Summer Academic Challenge

2021 Program Dates - June 24th - July 22nd


Deadline for Application is April 9th 2021

Summer Academic Challenge (SAC) is a tuition-free four-week enrichment program for Tacoma and greater Pierce County students in grades 7 to 12. With an innovative Project-Based STEAM curriculum, students explore themes in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, and see how the subjects they study in school play out in the world around them. Classes are project-based and require teamwork and collaboration. In addition to time on campus, whether in the classroom, lab, outdoors, or in the library, students attend workshops on writing and oral presentation skills, and participate in field trips and special events. Students participating in the program gain confidence, expand their interests, and become better prepared for the next school year and to meet their long-term academic goals.


Students must be currently attending a public school.
Students must be from underrepresented minoritized groups, first generation college students, and/or from underrepresented socio-economic status as determined by the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch program.
Students with an interest in developing their skills in science and technology study material centered on a theme that changes from year to year. Themes from past years have included robotics, salmon survival, flight, and sustainability. Students study specific mathematical and scientific topics that support the theme and relate those topics to larger questions. Over a four week period, they attend classes, build models, execute computer programs, conduct laboratory experiments, and participate in field trips.

Teachers are drawn from both the community and the university. Current university students serve as mentors and teaching assistants to the middle and high school students participating in the program.

Financial Aid Opportunity for College:

Puget Sound will provide a package that meets the full financial need of Summer Academic Challenge students who wish to attend the University of Puget Sound if they meet the following criteria: 1) Successfully complete Summer Academic Challenge or participate in 100 hours of access programming like Tuesday Night Tutoring; 2) Graduate from high school; 3) Apply to, are admitted, and enroll at the University of Puget Sound.

See the short video created during the 23rd year of the Summer Academic Challenge for student reflections on the program and to learn more about what participating in this program can do for you.

If you have any questions, please email or call 253.879.3927.

Summer 2020 in Review

Health concerns caused by the Covid-19 outbreak meant that this year’s Summer Academic Challenge had to be held virtually rather than on campus.  While the lack of the physical campus experience was disappointing, the enthusiasm of our Teachers, TAs, and attendees was unparalleled!  With exciting new curriculum, loaner laptops, and the support of our Technology Department, our 7-12 graders quickly adapted to Zoom classrooms, breakout rooms, and Kahoot Quizzes.  Time spent with TAs was an across-the-board favorite, and gave the middle and high school students an opportunity to ask questions of, and to bond with, current college students. 

The overall response to student and parent surveys was extremely positive, with one parent stating: 

“Train other HS and MS to do what you did, because keeping teens engaged online is no easy task! You guys rock! My boy was sad to remember that SAC was over this week! If that is not success, I don't know what is!”