If you are a 6th- to 8th-grade student with a deep curiosity when a topic sparks your interest, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area, you will feel right at home in our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI)! JSI is a one-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank Center, designed specifically for bright middle school students who want to take a deep dive into a topic – all while having fun with other middle school kids who share their level of interest and ability.

About the Program

Spend weekdays on the University of Iowa campus, immersing yourself in one of your favorite subjects, in a class full of other kids your age who share your level of interest and ability.

JSI takes place June 14-19, 2020.

Application Timeline:

  • December 15, 2019 (5:00 pm CST): Application opens
  • April 30, 2020 (11:59 pm CST): Application closes
  • April 30, 2020 (5:00 pm CST): Students will be accepted into JSI on an ongoing basis until all classes are full. Students will typically be informed of their status within two weeks of applying.
  • May 1, 2020 (11:59 pm CST): Accepted students must enroll and submit the first payment

Program Events:

  • Sunday, June 14, 2020: JSI Opening Session at 4:00 pm
  • Friday, June 19, 2020: JSI Closing Session at 1:00 pm

Students take a single advanced level course for the entire week – and these aren’t regular classes! With options like Women in Engineering, Mixed Media Art, and Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference (and more!), there’s sure to be something that sparks your interest. Class sizes are small, and they take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving you access to valuable university-level resources and experts.

Quote Author

I enjoyed being able to be independent and be surrounded by people who enjoy the same thing I do and could easily engage and connect with them since many shared similar interests with me


Archaeology: Discover the Past!

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

Ever wonder how archaeologists know where to find ancient sites? Or how rocks and bones provide them clues about how people lived? Archaeologists are scientific detectives, studying people from the past and the objects they left behind. In this course, you will learn to think like an archaeologist using scientific inquiry. We will study real artifacts in the research labs at the Office of the State Archaeologist and participate in hands-on lessons and activities to learn about Iowa’s archaeological past, from the Ice Age to the first Europeans. You will also learn how today’s Native American communities work with archaeologists to strengthen our understanding of their cultures. Part of this course will take place at an outdoor classroom at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, where we will learn archaeology field techniques to document a real archaeological site!


Registration is closed.

Design for Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

Look around at all the things in our world designed by people to make our lives better. Now, picture yourself collaborating with a team to design and create your own ideas! In this class, you will learn the design for additive manufacturing to creative products. To support your design process, you will gain experience working with tools and Autodesk Inventor & Mesh Mixer software in the design of your futuristic hover car. Communicate your ideas by learning the language of design and sketching basic pictorials, building prototypes, working in teams, and designing 3D virtual images of your creations!

Registration is closed.

Environmental Engineering

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

Students will be exposed to real-world environmental challenges Iowans face with an emphasis on flooding and access to clean water. Through an interactive learning environment, students will connect with professionals from a variety of related fields to learn how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, but then also mitigate for future disasters to build community resilience. Classroom learning will be mobile and designed to engage the students in career settings providing opportunities for practicing professional development skills.

Registration is closed.

Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams. This course will allow young people to learn how to lead themselves and then how to lead others. We will examine a variety of leadership styles and skills, identify each individual’s strengths, and learn how to create positive impact. We will build a foundation for them to stand on centered around values and teamwork, in order to ignite the potential of tomorrow’s leaders. 

Registration is closed.

Mixed Media Workshop

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

Are you ready for an exciting week of action-packed art adventures? If so, this class is for you! Our week will be an exciting exploration of several different kinds of art making. You will try your hand at a variety of studio projects throughout the week. The two-dimensional art portion of the class will involve some printmaking, drawing, and painting. The stop motion animation segment will introduce you to the basics of stop-motion in the making of an awesome animation that you will shoot, edit, and create music and sound effects. You will work on individual pieces, as well as work in small groups. Exploring collaboration in small groups will allow us to put our brains together to come up with unique, creative solutions. We will go on a couple of field trips to get ideas for work and look at other artists' work. Bring your adventurous spirit and creative brain. It's going to be a great week of getting a little messy, learning some new techniques, getting your creative juices flowing, and challenging yourselves.

Registration is closed.

Project Discovery: Finding Your Writer's Voice

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

Discover your inner writer while exploring a variety of creative writing formats. Anticipated activities also include adventures like a walking tour of historical sites around Iowa City, readings from adult creative writers, exploration of Writers' Workshop, and collaboration with professional and novice writers. Activities will center around stimulating the creative process, as well as practicing and honing your craft. 

Registration is closed.

Robot Theater: Exploring with Cozmo

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

The focus of this class is to learn the basics of dramatic story telling that incorporate robot technology (Cozmo, created by Anki) as part of the story. If you have written a script, story, or poem that you have been dreaming of seeing performed on stage, then this class is for you—our Cozmos will be your actors. If you have an interest in robotics and want to work with sophisticated technology, then this class is for you—Cozmo will introduce you to the world of robotics.

Teams of students will be working together to create these theater performances. This class is designed for students who are interested in developing their writing talents, but also welcomes students who don't see themselves as strong writers. Likewise, this class is designed for students who are interested in developing their programming skills, but also welcomes students who don't see themselves as computer programmers. No previous experience with writing, puppetry, theatre, or working with robots is required.

The class will start with an introduction to the elements of story telling and the conventions of how to put a play on the page. Then, using a series of daily writing prompts, theatre games, workshops, and dedicated in class writing time, students will fill in the details for a skit that takes advantage of the capabilities of the robots. These completed writing projects will be then programmed into Cozmo robots and performed on the last day of class! We will learn to program Cozmo using Code Lab (available through the Cozmo App) as well as Python.


