2023 Program Dates: June 29–July 27


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.  In fact, over a six-year period (2014–20) at Puget Sound, the one-year retention rate for former Summer Academic Challenge participants (89%) was significantly better than the rate for all other first-year students (83%), including 100% retention of students who participated in two or more Challenges.


  • 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.
  • Students must be able to attend at least 90%, or 18 out of 20 days, of Summer Academic Challenge (Summer Academic Challenge is from June 23-July 21).  Full attendance and participation is important, as this program is collaboration and project-based.

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 achallenge@pugetsound.edu or call 253.879.3927.