Inside Rensselaer
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Middle school students took part in the sixth annual ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Rensselaer this summer.
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Area Youth Conquer Summer “Brain Drain” With Science Adventure Camp at Rensselaer

Fifty area middle school students cured the summer “brain drain” this year with a heavy dose of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fun at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by Rensselaer. The hands-on program offered students an exciting way to beat the heat as they designed space suits, built rockets, and more while experiencing life on a college campus. From July 24 to Aug. 5, Rensselaer hosted the program that provides students with an insider’s look at engineering and other science careers.

For the sixth consecutive year, the ExxonMobil Foundation has partnered with former astronaut Bernard A. Harris Jr. 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 fourth year that Rensselaer has had the honor of participating in the program. 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. This year, Rensselaer also received an $80,000 ExxonMobil Foundation Grant to support the program.

“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 Cynthia Smith, assistant dean of students, director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships, and the director of the ExxonMobil

Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. “At Rensselaer, we understand the important role STEM programs such as these play in preparing students for the high-tech careers of tomorrow.”

This year’s theme was “The Quest For Life.” As part of the program, students were focused on investigating the origins of life on Earth and the conditions that lead to the formation of habitable planets in our own and other solar systems through the New York Center for Astrobiology, which is based within the School of Science. Led by Douglas Whittet, center director and professor of physics, the interdisciplinary center, which is a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, brings together researchers from multiple fields of study at Rensselaer as well as collaborators from other institutions around the country.

Throughout the program, students worked side by side with ExxonMobil engineers and Rensselaer scientists as they conducted experiments, participated in highly interactive projects and demonstrations, attended classes and weekly excursions, and interacted with guest speakers.

“Summer learning opportunities are crucial to continued academic success,” said Harris, 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, communications, 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.”
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. Since its inception, more than 5,500 students from across the country have participated in the camp.
Read the release: http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2901&setappvar=page(1)

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 12, August 26, 2011
©2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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