Program Overview

SHAPE offers two 3-week sessions: Session 1 is July 3rd-July 21st and Session 2 is July 24th-August 11th. Students will choose a subject — Robotics or Computer Science — and participate in one of these introductory college-level engineering courses. The program also features research skills or entrepreneurship electives, college preparation workshops, labs utilizing the Maker or Mech-Tech Space, engineering-themed field trips, support from Columbia student TAs, and access to the dining hall, library, and health services.


Faculty: Professor Sinisa Vukelic

Presented in conjunction with Columbia University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, this course is a hands-on introduction to robotics comprised of both theoretical and lab components. 

The objective of the course is to design and fabricate a toy robot capable of executing a posed task within a pre-determined maze.  Through the design for manufacture process, the students will acquire understanding of fundamental concepts such as engineering design and mechanical design. Further, students will learn principles of solid modeling, sensor technology and locomotion.

The prototype of the robot is supposed to be made from the available kit, manufactured parts (3D printer and laser cutter may be used for this purpose) as well as any scrap material found in Mechanical Engineering machine shop or around campus. Students will be divided into groups of four, and each team is responsible for conceiving and executing an original design. The design will be presented in a series of concept sketches and CAD drawings, with the final design being ‘prototyped’.  The class will culminate in a competition among the fabricated prototypes.

Students will pick one course per session; both courses are available each session, but students may only take each course once.

Faculty: Daniel Bauer and Ansaf Salleb-Aouissi

The course is a general introduction to computer science. It consists of a theoretical part, and practical hands-on experience. The course assumes no prior programming background. 

In the theoretical part, students will learn about the fundamental concepts of computer science, and algorithmic problem-solving. 

The practical part includes an introduction to Python programming and specifically covers the following topics:

  • Variables, control (if statement, loops)
  • Basic data types and data structures: integers, booleans, floats, strings, lists, tuples, sets, dictionaries.
  • Files (text, binary), input, output. 
  • Functions, procedures, calls, parameters, arguments, return values, recursion. 
  • Object oriented programming: classes, instances, objects, attributes, methods, instance variables, encapsulation. 
  • Graphical user interfaces (GUI).

The course will start with  the basics and initiate students to programming through practice examples and exercises both in class and in the lab. Once students are comfortable with programming, they will start working on a fun project that will leverage all the topics learned in class. Students will work on their projects in groups of two or three. 

At the end of the course, students will know how to think like a computer scientist, develop computational solutions to problems, and craft and implement applications in Python from scratch.

Students will pick one course per session; both courses are available each session, but students may only take each course once.


  • Introduces and prepares students for the research environment
  • Covers topics from lab culture to writing research papers
  • Taught by Columbia post-doctoral researchers

Students will pick one elective to participate in during the session.

  • Fosters student innovation leading to technology commercialization
  • Guidance for students who explore entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Taught by Columbia Engineering staff

Students will pick one elective to participate in during the session.

Lab Spaces

Students can use Columbia’s MakerSpace lab daily to build project prototypes. The MakerSpace is equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, and CNC tools for digital fabrication. Dr. John Kymissis and Dr. Hod Lipson are the faculty directors of the Columbia MakerSpace. Course TAs will supervise student projects in the lab.

Students will use the Mech-Tech lab daily to channel their ideas into creating tangible technology. The lab comes with equipment and resources to build their tech projects. Dr. Jeff Kysar is the faculty director of the space. Course TAs will supervise student projects in the lab.

College Preparation Workshops

  • Students will attend college prep workshops every week
  • Session topics:
    • Essay writing
    • Admissions case studies
  • College tour and info session
  • Once per week
  • Facilitated by the Columbia undergraduate admissions office

Field Trips

We will expose students to the range of engineering fields with trips that relate to Civil Engineering, Earth & Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, etc. Trips are optional and will be scheduled during project time.

Sample Schedule