RPI STEP (7-12)


    RPI STEP [Science Technology Entry Program] is funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Education. Its mission to increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students prepared to enter college, and improve their participation rate in mathematics, science, technology, health-related fields, and the licensed professions. The program's initiatives focus on developing problem solving and critical thinking skills through a range of enrichment activities that include student development, leadership opportunities, career exploration, college preparation, internships, and parent workshops. RPI STEP activities occur after school, on Saturdays, and over the winter and spring breaks during the school year, and in the summer. RPI supports students entering grades 7 through 12 attending its partner schools listed below, as well as students who live in neighboring communities as space permits. RPI STEP is currently serving students in over 30 schools in the New York Capital Region.

    • Troy Middle School and Troy High School
    • Knickerbacker Middle School & Lansingburgh High School
    • Tamarac Middle School and Tamarac High School



    Student Eligibility, Application and Participation

    Interested students must first be enrolled in RPI STEP before they begin to participate in RPI STEP Programs.

    The following requirements must be met to participate in RPI STEP:    

    • Students must be residents of the State of New York, enrolled in middle or high school (grades 7-12) at a local secondary school.
    • Students must exhibit potential for college level study if provided academic support services.
    • Students must be either economically disadvantaged OR of an ethnicity historically under-represented in the scientific, technical, and health-related professions (Black/African-American, Latino, or Native American/Alaskan Native). 

    Applications are evaluated for eligibility before applicants are accepted into the program. Parents will be asked to prove eligibility based on NYS criteria if the application is based on economic eligibility. Please see the most recent income eligibility guidelines from NYSED.

    RPI STEP Application and Process

    Students and their parents are required to complete the RPI STEP application. If you have difficulty downloading and printing the application, send an email to e-mail RPI STEP, or call 518-276-3098, and we will send it.

    RPI STEP Application Process: 

    • The student and their parents/guardian must complete and submit the 2020-2025 RPI STEP application in its entirety to the RPI STEP Director.

    • Student must request a copy of their grades or transcript, and recommendations from their guidance counselor AND math/science teacher be sent to the RPI STEP Director. 

    • Student must write an essay of 250 words, indicating (1) what excites them about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and/or math) fields, and (2) who or what inspired them to be interested in the STEM fields. These factors are used to evaluate a student’s potential for entry into the program. This essay should be submitted along with the student’s application to the RPI STEP Director. 

    As part of the application process, parents are asked to grant RPI permission to access transcripts including grades and test scores from their student's school, as RPI is required to report annually on student participant performance to the NY State Department of Education to justify program funding.

    Applications are reviewed as soon as they are received in their entirety.  Students who complete the application process and are accepted into RPI STEP will be eligible to participate in all programs offered in the summer, fall and spring semesters thereafter, from the summer prior to entering their 7th grade in school through their graduation from high school. Continuation in the program will be evaluated annually, and will be based on the student's active participation in programs provided throughout the year.

    Please return the completed application along with required supporting materials (listed above) to the following address:

    110 Eighth Street
    J- Building, Suite 4400
    Troy, NY 12180

    If you have any questions about the program, contact the the program office at 518-276-3098, or e-mail RPI STEP.

    RPI STEP Participant Annual Obligation

    Each student is required to participate in at least one program offered each semester - July to December, and January to July. Each student will be required to complete the “RPI STEP Student Information Update Form” each fall. The form will be mailed to the student’s home, and e-mailed to parents/guardians, and will require updates on the student’s school, grade, Free/Reduced lunch status, career aspirations, along with a program survey. Additionally, RPI STEP is required to request the student’s grades and test scores from the student’s school; STEP may request participant help in securing these grades from their schools. All requested information must be received before the start of school year programs (mid-late September), by the date specified on the update form, in order for the student to continue to participate in RPI STEP.


    STEP Programs

    Activities described below are offered for information purposes only. Program needs and interests change, and we do our best to meet those interests and needs, so the scope and schedule of programs may change over time. 

    Due to limited space, special requirements may be established and participation may be by invitation only for some of these programs. Once students are admitted, they are entitled to continue in the program until their graduation from high school as long as they live in the area and have the desire to continue. Students will be required to submit annual updates of their contact and school information, and a confirmation that they would like to continue in the program. 

    SPRING 2022 Program Information

    RPI STEP will continue to operate virtually through Spring 2022. We have now begun recruiting participants for our Spring 2022 programs. The dates and times for the programs are listed on our Google calendar. For information on how to register for these programs, contact pipelineprograms@rpi.edu.


    Students who will enter grades 7-10 the following school year will be eligible to participate in a project-based day camp program, typically two weeks in length. There is a different theme each year. In recent years we have done High-Altitude Weather Balloons, Sustainability STEM, Simple Machines and The Martian. There is usually at least one day trip during camp, either to a relevant museum or STEM industry site. Camp is exclusively available to those enrolled in RPI STEP, is free of charge, and includes lunch in the dining hall each day (at no cost to participants). 

