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One-Week Summer Program for Pre-High School Students

• BioSTEM Award, 2018, J&J • Top Summer Science Program, 2011-Present, NY Times/ • Top Robotics Program, 2017, RoboLoco • Best Medicine Program, 2018, ParentMap • Top Biomedical Engineering, • Top 101 Summer Camps & Programs, • #1 Marine Bio, 2022, ThomasNet, Xometry • Top Summer Programs, 2023,  •  Best Computer Science, 2023,

From “I can’t believe my eyes” magic tricks to breath-taking special effects on film, what is more fun than being tricked by an illusion? The answer? Finding out how to do these show-stoppers yourself! In the process, students will gain a wide variety of practical know-how and knowledge about the science and technology behind the seemingly impossible. And, a critical part of staging illusions is the performance itself ~ which our students will give at the end of the week ~ providing kids an important experience in public speaking and oral communication!


August 7 – 11, 2023 | Olin/Wellesley, MA 

More About: Awards – Research Programs – Sample Week 


Students explore optical illusions, figuring out how these work. Students learn fundamental principals of sensation and perception, as well as mechanics of the eye and sight.

Next up, a bag of magic tricks! Students perform carefully selected crowd favorites and learn their secrets ~ a process that requires them to grasp the basics of the physics of surface tension, magnets and magnetism, and much more!

Then its off to the movies where students see masters of the art perform intricately staged and seemingly death-defying tricks. What were the magicians’ most closely guarded secrets in pulling off the impossible?


And then its back to another round of student activities. Card tricks are used to entertain, but also to teach about the laws of probability and statistics and that apparently defy the odds. 

Illusions and tricks often rely on misdirection ~ students may become familiar with basics of concentration, attention, and distractions.

Then it’s on to illusions and special effects used by film-makers. Students may first view ~ and then practice ~ special effects using videos created on their own cell phones, techniques used by film makers to create wonderous and magical scenes on film.

A later unit may introduce the use of technology to create after-effects in movies as students dive into film maker’s tricks to retouch and add jaw-dropping effects to fantasy and sci-fi films. Imagine the TikTok and YouTube videos you can create once you get started on this. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Classic magic involves smoke and mirrors. Chemistry is behind numerous amazing tricks. Behind other classics are mirrors that play on lighting, geometric angles, and perception ~ more science! How fun!

And what about natural illusions! How does a mirage work? Can you really see a green flash as the sun is setting? Scientific knowledge is needed to understand why these illusions occur. 

Students showcase their skills in the magic show. They utilize pointers on public speaking and trips to vanquish nerves during their final day.

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Lipton O'Connor

Dr. O’Connor earned her Master’s in Cognitive Science from MIT before receiving her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University. Dr. O’Connor has experience working in a school as the Social Emotional Learning Coordinator and is currently an Assistant Professor at The Sage Colleges.

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