While schools around the Capital Region were ending the year, a group of 50 middle school students decided to kick their academic interests up a notch by participating in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Rensselaer. From June 15-27, Rensselaer hosted the program that provided students with an insider’s look at engineering and other science careers.
Throughout the program, students worked side by side with ExxonMobil engineers and scientists as they conducted experiments, participated in highly interactive projects and demonstrations, attended classes and weekly field excursions, and interacted with guest speakers.
This is the third year that former NASA astronaut Bernard Harris (top photograph at right) and ExxonMobil are partnering to provide academic enrichment camps on university campuses. The camps, which are free of charge, are offered to middle school students who are academically qualified, recommended by their teachers, and genuinely interested in math and science. The program was expanded this year to meet increased demand and will reach 1,200 students at 25 college and university campuses across the country, an increase from 900 students at 20 camps in the previous year.
Rensselaer was selected this year as a camp host because of its long-standing commitment to math and science education and its efforts to support and promote local community youth in these disciplines.
“Rensselaer is honored by the opportunity to host this year’s ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp,” said Cynthia Smith, assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships. “More than 220 students applied for the program’s 50 spots. Already we have seen incredible enthusiasm and interest from our campers, sparked by the connection between the exciting interactive experiments and field excursions and the core curriculum taught by our highly qualified and motivated teachers.”
Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson has long warned of what she has dubbed a “Quiet Crisis” in America the threat to the capacity of the United States to innovate due to reduced support for research and the looming shortage in the nation’s STEM workforce. The impending workforce shortfall results from a record number of retirements on the horizon in the STEM fields, and not enough students in the pipeline to replace them.
“Our country is facing a critical deficiency in students pursuing engineering and science-related careers, which are the foundation of innovation in the 21st century economy. This, in time, could reduce today’s technological advantages enjoyed by the United States,” said Gerald McElvy, president of ExxonMobil Foundation. “At ExxonMobil, we are committed to helping increase students’ interest in these careers by giving them exposure to hands-on math and science activities and introducing them to role models who have achieved great success in their careers.”
“Students in middle school today have had significant technology in their hands since birth,” said Harris, veteran of two space shuttle missions and the first African American to conduct a space walk. “The goal of the camps is to give them a first-hand look at just how fun it can be to understand the wonders of how math and science play a role in the electronics they enjoy every day. The expansion of the camps was a direct result of high demand from students who wanted to attend last year’s camps.”
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