Equipped to avoid space debris, science campers plan trip to Mars


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon middle school students chosen to attend the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp will avoid summer "brain drain" this year with a heavy dose of science, technology, engineering, math and fun activities at Oregon State University.

Forty-eight students will rub elbows with veteran astronaut and camp founder Bernard Harris, the first African-American to walk in space. Also during their two-week residency on campus, they will design space suits and plan missions to Mars. The camp runs from July 31 to Aug. 11.

"Summer learning opportunities are crucial to continued academic success," Harris said. "Students can hone their math, science, communication and leadership skills. Our goal is to inspire them to reach beyond the classroom and pursue careers in critical technology fields."

Campers will design and create a swatch of space suit material capable of absorbing the impact of space debris. Using household items to mimic protective materials, they will test if their swatch can be punctured with an "impact tester," a weighted center punch dropped through a PVC-pipe frame.

"We have seen hands-on experience positively impact young teens, and we look forward to witnessing their growth as they gain knowledge and a passion for math and science," said camp director Robin Galloway, who works with the OSU 4-H Youth Development program.

Students at the camp will also visit the OSU cheese laboratory and dairy farm to witness the chemical process that curdles milk to make cheese.

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 fifth year OSU was chosen to participate.

Activities can be followed on the blog at: http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/bhssc