Alaska youth conquer summer "brain drain" with science adventure; see photos of their work in progress

By: Staff   Jul 11, 2011

UAA hosts summer science camp for middle school students


View images from the in-progress summer science camp at 

the UAA Facebook page.

  • Founded by veteran astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., program targets underserved youth
  • Two-week, all-expenses-paid residential camp encourages math and science interest
  • ExxonMobil Foundation provides funding, expertise of talented engineers to support educational experience

ANCHORAGE, AK – Area middle school students are curing the summer “brain drain” this year with a heavy dose of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fun at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage. The hands-on program offers students an exciting way to spend the summer months as they design space suits, build rockets and more while experiencing life on a college campus. The camp kicks off this Sunday, July 10 and runs through Friday, July 22.

Dr. Bernard Harris attended the 2010 science camp at UAA.“Summer learning opportunities are crucial to continued academic success,” said Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., veteran astronaut and camp founder. “In partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, we are able to offer students a tremendous opportunity to hone the math, science, communications and leadership skills needed to realize their full potential. Our goal is to inspire them to reach beyond the classroom and pursue careers in critical technology fields.”

For the sixth consecutive year, the ExxonMobil Foundation has partnered with Harris and his nonprofit organization, The Harris Foundation, to provide residential camps to underrepresented and underserved middle school students at 25 universities across the country. This is the second year UAA has had the honor of participating in the program.

“ExxonMobil is committed to inspiring the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators who will be critical to our nation’s economic success,” said Suzanne McCarron, president of ExxonMobil Foundation. “By partnering with Dr. Harris, we are able to provide talented young students with hands-on experiences that could lead them to a career in math, science, engineering or technology.”

At the camp’s “Space Day” event, 54 Alaskan students will learn about Harris’ inspirational journey to become the first African American to walk in space and the extreme elements he encountered during his historic spacewalk.

During the camp, students will have the opportunity to become space suit engineers for the day. They’ll be tasked with designing and creating a space suit swatch capable of absorbing the impact of space debris. Using household items to mimic essential protective materials, students will assemble a test sample to submit for friendly competition. Using an “impact tester” to imitate the rigors faced during spacewalks, students were able to test the durability of their sample. This competition will be held on Thursday, July 14 at 10 a.m. in the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) Building on UAA’s campus.

The demand for workers with strong math and science skills is significant as eight out of 10 of the fastest growing occupations in the nation are in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The camp program aims to fill this critical need by offering a curriculum that features hands-on experiments, team competitions and field excursions to help students build essential skills. Campers receive quality instruction from local educators and hear from ExxonMobil engineers about the exciting and rewarding aspects of their profession.

“We have seen this experience positively impact youth in our community, and look forward to witnessing our students’ dramatic growth as they gain valuable knowledge and a passion for math and science this summer,” said Michael Bourdukofsky, director of UAA’s ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. “At UAA, we understand the important role STEM programs such as these play in preparing students for the high-tech careers of tomorrow.”

For more information, please visit the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp website, or contact Michael Bourdukofsky at