Registration is closed.

Women in Engineering

Grades 6-8

June 16 - June 21, 2019

This course is being offered in collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Engineering Femineer® Program.

Are you a young woman who enjoys science, math, technology, and/or art? Are you interested in helping people and making the world a better place? If you answered YES, then this is the course for you! This summer we will work with different faculty and staff across campus to explore current research and opportunities for women in engineering. You will participate in hands-on activities, visit college laboratories and engineering research centers, explore engineering careers, and have a lot of fun along the way. Come see how you can change the world!

Registration is closed.

How to Apply

While the application process is straightforward, planning ahead is essential. Here's all the information you'll need in order to submit your application..


Any student who is currently in 6th-8th grades is eligible to apply for JSI. You do not need to be in a talented and gifted program to apply. Qualified students will show a high level of interest in the topic, motivation to learn, and the emotional maturity to live in the residence halls.

Application Process

When you apply online (above), you will need to submit the following:

  • Your demographic information
  • Email addresses for two adults who will provide letters of recommendation: one from someone who knows your abilities and another who can speak to your character. (These may not be a family member or friend.) These two adults will be sent an electronic form which they must complete and submit to the Belin-Blank Center by the application deadline.
  • 250-500 word essay on your interest in attending the Junior Scholars Institute
  • In addition, you will need to submit class specific materials based on the course you are applying.


Completed nominations will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of faculty and staff from the University of Iowa, educators from the area, and community leaders. The selection committee will evaluate applications based on the following criteria, ranked in priority order:

  • Content of student essay, portfolios, and supporting materials
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Evidence of commitment and motivation
  • Programs or activities involved in at school and in the community
  • Maturity to live in a residential setting

Selected students will be notified on a rolling basis no later than April 30, 2020.

After You're Accepted

You can look forward to a fun and enriching summer! Here you can find answers to all the pressing questions you may have while making your plans to join us.

Cost & Financial Aid


Each student selected for the Institute will receive a $200 scholarship which covers a portion of the Institute's costs. Each student will pay a program fee of $900 to cover the remaining costs. Together, the scholarship and the program fee cover all instructional costs, room, board, books, and admission to all regularly scheduled activities.

The program fee does not include transportation to and from the University of Iowa or incidental expenses, such as souvenirs and snacks. You and your family are responsible for these expenses.

Payment Deadlines

You must either pay in full or have arranged monthly installments or a payment plan (see Payment Options) by the first day of the program in order to participate in the Blank Summer Institute. All fees are payable to the Belin-Blank Center.

Payment Options

There are three options to pay program fees:

  1. Pay the entire amount on a credit card.
  2. Pay in three equal installments using a credit card.
  3. Set up an individualized payment plan for the balance remaining after the scholarship and any awarded financial aid are applied. Payment plans are available by contacting the Belin-Blank Center at 319-335-6148.

Financial Aid

If selected, you may apply for financial aid, in addition to the $200 scholarship, when you enroll in the program. Financial aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, while funds are available. Eligibility is typically determined by qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch. After your information is reviewed, a decision will be made, and you will receive an email regarding the amount of your award. Awards will be applied directly to your program fees.

Daily Schedule

You will attend classes from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The typical schedule for each day looks like:

  • 7:30—8:30 Breakfast
  • 9:00—12:00 Class / Lab
  • 12:00—1:00 Lunch
  • 1:00—4:00 Class / Lab
  • 4:00—5:30 Free time
  • 5:30—6:30 Dinner
  • 6:30—10:30 Evening activities
  • 11:00 Lights out

Evening and weekend activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. We carefully select activities to complement the program. For this reason, all activities, including the weekend activities are required.


You will be supervised at all regularly scheduled events and activities. Supervision at the residence halls will be provided by a Belin-Blank Program Coordinator and a residence hall staff specially selected and trained to work with and supervise students. There is approximately one resident advisor for every ten students. You are expected to live within the policies of the residence halls, the university, and the program.

Living on Campus

You will be housed in a residence hall located near the Blank Honors Center on the University of Iowa campus. Most program activities will take place within brief walking distance of the residence hall. Male and female students will be assigned to separate floors and all students will share a room with at least one other student.

In addition to academic programming, you will be able to participate in a variety of scheduled cultural and recreational activities selected by the staff, especially on the weekends. You will also have access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities, and study areas.

Family Visits

We ask that your family inform staff of their plans so that arrangements can be made to facilitate any family visits. Because the program is dedicated to the development of a cohesive community, you may not have non-family visitors during the program.

Check-in / Check-out

Check-in for the program will be held from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm on Sunday. The check-in process will begin at Catlett Residence Hall. All students should be checked in during this time. If you are unable to check-in during these times, please contact the Belin-Blank Center. The opening session for students and families will begin at 4:00 pm.

Check-out for the program will be held after the closing ceremony on Friday. The closing ceremony for students and families will begin at 1:00 pm and will conclude by 2:30 pm. Students should pack all their belongings prior to the closing ceremony.

Cancellation Policy

If you must cancel, please call the Belin-Blank Center at 800-336-6463 as soon as possible to decline the acceptance so that a student on the waiting list may attend. A $100 administrative fee will be retained for cancellations received by June 1st. Cancellations made after June 1st will not be refunded.


You may request a roommate once you have been accepted to the program and are asked to fill out enrollment forms. If you do not have a specific request for a roommate, you will be matched with another student from the program. Students who identify as transgender or have medical conditions or other unique circumstances may request a single room.

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