    Students who will enter grades 11 or 12 the following school year will be eligible to participate in Summer Path to Success. Path to Success in the summer focuses on career-readiness skills (resume-building, presentation-making and delivery, constructive criticism, mock interviews). In 2017, we added an advanced math skills component, aimed at making our student Calculus-ready. This is a week-long day program exclusively available to those enrolled in RPI STEP, is free of charge, and includes lunch in the dining hall each day (at no cost to participants).




    A list of past Saturday programming is noted below.

    Future City Competition: Future City lets students in 7th and 8th grades do the things engineers do: identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test and retest, build and then share the results. Students will use SimCity software to design a virtual model of their futuristic city, build a physical 3D model of their city using creative materials such as recycled goods, demonstrate their writing skills, and enhance communication skills though a team presentation.

    VEX Robotics: In the VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more. The 2017-18 game was called “In the Zone”. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by Stacking Cones on Goals, by Scoring Mobile Goals in Goal Zones, by having the Highest Stacks, and by Parking Robots. We will attend local competitions with hopes of qualifying for regionals.

    SAT Prep: Local teachers who already work closely with RPI STEP, and who have been trained by Cambridge Educational Services, will provide SAT Prep sessions for 11th and 12th graders in September and October. The SAT has ELA and Math components, and these teachers are trained in those fields and certified for classroom instruction.

    Path to Success-College Readiness: This program will run in November and December, and is open to 11th and 12th graders, with one session for students AND parents. Topics such as narrowing a list of schools to apply to, the application forms and essay, the financial aid forms and process, the importance of a college degree, and more will be covered.

    Intro. to Programming: RPI's Coding&&Community Club, a diverse group of college students who are passionate about and experienced in computer programming, facilitate interactive sessions which introduce STEP students to the following programming languages: Python, HTML/CSS, Java, C++, and terminal. 

    Homework Help: A local certified math teacher, as well as RPI student staff, are available to help students with their homework, prepare for tests, and review content. 

    Scholar Bowl: This is a partnership activity with the other regional STEPs (Albany Medical, SUNY Albany, Union, and FMCC). Students will meet Saturday mornings to practice answering questions from all Regents subjects, and then will compete as a team against the other regional STEPs in a Science Bowl-modeled event.



    February: Path to Success is offered to students in grades 9 and 10 (grade 11 as space permits) for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of February public school break week (President's week). Path to Success includes lessons in leadership and essay writing, as well as SAT/ACT test preparation provided by trained local teachers who work with STEP, and includes a practice SAT test taken under normal testing conditions with scoring and analysis provided by Cambridge Educational Services. We also typically offer a day trip to visit college campuses of interest to those in grades 9-12, and a field trip to a STEM industry site or relevant museum for students in grades 7-9.

    April: Typically, we offer a college visit experience for grades 9-12 and a field experience for students in grades 7-9. 


    **Please note that all expenses (transportation, accommodations, meals) are covered by RPI STEP's grant funding. Also, we do sometimes ask for parent chaperones, in which case we cover all cost for chaperones as well.**


    2017 Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: "A Place for All People: Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson's Reflections on The National Museum of African American History and Culture"

    The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). Her research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research. President of Rensselaer since 1999, Dr. Jackson has led an extraordinary transformation of the institute with an ambitious strategic effort known as The Rensselaer Plan. Dr. Jackson is an International Fellow of the British Royal Academy of Engineering and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She served Vice Chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Brookings Institution. She is a member of the Board of Directors of several global companies. Calling her a “national treasure,” the National Science Board selected her as its 2007 Vannevar Bush Award recipient for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”  In 2016, President Obama awarded Dr. Jackson the National Medal of Science, the highest honor for scientific achievement bestowed by the United States government.

    2016 Chris Emdin, Ph.D.: "Hip Hop Remix of Science Education"

    Dr. Emdin is an RPI alumni, having completed his Master of Science degree in Natural Sciences here in 2003. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Lehman College, and a Doctoral degree in Urban Education from the City University of New York. Dr. Emdin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Columbia University Teachers College. He also serves as Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University Teachers College, and as Director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education. He currently serves as the Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the Department of Energy, and he is a former White House Champion of Change for working to support and accelerate STEM opportunities for African American students, schools and communities. He is the creator of the HipHopEd social media movement, and provides regular commentary for Aljazeera and the Huffington Post.

    2015 Dr. Sampson Davis: "Living and Dying in the Brick City: Stories from the Front Lines of an Inner-City E.R."

    Dr. Davis is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, NJ. He is also a founding member of The Three Doctors Foundation, an Essence Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and the youngest physician to receive the National Medical Association's highest honor, The Scroll of Merit. He will be speaking on health, education, leadership, and mentoring in the context of his 2014 book, Living and Dying in Brick City: Stories from the Front Lines of an Inner-City E.R.

