Engineering and Robotics High School Workshop on the MIT Campus

For explorers at National Geographic, technology and exploration go hand in hand—cutting-edge science and high-tech tools are invaluable to their expeditions. Join some of National Geographic’s leading explorers on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus to examine the many intersections of technology and exploration. Attend seminars on a range of topics—from renewable energy sources to engineering microscopic robots—and participate in related experiments. Tie your experiences together in a capstone project that uses cutting-edge science to help address an important issue in your own community.

July 24 – August 2, 2019
Airfare is not included. The program begins and ends in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trip Highlights

  • Try your hand at building and navigating a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and learn about the latest innovations in underwater robotics.
  • Harness microcomputers and biology to make your own renewable energy system in a STEM workshop.
  • Visit the rooftop garden at Fenway Park to learn about urban agriculture, and design a vertical garden of your own.
  • Explore the historic streets of Boston, kayak along the Charles River, or browse the bookstores in Harvard Square.


Arrive on the MIT campus, join your group for an orientation and tour, and get acclimated to university life in Cambridge. The workshop will be led by instructors who have experience in the themes of our program: Engineering the Future, Computer Science, and Innovations in Robotics. Each day features a discussion-based seminar or group meeting, followed by a hands-on workshop or field study 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. State-of-the-art research labs and applied technology centers in the local area serve as our classrooms as we explore scientific solutions to some of the most critical and compelling issues facing the modern world.

National Geographic Emerging Explorer T.H. Culhane uses technology to develop innovative solutions to environmental issues. Join him for a workshop, learning how food waste can be transformed into fuel and fertilizer, and then back into food. Build skills in engineering and computer programming as you create your own biodigester energy system; and with fertilizer from your biodigester, construct a vertical garden and plant seeds to grow food. Later, visit the rooftop garden at Fenway Park to see how urban agriculture experts engineered a sustainable food system atop this iconic ballpark.

Learn about the latest innovations in micro and soft robotics at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, founded by National Geographic Explorer Robert Wood. The research team here develops new types of soft microrobots that can safely interact with humans. Hear how this new class of robots may one day play a transformative role in fields such as medicine and agriculture.

Examine how advances in robotics technology are providing deeper insight into some of the world’s most spectacular places. Hear from Dr. Katy Croff Bell—a National Geographic Fellow and MIT researcher—on how underwater ROVs and advancements in biomimetic robots are charting a new course for ocean exploration. Then work with a team to assemble your own ROV, and deploy it from the dock at the New England Aquarium.

We’ll take breaks from our seminars to explore the vibrant cities of Cambridge and Boston. Peruse the shelves at bookstores in Harvard Square, kayak along the Charles River, meet culinary entrepreneurs at the Boston Public Market, or visit one of the area’s world-famous museums. Wander the cobbled streets winding through some of our country’s oldest neighborhoods, and delve into Revolutionary War history during a walk along the Freedom Trail. Each evening, gather on campus for a group activity, such as a presentation by one of our National Geographic experts, a film screening, or a concert. Enjoy a celebratory sunset cruise along the Charles River on your final night.

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.
This program uses the facilities of MIT and is organized and operated by National Geographic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is located in the heart of Cambridge, a vibrant university town that plays host to an array of youth-oriented restaurants, shops, and cultural events. Located just across the Charles River from Boston, the campus offers easy access to world-class museums and some of the country’s most important historic sites. From our base at the MIT dorms, we’ll utilize space at the university student center to work on collaborative projects, and we’ll visit nearby research centers, Harvard University, and labs used by National Geographic Explorers Katy Croff Bell and Robert Wood.
We stay in a comfortable dormitory on campus. Rooms are single or double occupancy with shared bathrooms. We will host seminars and expert talks in classrooms or conference rooms in the university’s student center.

T.H. Culhane, Urban Ecologist

Meet Our Experts

National Geographic Emerging Explorer T.H. Culhane is a professor of environmental sustainability and justice and is a pioneer in the creation and deployment of renewable, low-cost energy production tools. T.H. is the co-founder and president of Solar CITIES Inc., an environmental technology organization whose goal is to completely eliminate waste—a challenge they tackle, in part, by developing technologies that transform food waste into fuel and fertilizer.

Katy Croff Bell, National Geographic Fellow

National Geographic Fellow Dr. Katy Croff Bell uses technology to investigate the depths of the ocean. Katy currently leads the MIT Media Lab Open Ocean Initiative, dedicated to reimagining the future of ocean exploration and storytelling. Since 1999, she has led or participated more than 25 oceanographic and archaeological projects, using robotic and telepresence technologies to explore what lies at the depths of the ocean. At the Ocean Exploration Trust, she was Chief Scientist of the Nautilus Exploration Program, working with a large, global team of scientists, engineers, and educators to conduct multidisciplinary expeditions aboard E/V Nautilus in the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Pacific Ocean. Nautilus expeditions were shared with the world live, revealing the wonders of the undersea world in real time, in an effort to maximize the scientific outputs of expeditions and engage and inspire a new generation of young explorers. Katy is a proud alumna of MIT, where she received her SB in ocean engineering, before completing her masters at the University of Southampton and doctoral work at the University of Rhode Island. Katy will join the MIT University Workshop

Program Themes

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

Get a first-hand look at new technologies that are being used to address challenges facing the modern world. Experiment in robotics and engineering activities, and understand the future applications of the latest innovations.
Explore how advances in computing are enabling scientists to collect and apply complex data sets in innovative ways. Hear about biodigestors and their role in addressing global energy issues, and work as a team to build a minicomputer to monitor the conditions in your energy system.
Hear how engineers are developing a new class of robots and microbots aimed at transforming aspects of the medical and agricultural fields, and try building your own automated machines or holograms during a hands-on workshop.