Indiana Youths Exploring STEM Interests at ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

Friday, June 19, 2015
Exxonmobil Camp students playing a game.

Learning By Doing: Middle-school students attending the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp on campus act as electrons while learning about solar power. The camp continues through June 26. (Photo by Bryan Cantwell)

Middle-school students from across Indiana took some of the biggest steps of their young lives June 15 when they arrived on campus to participate in the two-week ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science camp.

The camp, founded by former astronaut Bernard Harris, provides a boost of encouragement for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from groups underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The campers have demonstrated ability and interest in STEM subjects.

"The goal is to keep the kids engaged and having fun while learning. We want to show them learning about STEM can make a huge difference in their lives," says Christine Buckley, the camp's executive director and an associate professor of biology and biomedical engineering at Rose-Hulman.

Forty-eight students from as far north as South Bend and as far south as Evansville were selected to attend the camp, which is free-of-charge for the students and their families. This is the first time the camp has been hosted by Rose-Hulman, where world-class professors and staff will ensure the youths have fun while learning important STEM lessons.

"We are trying to maximize the time the students spend learning through hands-on activity," remarks Buckley. "Each camp day is filled with interesting activities."

A forensic chemistry project will have students deriving clues from a hand-written note, while they will also be testing the water quality from a campus pond, and creating homemade filtering devices to purify water. Other activities will have students learning the best ways to protect themselves from computer hackers.

Harris, the first African-American to walk in space, is scheduled to visit the camp on June 22. He will lead the students in a project to design and build miniature Mars Landers to replicate bringing humans safely to the surface of another planet.

Besides the projects, campers will take field trips to visit engineers and scientists working at an Indiana wind farm, a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility, and GE Aviation, a global aircraft parts manufacturer.

For the first time, Rose-Hulman is hosting one of the 20 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science camps offered this year throughout the United States. About half of the students on campus are from Terre Haute or Indianapolis, with others coming from South Bend, Muncie, Gary, Evansville, Bloomington, and surrounding communities.