FSI focuses on enhancing aspiration and achievement of H.S. juniors and seniors who possess strong interest and aptitude for STEM. For six weeks in the summer, students thrive in a learning environment charged by enthusiastic instructors/mentors, boosting students' self-confidence and facilitating self-discovery.
State and national science and mathematics content standards emphasize the need to teach mathematics and science as a way of doing and knowing rather than as a collection of facts and memorized procedures. All students need encouragement toward academic excellence, regardless of their current abilities. Even those who excel in their academic settings need hands-on, engaging experiences such as the Frontiers of Science Institute (FSI) where students can become immersed in an atmosphere of scholarly activity, peer camaraderie, and adult mentoring.
Specifically, we must provide students with authentic, engaging experiences to stimulate their knowledge and interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics). Additionally, students should be challenged to increase their self-confidence and abilities and to initiate planning for their futures. Students benefit from experiences where they can step outside their comfort zones, realize the important role they can play in society, and pursue their most ambitious goals. FSI has recognized and addressed these concerns regarding Colorado youth consistently for five decades.
The Frontiers of Science Institute (FSI) at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley is a 59-year-old residential program (1959-2018) dedicated to boosting the STEM aspirations and achievement levels of Colorado's high-school juniors and seniors. FSI activities are sponsored and supported by foundation, corporate, and privately donated funds. The FSI course was approved by UNC for science course credit as SCI 107, Frontiers of Science Institute-STEM Experience. Accepted students who wish to take the course for credit will receive four science credits and a letter grade upon completion of the six-week course.
For six weeks in the summer, students thrive in a learning environment charged by enthusiastic instructors and mentors, boosting students' self-confidence and facilitating self-discovery. We strive to balance FSI enrollment from small rural and large urban high schools, as well as maintaining gender equity. Over the past five decades, over 1800 STEM-oriented students, representing all counties in the state of Colorado, five other states and two countries, have participated in FSI.
FSI consistently seeks to reach beyond the normal high-school curriculum by introducing the latest STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) concepts through integrated, engaging experiences within a workshop setting. FSI students are immersed in a learning-for-the-thrill-of-learning, residential STEM program that helps clarify their interests so they can set and work toward their personal, educational, and professional goals.
During the summer, student participants, selected for their overall academic proclivity, STEM interest and aptitude, become engaged in an intensive 6-week curriculum via field trips, industrial visitations, seminars by professionals from academia and industry, and mentored research, as well as classroom and laboratory work.
Participants live in a campus dormitory, share meals in campus dining halls, and work in classrooms and laboratories within UNC’s well equipped Ross Hall. Beyond their daily curriculum, FSI also promotes personal and social growth by introducing participants to college life and community living. As a result of these varied experiences, FSI students gain richer insights into today's science and technology, and become aware of varied options for their future STEM careers.
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I attended the Frontiers of Science Institute during the summer of 2004. The six week summer program helped me to delve into various fields of science I hadn’t been exposed to at the high school level, and also gave me the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded students and to work with various people on campus who were experts in their fields. We were given the chance to tour companies (several that didn't normally give tours to the public), which allowed us to see cutting edge science in real time. In addition, the structure of the program allowed me to work on my own research project which I had to present to my peers, FSI staff, and various college faculty. I value my summer with FSI very highly, and attribute the skills I learned in the six weeks to helping me win top awards at the International Science Fair during my senior year of high school, and to helping me excel in so many classes when I started college. Before attending this program I already had an interest in the sciences, but attending FSI motivated me to continue to pursue these interests and ultimately contributed to my current career as a scientist working in the field of molecular genomics. I hope someday that my own kids will decide to be an FSI scholar!
Coming from a small, isolated, mountain town, my summer at FSI was eye-opening. I'd never before been able to see such high-tech research equipment or completed such an in-depth project. Science had always been my favorite subject, but I learned so much while I was in the program. I made friends with others who had the same interests as me. The bond you make with your fellow FSIers is a strong one, and saying good-bye at the end of the six weeks is tough. FSI impacted me so much that I decided to attend UNC to study biology. I couldn't stay away from the program, as I continued to work for Lori throughout college helping to set up the summer schedule and living as a Resident Assistant in the dorm with new FSI students. The connections I made both personally and professionally while attending and working for the program have helped me get where I am today. It was a perfect way for me to connect my interests in science and helping people, as I ultimately decided to become a science teacher. I hope to one day send one of my students to the program and hope that it changes their life as much as it changed mine."
Testimonial from Dheevena Bachu (FSI 2017): 'First of all, thank you so much for giving me a chance to participate in the program. I loved my summer at FSI and took a lot away from the experience. The program not only offered me an opportunity to explore my inner self and come out of my bubble, but also provided clarity and gave me confidence to choose my career path. Since I was a child, I have always admired health care providers, their impact on the community, and wondered if I could become one. After being exposed to so many science topics and challenging myself with an organic chemistry research project (at FSI), I am more than confident to move forward in that direction. Now I realize nothing excites me more than seeing myself saving lives. I will always be grateful to you, the Zimmerman family, and the Union Pacific Foundation for this great experience. I will be a proud sponsor of FSI one day.'
Testimonial from Max Moe (FSI 2003): 'As I reminisce about my FSI experience 13 years ago, I realize that summer helped to motivate and mold the person I am today. FSI invigorated my passion for science, specifically astrophysics, in an atmosphere where I could pursue my interests and explore questions I could not pose at home. My mentor granted me my first taste of actual scientific research - not just problem sets - but real, original discoveries into the nature of the cosmos. The classes were a breath of fresh air compared to the mundane courses at my high school. And I had the great opportunity to build solid friendships with other science enthusiasts. I still stay in touch with several FSIers from 2003. But most importantly, FSI helped to develop my character and individuality. It was my first time living an extended period of time away from home, and FSI gave me a glimpse into adulthood as I attempted to balance classes, research, and time with friends and family. I am eternally grateful for FSI and the staff, mentors, and sponsors who make it possible.'
Testimonial from Christopher Vanik (FSI 2009): ‘I really attribute FSI as the launching point for my career - I owe so much to the program. Amazing internships (NASA JSC, GE Aviation, Boeing), networks, and opportunities (Google beta testing) all opened themselves up to me after my own curiosity got the better of me and I reached for the stars during my time there.’
Testimonial by Leslie Gapter (FSI 1988): 'FSI was one of the most rewarding experiences in my scientific career. The multidisciplinary topics that I was exposed to through the program helped me to bring into focus how all of the sciences interact- it was also my first real opportunity to do independent laboratory research. The various field trips and places we visited throughout Colorado were truly eye opening and remain some of my most vivid memories- I will always cherish my time at FSI!'
Testimonial by Shirley Isgar (FSI 1966): ‘Frontiers of Science was a turning point for me and made me realize I could compete in a male dominated field of science. I learned that science is the true magic in the world and understanding that magic leads to breakthroughs. Frontiers of Science prepared me for the rigors of Medical School much better than four years of college. I gained confidence in my reasoning abilities and enjoyed the collaboration of fellow students and staff. It was the best!’
Dean Zeller, 2016 FSI instructor/UNC Lecturer in the Mathematics & Computer Science Department had this to say of his FSI experience…'In all, FSI is the single most professionally gratifying class I have taught in my 20-year career. It satisfied every requirement of my original dream of a decade ago, and had many unexpected benefits. It was a truly grand experience; one I hope to experience again in my future.'