Former U.S. astronaut Bernard Harris and the ExxonMobil Foundation announced an expansion of the annual ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, which will enable more middle school students to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A press conference was held in Houston, Texas, on March 5 to announce the 2008 summer science camp participants.
Rensselaer is among 25 universities participating in the program. The program will take place at Rensselaer from June 15-27. “The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp will give 50 underserved Capital Region middle school students in fifth through seventh grades the opportunity to engage in an innovative pre-college science program,” says Cynthia Smith, assistant dean of students, director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships, and the director of the program at Rensselaer. “The program is a perfect fit for Rensselaer and its other pipeline initiatives, the goals of which are to ignite young peoples’ interest and to inspire them to pursue careers in the STEM fields.”
Twenty-five two-week residential camps will run from June through August and involve 1,200 students from across the country. During the camp, students attend daily classes in natural science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and are taught by faculty of participating universities and secondary classroom teachers. Activities include classroom study, experiments, individual/team/group projects, weekly field excursions, and guest speakers who motivate students to fulfill their dreams.
“Increasing student proficiency in math and science is essential,” says Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil Corporation. “Experts predict more than 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require these skills. Through the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps, our company is taking positive steps to meet the demands of the future. We are proud to support Dr. Harris in this endeavor.”
Founded in 1998, the Harris Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Houston, Texas, whose overall mission is to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health, and wealth.
“Through our partnership with ExxonMobil and the dedication of the U.S. colleges and universities, we are able to once again expand these meaningful summer programs that address the inquisitive nature of middle school students,” said Harris, the first African-American to conduct a space walk and a veteran of two space shuttle missions.
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 demographics have shifted in the United States,” Jackson says. “The ‘new majority’ now comprises young women and the racial and ethnic groups which, traditionally, have been underrepresented in STEM disciplines. It is these ‘nontraditional’ young people to whom we also must look for our future scientists and engineers.”
For more information about campus activities, student eligibility, and selection criteria, go to the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp Web site at www.theharrisfoundation.org.
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