Skip Navigation

Use code EARLYBIRD21 when enrolling in a LIVE or Problem-Based course today and save big!
Get $250 off any LIVE course, and $300 off any Problem-Based course. Hurry—this offer ends March 9th.

Problem-Based Courses

student sitting at desk looking at a screen

CTY’s Problem-Based online courses for students in grades 7–12 blend real-time, collaborative, student-directed learning and independent exploration to solve complex real-world problems. Registration is limited, so act quickly!

Session Dates

Course meetings take place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during a session.
Meeting options listed with course descriptions.

green arrow Session 1: June 21 – July 16, 2021
Session 1 registration deadline: May 18, 2021*

green arrow Session 2: July 19 – August 13, 2021
Session 2 registration deadline: June 8, 2021*

*Early bird deadline: March 9, 2021
(Use code EARLYBIRD21. Code is valid for all
applicants, including financial aid applicants.)

In CTY's most team-oriented courses, expert instructors lead students through small working groups to solve real-world problems with a blend of critical thinking and class-led discussion. You'll tackle complex issues that scientists, diplomats, futurists, and engaged citizens face globally in their daily efforts to impact policy and bring about societal change.

By making connections with classmates from different backgrounds—and, in some cases, different cultures—you’ll learn how to successfully manage shared projects and become prepared for the team-based global workforce. Course projects may be used to demonstrate interest in a university major or be added to a larger portfolio of work.

  • Application deadline: May 18 (Session 1) or June 8 (Session 2)
  • Tuition: $1,500 (with an early bird rate of $1,200 – use code EARLYBIRD21. Code is valid for all applicants, including financial aid applicants.)
  • 25 students per class, 5 students per working group
  • Scheduled class meetings for two hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (see course descriptions for times)
  • The first hour of each class meeting is a synchronous session for the entire class; during the second hour students work in their instructor-assigned small groups
  • Students should expect a minimum of 6 additional hours of classwork and student-led small group meetings outside of synchronous class sessions
  • Guest speakers for engaging topics
  • Virtual breakout rooms for ideas and collaboration
  • Emphasis on small learning groups

Course Placement
CTY Problem-Based courses enroll on a first-come, first-served basis. Placement in a course is contingent on available seats. Because of anticipated application volume, some applicants may not receive their first-choice course even if it was available when they submitted their application.

Students may select up to 10 courses for the same start date range on their application to give them the best chance of being placed.

CTY-level math or verbal eligibility is required to enroll in these courses. These courses cannot be taken for school credit.

scary person in a mask holding lit dynamite

Alternate Realities:
Fictional Worlds & Real-World Change

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET

Does watching Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse shift our views on representation and systemic racism in the United States? Can playing the video game Papers, Please increase our empathy for immigrants seeking better lives as well as the officials tasked with preserving national security at the border? Is the Young Adult graphic novel Nimona capable of influencing our ideas about gender identity and sexuality? Explore how diverse fictional worlds can inspire real world change, and consider which media are best suited to particular audiences. You’ll work with your peers to tackle a pressing social or environmental concern by creating a compelling narrative project, such as a role-playing game, online comic, podcast, or short film, to help your target audience imagine solutions to problems that too often seem like immutable features of our society and world.

Register Now

person holding fist up during a protest, sign saying to ignore evil is to become accomplice to it

Breaking Barriers:
Mobilizing Effective Protest

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET

Black Lives Matter forces America to confront racial inequities in its justice system. The #MeToo movement holds the powerful accountable. School Strike for Climate speaks for a generation demanding action on global warming. What makes these effective protests, and what can we learn from them? Dig deep into past and present movements and analyze texts and other sources with a critical lens as you investigate the language of dissent and the use of varied media to inspire us to change the world for the better. Assess the role of knowledge, leadership, organizations, and systems in how movements advance awareness, propose solutions, and address opponents. You’ll apply what you learn to research a specific issue with your peers and design an effective protest that mobilizes the public to create a more equitable future.

Register Now

stethoscope on a piece of fabric

Cause Unknown

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET

Jordan is an eight-year-old orphaned girl of color with an unknown past who you are evaluating for seemingly unrelated ailments. As you implement her medical care and consider its implications for her, you’ll investigate how body systems work together, examine her medical data, and seek to determine what role Jordan’s environment, behaviors, and background play in her health. Working with a team of peers, you’ll master the relevant science, interpret Jordan’s test results, and design treatment options. Beyond the science, you must consider what’s in Jordan’s best interests, weighing the relative merits of each potential test and treatment while grappling with the ethical, legal, and social challenges of advocating on Jordan’s behalf. During class sessions, your team will share what you’ve learned and debate proposals to ensure Jordan’s needs are met.

Students who have previously taken Diagnosis: Be the Doctor! may be particularly interested in this course.

