Class Options

Below are the class options for MSTL students (grades 9-10). Students will participate in 2 of the class options listed below during the MSTL program. During the application process, we ask students to rank all classes in the order of what they are most interested in taking to what they are least interested in taking. We do our best to place students into their top choices, although limited class space and high demand for certain classes may affect our ability to do that. You will be notified about your class placement after the final application deadline of May 2nd, but before camp begins. 

3D Animation: Applied

Have you ever dreamed of creating your own worlds, characters, creatures, and stories like the ones in blockbuster animated films such as Monsters Inc., Kung Fu Panda, and Frozen? With 3D animation, anything you imagine can happen! 

Animation was born when people such as Eadweard Muybridge and J. Stuart Blackton imitated motion with photographs and drawings. Now, over 100 years after this breakthrough, some of the most advanced computer systems in the world are dedicated to bringing fantastical animated worlds to life in modern films and videogames. 

In the 3D Animation class, students will learn about the concepts and techniques used in professional animation studios. Students will collaborate to pitch ideas, designs, and stories and learn how to give and receive creative critique. They will use the same tools as the pros (such as Cinema4D) to bring their ideas to life through drawing, digital sculpting, modeling, lighting, animation, and more. Students will gain an understanding of the 3D animation pipeline
process and will produce an animation or digital composition. Hands-on experiences will include:

  • Use 3D sculpting for organic modeling and hard-surface modeling for geometric shapes
  • Observe motion and weight and translate those feelings to animation
  • Light, shade, and texture 3D models, and use key frames and curves to animate the model


How do researchers collect data and analyze it to understand and solve problems?

Explore the math behind biology! This class will delve into scientific, mathematical, and statistical data as it relates to modern day challenges such as: HIV/AIDS, cancer, vaccinations, and infectious diseases. Students will also discover how researchers use math to analyze natural phenomena in areas such as ecological science, climate change, human anatomy, and physiology. A variety of mathematical problems will expose students to multiple types of data collection methods. Students will use mathematical skills to derive equations and analyze data such as graphs and tables. If you have a graphing calculator, bring it with you.

Some of the topics students will work on are: The coding function of DNA, bacteria population, fish growth, Giardia lamblia growth, and why the dodo is extinct. Student will also work on modeling the dynamics of viral infections, which is an introduction to calculus. 

The Evolution of the Information Ecosystem 

What is “fake news”? Why does it matter that so many people get their news from social media? How can we evaluate the quality of an Internet source? What is the difference between fake news and a hoax? What is an information ecosystem, and why is it important to understand? 

This class takes information literacy as its focus and attempts to answer the above questions. Over the course of the program, we will explore the process of information creation and consumption, as well as the evolution of media technology. Additionally, we will find primary media artifacts from different generations and explore how conversations have evolved over time and through different technologies—from pen and pencil, to microfilm, to the internet. Our process will include daily blogging, and as a final, collaborative project, we will make a fully functional website that reports our findings. 

The Fascinating Field of Physics

What do fidget spinners, LEDs, and lasers have in common? They can all be understood with physics! Our everyday experience includes a bewildering number of gadgets and natural phenomena. Physics provides us with a clear and fascinating understanding of many of these phenomena, while in some cases raising intriguing questions about still mysterious facets of nature. In this class, students will study four areas of physics: mechanics (freefall and rotational motion), electricity (voltage, current, resistance), waves (sound and light waves), and nuclear physics. Students will be challenged by studying areas of physics that go beyond high school science curriculum.

Students will have the opportunity to observe and participate in numerous illuminating and mind-boggling demonstrations that are used in MSU physics classes. In the lab portion of the class, students will use some of the same high-tech equipment that MSU undergraduate students use to conduct a variety of experiments. Students will develop team-building and leadership skills as they work together in labs. Students will complete the following objectives:

  • Apply mathematics and use instruments and technology to solve problems in physics and develop a deeper understanding of physics principles.
  • Learn how uncertainty and variability in measurements and experimental results affect scientists’ interpretation and analysis of data.
  • Design, conduct, and present the results of their own experiment using MSU Physics lab equipment.


Infographics, short for information graphics, are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. In this class, you will create a content-rich infographic on a science or technology topic of your choice using Adobe Illustrator®. We will also explore some free and inexpensive online tools for making various infographics. For your infographic project, you might choose to create a visual  representation of data to explain a business trend or environmental issue, or even to present a theme or development from your personal life. Your finished infographic will engage your target audience and convey information clearly through effective use of design elements such as typography, color, and structure. Students will learn:

  • How to draw illustrations, maps, and charts in Adobe Illustrator®
  • Techniques for spotting stories in data
  • Six valuable steps for planning an effective infographic
  • How to effectively design a good infographic

Mechatronics and Robotics

Students will learn the foundational skills of both mechatronics and robotics in this course. Mechatronics focuses on a blend of mechanical engineering (the design, construction, and use of machines), electrical engineering (the technology of electricity), computer control, and information technology, making it an ideal pairing with robotics.

MSTL’s Mechatronics & Robotics course will consist of learning basic circuits, prototyping using breadboards, and applying concepts from electrical engineering. Students will also be exposed to concepts in physics such as Ohm’s Law, and Kirchoff’s Voltage Law (KVL). 

Students will design, build, code, and test different circuits such as LED, pull-up, pull-down, RC, and QT circuits. Additionally, they will be introduced to PBASIC, a BASIC variant computer language, and the BASIC STAMP2 microcontroller. The class will culminate in a ROBOT WAR competition. In week 2 of the class, students will apply the skills they learned in week 1 to:

  • Design and build a robotic arm using a Standard Servo
  • Design and build a rover using Continuous Servos
  • Participate in a robot war competition against classmates

Microbiology and Plant-Microbe Interactions

Did you know that microbes are everywhere, including all over plants? In fact, just like in humans, certain microbes can help plants be healthy and grow. Making crop plants more healthy and productive is important for sustaining the world’s population of 7.6 billion people, and for planning for future population growth. One group of microbes that loves living on plants is the methylotrophs, and interestingly these bacteria can grow using rare earth elements (REE), which are ingredients in chemical fertilizers in some countries. The goal of this class is to investigate: How do these microbes and elements interact with each other and with plants to enhance plant growth?

Over two weeks, our future microbiologists will learn about plantmicrobe interactions, methylotrophic metabolism, and the role of REE in microbiology, all while conducting their own research experiment. They will learn fundamental scientific concepts such as hypothesis creation and testing, data generation and analysis, and data presentation. Most importantly, students will not just learn about microbiology as a science, they will BE a scientist. In hands-on activities, students will:

  • Culture bacteria in the lab and compare growth among bacteria using a growth curve
  • Isolate bacteria from plants and soil, and then discover the bacteria’s identity with 16s ribosomal RNA sequencing.
  • Cultivate your own plants using microbes and lanthanides to enhance growth.

Nuclear Astrophysics

What do the history of the universe, the life and death of stars, and the elements that make up your body have in common? Nuclear astrophysics!  Nuclear reactions such as fusion, fragmentation, and radioactive decay have
guided the chemical evolution of the universe and the energy cycle in stars.

This course, sponsored by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics and MSU’s world-class National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, will introduce you to the world of nuclei in deep space. Topics include:

  • A tour of NSCL’s rare isotope research areas
  • The interaction of light and matter, spectral analysis
  • Classification of stars and stellar evolution
  • Nucleosynthesis (the construction of new elements)
  • Particle detection experiment