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February 03, 2012

CMITES: Primary Education Program Celebrates 20 Years

By Heidi Opdyke

Although they may not be tall enough to ride the Phantom's Revenge at Kennywood, some young students are learning all about it.

The Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students, best known as C-MITES, has allowed students from kindergarten to ninth grade to explore deeper into subjects for the last 20 years. Many of the program's alumni are now graduated from the university.

Ann Lupkowski Shoplik, director of the program since its inception, said the number of classes and range of topics has grown significantly over the past two decades.

"We develop classes that are challenging for the students. The idea is to give them the opportunity to stretch in ways that they can't do in school. They also have the opportunity to work with intellectual peers. It's been very rewarding," she said.

C-MITES offers challenging programs on weekends and during the summer. The enrichment curriculum complements what students have studied in school in mathematics, science and the humanities.

Some of the programming for this year includes courses on amusement park physics, the science of Harry Potter, solving a murder mystery and building robots. Others involve computer programming as well as probability and statistics.

Shoplik said they've added a C-MITES junior program for students in kindergarten through second grade.

"We've had a great demand from parents for classes for younger students," she said.

While many of the participants are local and often children of CMU employees, Shoplik said participants have come from as far as France, Singapore, the Philippines and Qatar.

"The families often make a vacation out of it. It has worked out nicely with the kids taking morning classes and then the families going sightseeing in the afternoon," she said.

Nearly 5,000 students participate in the program annually. She said it's a common misperception that students must be recognized as being "gifted" in order to participate.

"The classes are open to all bright, academically able kids who want more of an opportunity to be challenged above and beyond what they can get in school," she said.

Weekend classes began March 4, and the deadline for summer registration is April 6. To help families in need of financial aid, C-MITES offers full and partial scholarships. The program is having a 20th anniversary celebration fundraiser in October.

For more information, register online for coming events at