of these three topics over the course of the program:

Meet some of Silicon Valley’s computer and coding wizards and apply some of their techniques during hands-on activities with your own designs. Practice using Google’s mobile technology, and discuss the future of software with Stanford researchers and Google engineers.
See how National Geographic Explorers and top scientists are using technology to solve global issues. Visit innovation labs throughout Silicon Valley for a first-hand look at programs that are designing tools for exploration, studying the effects of nature on the brain, and creating affordable versions of high-tech scientific instruments.
Learn to harness your curiosity during brainstorming sessions with some of today’s tech changemakers. Work with a creativity coach at Stanford and identify a modern-day issue that resonates with you. Then apply skills gained throughout the program to develop a project that addresses the problem, and unleash your inner genius in order to effect positive change in your community.