Youth Conquer Summer Brain Drain with Science
Texas Tech hosts the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for middle school students.
Written by Karin Slyker
Harris says the program is designed to offer students hands-on experience with STEM.
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 Texas Tech. The hands-on program offers students an exciting way to beat the heat as they design space suits, build rockets and more, while experiencing life on a college campus.
“Summer learning opportunities are crucial to continued academic success,” said 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, communication 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 Texas Tech has had the honor of participating in the program. The camp runs July 21-29.
“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 the 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.”
Campers Prepare to “Walk” in Space
During today’s “Space Day” event, 48 local students were treated to a visit by Harris where they heard about his inspirational journey to become the first African American to walk in space and the extreme elements he encountered during his historic spacewalk.
Campers were then given the opportunity to become space suit engineers for the day. Students were 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 assembled 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.
Engineering a Bright Future
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 Beccy Hambright, executive camp director and program manager for Texas Tech’s T-STEM Center. “At Texas Tech University, we understand the important role STEM programs such as these play in preparing students for the high-tech careers of tomorrow.”
Bernard Harris on End of Space Shuttle Program:
Texas - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) is a major component of a Texas initiative to motivate and prepare more students for careers in STEM fields.
The mission of the Texas Tech T-STEM Center is to support educators in STEM disciplines by offering services and resources that support school districts and to teachers.
The center, created in 2006, has nearly $2.2 million in funding.