PREFACE 2024: The Rensselaer Summer Engineering Design Program

Are you a high school sophomore or junior (entering 11th or 12th grade in the fall of 2024) with a passion for engineering or technology? PREFACE is a summer experience hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for students interested in pursuing a career in engineering or technology who are part of groups that have been historically underrepresented or underserved in science, engineering, and other technological fields.  

Since 1978, PREFACE has provided a pre-college introduction to the different types of engineering, allowing students to understand what engineers do and what it takes to become an engineer. PREFACE students are exposed to today’s global challenges and learn to use engineering design and manufacturing processes to develop possible solutions.

This year’s PREFACE program will be an in-person experience on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus in Troy, New York. The 2024 theme will explore the promises and challenges around nuclear energy. The Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering (MANE), with the support of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS), will lead students on a deep dive into the disciplines of nuclear science, engineering, power generation, sustainability, and social science to help solve the nuclear waste puzzle. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are exploring ways to meet an ever-growing demand for sustainable energy resources, including the possibility of meeting that demand with or without the contribution of nuclear energy.

As a PREFACE participant, you will learn with Rensselaer faculty and students through demonstrations, hands-on activities and experiments, and individual and team activities and challenges. You will be immersed in experiences such as designing radiation shielding, performing computer simulations of operating nuclear reactors, and building a radiation detector to gain an understanding of how — and why —nuclear energy works, how nuclear science and engineering intersects with and is important to diverse disciplines, and the world-changing potential of applied research.

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The PREFACE Program will be held Sunday, July 28, through Saturday, August 10, 2024

PREFACE will provide you with a firsthand perspective of what it’s like to be a college student on the Rensselaer campus. As a PREFACE participant, you will be mentored through the program by Rensselaer undergraduate students who have been trained as teaching assistants.

The School of Engineering will welcome you to campus, and you will learn about the various types of engineering and about research and career opportunities in those fields. You will gain hands-on experience working with Rensselaer faculty members.

During the 14-day program, you will learn about some of the other aspects of the college experience. Rensselaer students and professional staff will introduce you to campus clubs and organizations, as well as athletics, health and wellness, leadership development, and career and professional development opportunities. You will gain insight into the college application and financial aid process. You will learn about the campus, explore sites in Troy and the Capital Region, and for fun, you will be able to engage in engineering challenges and trivia contests for prizes!



The PREFACE Program will:

  • Provide experiences using the engineering design process to solve a problem (e.g., design, troubleshoot, innovate, model, revise, and assess outcomes);
  • Create opportunities to develop leadership and team-building skills;
  • Highlight career opportunities available in engineering professions as a means to develop a deeper understanding of the role and expectations of an engineering education; and,
  • Present a snapshot of college life and its academic, social, cultural, civic, and environmental experiences.


PREFACE core disciplines are taught by Rensselaer faculty and staff members. Programs include “Introduction to Electronics,” “Introduction to Engineering Design,” “Introduction to Engineering Analysis,” “Computer-Aided Design,” and “Introduction to Manufacturing Processes.” Students will be introduced to manufacturing sustainable building products by the faculty of CASE,  the Rensselaer Center for Architecture Science and Ecology. In addition, students will:

  • Explore the different types of engineering, including biomedical, mechanical, aeronautical, electrical and computer systems, civil and environmental, nuclear, materials, industrial, and chemical.
  • Learn about leadership development facilitated by the Rensselaer Archer Center for Student Leadership Development, including engineering design projects and team building.
  • Learn about career development by attending seminars offered by the Rensselaer Center for Career and Professional Development.
  • Prepare for college through interactive sessions about the admissions application and financial aid processes.
  • Visit with representatives from global research and development companies.


To apply, you must be entering the 11th or 12th grade in September 2024. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a background traditionally underrepresented and underserved in science, engineering, and other technological fields. Since PREFACE is taught in English, a strong understanding of the English language is essential.

Selection is based on your high school academic performance, your standardized test scores (if available), the quality of your essay, and the strength and relevance of your recommendations. Twenty students will be selected to participate.

The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST, on Friday, April 19, 2024. Applications received thereafter will not be accepted for PREFACE 2024. Applicants are advised to review the entire application in advance before attempting to complete and submit it. Acceptance notification will take place during the second week of May.

2024 Application

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is now accepting applications from students who will be in 11th or 12th grade in Fall 2024  for the summer session (Sunday, July 28 through Saturday, August 10).

Students may directly access the 2024 PREFACE application.  

Applicants are advised to review the entire application in advance to determine what information they will need, before they attempt to complete and "submit" the application form.  Student applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. ET, April 14, 2023.



The 2024 program costs $4,000 per student to attend. This pays for the cost of room and meals, instructors, supplies, the program T-shirt, and all planned activities during the two weeks. The fee will be payable upon notice of selection in the program. Participants are responsible for their transportation arrangements and costs. Transportation between the campus and area hubs is also covered in the fee, but transportation to the Albany airport, and train and bus stations are not included. 

Financial Aid: The program provides a limited number of partial scholarships for the program fee and associated costs to qualified students on the basis of demonstrated need. Students whose families earn annual wages within the federal poverty guidelines are encouraged to apply for aid, but this option is open to all applicants. The financial aid request is part of the online application, and applying for a scholarship does not impact the admissions decision. 



For more information, email



PREFACE has been funded in the past through generous donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. If you are interested in inspiring young minds and creating opportunities for high school students to learn more about their own potential in engineering and technological professions, please consider making a gift to the PREFACE Program at Rensselaer. Your gift will have a direct impact by providing financial aid scholarships to students from historically underserved or underrepresented communities so they can be exposed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions at an early age. For more information, please contact the Office of Institute Advancement at (518) 276-6494.

The program has received funding in the recent past from:


  • Robert L. Cummings '69 and Annette Bacol
  • Mrs. Dorothy Lemelson FR
  • Dr. Robert C. Kohberger '67, '71, '75


  • The Grainger Foundation
  • William Gundry Broughton Charitable Private Foundation Inc.
  • The Haas Foundation


  • Exelon Corporation
  • United Technologies Corporation
  • Bank of America
  • Time Warner Cable
  • The Boeing Company
  • General Motors
  • General Electric
  • Lockheed Martin
  • IBM Corp.
  • OBrien & Gere
  • Knolls Atomic Power Lab
  • Procter & Gamble


Many thanks to all PREFACE donors!