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ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp encourages future innovators

by Michelle Saport  |   

/news/archive/2012/07/_images/20120718-2011-bernard-harris-campers.jpgThe ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at UAA will immerse 54 Alaska students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from July 15-26, in an effort to reinforce critical-thinking skills, encourage innovation and curb summer learning loss.

As part of the hands-on, STEM-based curriculum, students will participate in a "Space Day" competition, where they will be challenged to create and design durable spacesuit swatches using household items, which mimic protective materials. Teams will test the strength of their samples using an "impact tester" that imitates the rigors experienced during spacewalks.

Before the contest, campers will learn about astronaut Bernard Harris' inspirational journey to become the first African-American to walk in space and the extreme elements he encountered during his two shuttle missions. Harris and ExxonMobil engineers will work alongside campers, offering guidance as students use math and science skills to construct their designs.

"The program delivers engaging instruction and mentorship to underserved youth at 20 camps across the country," says Harris, veteran astronaut and camp founder. "Through this opportunity, students have access to highly qualified educators and professionals who work to develop students' leadership and problem-solving skills, which are critical components of success."

The all-expenses-paid camp focuses on teamwork and hands-on activities such as building and designing rockets, bridges and space suits. Area teachers will show campers science and math at work in their community through field excursions to local ecosystems and trips to area museums.

"ExxonMobil is committed to encouraging interest in science and math," said Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. "These camps are one way to equip our nation's youth with skills needed to be competitive in an increasingly global economy."

Research from The Center for Summer Learning at John Hopkins University indicates summer learning is crucial to academic performance. Without continued instruction and practice during summer, most students lose more than two months of grade-level equivalent math skills. The study also found low-income youth experience more learning loss than any other socioeconomic group due to a lack of access to academic programs.

This summer marks the seventh consecutive year ExxonMobil Foundation and The Harris Foundation have partnered to offer science camps that help close the achievement gap. This is the third year UAA has been selected to participate in the program.

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