    2014 James McLurkin, Ph.D.: "Dances with Robots"

    As a child, James McLurkin was constantly building with LEGO bricks, cardboard boxes, or any other materials he could get his hands on. Today, McLurkin continues this tradition. Using Mother Nature as a model, his core research is developing distributed algorithms for multi-robot systems: the software for large swarms of autonomous robots. Inspired by the behavior of ants and bees, the SwarmBots perform individual tasks that collectively contribute to the goals of the group. They were originally created during his five-year post as Lead Research Scientist at iRobot, one of the world's leading robotics companies. He is dedicated to illustrating the fun and excitement in science and engineering, and teaches classes to students of all ages, from elementary school to graduate school. He cherishes his "Nerd Pride", and uses it to help excite the next generation of engineers and scientists. In 2003, McLurkin received the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which is awarded to burgeoning MIT student inventors. Also in 2003, he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of five leading robotics engineers in their "Rise of the Machines" feature, and by Black Enterprise magazine as a "Best and Brightest Under 40." McLurkin is an Assistant Professor at Rice University in the Department of Computer Science. He holds a S.B. in electrical engineering with a minor in mechanical engineering from MIT, a M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a S.M. and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT.

    2013 David Pogue: "Disruptive Tech: What's New, What's Coming & How It Will Change Everything" (what every middle & high school student should know to optimize their success in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)

    David Pogue is the tech critic for Yahoo Finance, having been groomed for the position by 13 years as the personal-technology columnist for the New York Times. He’s also a monthly columnist for Scientific American and host of science shows on PBS’s “NOVA.” He’s been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since 2002. With over 3 million books in print, David is one of the world’s bestselling how-to authors. He wrote or co-wrote seven books in the “for Dummies” series (including Macs, Magic, Opera, and Classical Casino Music); in 1999, he launched his own series of complete, funny computer books called the Missing Manual series, which now includes 120 titles. After David graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1985, with distinction in Music, he spent ten years conducting and arranging Broadway musicals in New York. He’s won four Emmy awards, two Webby awards, a Loeb award for journalism, and an honorary doctorate in music.

    2012 Dr. Calvin Mackie, Ph.D.: "The Whole Individual: How to be Motivated & Critical-Thinking in Striving to Reach Goals"

    Dr. Calvin Mackie, award-winning engineer, internationally-renowned motivational STEM speaker, successful entrepreneur, and bestselling author was honored with The College Board’s 2015 Dr. Asa G. Hilliard Model of Excellence Award. This accolade recognizes Dr. Mackie for his efforts in encouraging African American students to strive for academic success.


    Staff and Faculty

    RPI STEP is always looking for enthusiastic college students, local middle and high school teachers and college faculty to lead the various programs it offers.

    For more information on faculty and student positions, e-mail RPI STEP or call 518-276-3098.    


    Director, Cynthia Smith              

    Program Coordinator, Nadia Marin-Guadarrama

    Path to Success Instructors: Ms. Reynolds, Mrs. Sciolino

    Math Instructors:  Ms. Reynolds, Troy High School

    Greenhouse Coordinator: Mr. Cohen, Troy High School

    Science Instructor: Ms. Peter, Lansingburgh High School;  Mrs. DeViddio, Troy High School

    ELA Instructor: Mrs. Culliton, Lansingburgh High School

    Computer Science Instructor: Mrs. Avellino, Shaker High School

    Science and Technology Instructor: Mrs. Ciemny

    Troy School District Guidance Contacts: Ms. Gelatt and Ms. Shaw

    Lansingburgh School District Guidance Contacts: Ms. Crawford-Young and Ms. Mcguire

    Brunswick School District Guidance Contacts: Ms. Dowling Ryan, Ms. Collins and Ms. Fulgan



    Coding && Community

    National Society of Black Engineers [NSBE]

    National Organization of Minority Architecture Students [NOMAS]

    Engineering Ambassadors

    Science Ambassadors



    STEP Resources

    RPI STEP is a member of a vast community across New York State that seeks to engage middle and high school students in STEM activities that will make them college and career ready:

    * Take a look at our pictures, and useful information on scholarships, college and career readiness, and STEM enrichment sites on Google.

    * New York State Education Department Office of Postsecondary Access, Support & Success  - OPASS for STEP
    * STEP programs across NY State (for students attending school in grades 7-12)
    * C-STEP programs across NY State (for students who have graduated highschool and attend these colleges)
    * STEP For Leaders


    Coronavirus Impact and Updates

    In early March of 2020, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute responded to the threat of the COVID-19 virus by first instituting social distancing policies. On March 13, and due to an abundance of caution because of the coronavirus, the institute suspended all in-person instruction for the spring semester. RPI STEP pivoted immediately to offer virtual programming to its students, not only that spring, but continuing through the summer and fall, and into 2021 in the spring and summer. Though RPI is beginning to open fully to all its students in the Fall of 2021, RPI STEP will continue to operate virtually with a robust selection of program offerings until the Delta variant is more under control and there is more widespread vaccine coverage especially in younger populations. The RPI STEP community's health and welfare is our utmost concern, and we look forward to returning to in-person programming as soon as possible.

    For more information, see the Rensselaer Coronavirus website.