Register Now

illustration of an extraterrestrial cityscape

Colonizing Space:
How to Build an Extraterrestrial City

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET

Explore the fundamentals of space travel and civic planning as you develop a strategic plan for building a sustainable city on another planet. For example, what do humans need in space? Consider economic development, environmental adaptation, urban agriculture, and social and political systems as you work with peers to configure a new city that meets the goals of diverse stakeholders. Your capstone project will be an extraterrestrial city you’ll present to a panel for review.

Register Now

view of computer screen with code

Designing Inclusive Algorithms

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: Algebra 1

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 7–9 p.m.ET

How can a computer be sexist? In what ways does artificial intelligence reinforce racial stereotypes and social segregation? Machine learning now shapes how humans shop, learn, socialize, and consume entertainment media. Unfortunately, the algorithms behind services like Facebook newsfeeds, Spotify playlists, Netflix recommendations, and Amazon shopping recommendations are subject to the same implicit biases as the people who designed them. Explore how under-representative databases lead to inequities as you analyze ways developers can refine and improve algorithms to avoid negative, biased, or other unintended outcomes. You’ll apply what you’ve learned to create your own inclusive algorithm that uses adaptive learning while avoiding biases to create the perfect playlists, book recommendations, or “Watch Next” suggestions.

Register Now

a wind farm

Everything is Connected:
Solutions for a Warming World

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET

Examine the parameters of climate change, climate science, and policy as you map out humans’ adaptation to global warming. You and your peers will act as scientists focused on solving critical threats as you engineer ecological progress while exploring ecosystems and developing strategies. Your final project of creating a resilience plan for issues such as wildfires, drought, and extreme events must also account for the marginalized communities often ignored in proposed solutions.

Register Now

microscope view of cells

In Case of Emergency:
Healthcare Challenges in the 21st Century and Beyond

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET

From drug-resistant bacteria to chronic respiratory diseases to shortages of fresh water, tremendous health crises are imminent, driven by the same global factors and inequities that fueled COVID-19 and increases in cancer. With appropriate action, we can mitigate—and maybe even prevent—many of these looming health challenges. With a team of peers, study health issues like pandemics, the effects of smoking, and infant mortality to learn about successful, past public health interventions. As you focus on researching specific emerging threats, you’ll pinpoint relevant promising breakthroughs and begin formulating a way to improve our public health forecast. Drawing upon epidemiology, environmental studies, economics, international relations, and other fields for potential solutions, you and you peers will formulate a comprehensive, equitable preparedness plan as you simulate the response of World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control crisis teams.

Register Now

the child and bull statues of wall street

Rethinking Economic and Social Justice in the Time of COVID-19

green arrow Grades 7–10
Prerequisites: Algebra 1

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET

During the economic downturn sparked by the global pandemic in 2020, governments all over the world enacted a variety of emergency measures to sustain their people and economies. Unfortunately, equity received less attention than market performance and efficiency. Explore issues of economic justice and develop an increased understanding of social norms about wealth distribution, income, and status, while examining economic responses to COVID-19 and other crises through the lens of social justice. How can we ensure equal opportunity for employment, and what moral and ethical models should be considered to address income inequality by gender and race? How can governments ensure that relief during a crisis does not exacerbate existing injustices? As you delve into theories such as utilitarianism, libertarianism, and egalitarianism; competing principles of distribution; and tax policy, you and your peers will develop an economic model that can better serve all members of global society.

Register Now

child holding a ball facing a sunrise

Incentives for a Better World

green arrow Grades 10–12
Prerequisites: Algebra 2

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9–11 a.m. or 4–6 p.m. ET

Next time you go to the grocery store, pay attention to where products are placed on shelves. Why are the cheaper store-brand items on the bottom shelf? Behavioral economics contributes to social change in myriad ways, from investment choices to tax policy, climate change mitigation strategies to classroom dynamics. Historically, we have structured society to maximize profits, but behavioral economics can nudge society in the direction of positive systemic change. Examine how peer pressure can be leveraged into an anti-littering campaign, the debate over universal income versus employment, microfinancing loans, and the balance between public good and personal liberties. As you discover how a behavioral economics approach can potentially solve a range of current problems, you and your peers will design an experiment to alter default behaviors in subtle ways.

Register Now

a cameraperson shooting footage of a performer

Lights! Camera! Action?

green arrow Grades 10–12
Prerequisites: None

Instructor-Led Meeting Times
+ Plus student-led small groups at times to be agreed upon when the session begins.

Session 1: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET
Session 2: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4–6 p.m. or 7–9 p.m. ET

In recent years, critically acclaimed films like Coco, Crazy Rich Asians, Hidden Figures, Blinded by the Light, and Black Panther have begun to address the lack of starring roles for people of color. But what about the problem of off-screen representation? Who is in control of film production hiring, story selection, and money flow? How does production affect the final product? To answer these questions, you’ll explore the production of live action film, animation, TV, and digital shorts, engage in critical analysis of visual and narrative representation of people of color in a variety of media, and research the history of corporate structures that influence the media messages we consume in our everyday lives. With the knowledge you gain, you and your peers will propose an intervention to create greater equity in our media landscape.

Register Now