Students participating in the 2008 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Northeastern University watch and point as the bottle rockets they created soar through the air last Wednesday. The program, named after the first African American astronaut to walk in space, introduces science, technology, engineering and math concepts to middle school-aged students who have shown aptitude in the subjects. (Photo courtesy of Northeastern University)
|One of the handmade bottle rockets created by students participating in the summer science program is launched. Sixteen teams, each with three students, made and launched a rocket as part of the competition. The winning team’s rocket stayed airborne for 6.1 seconds. Forty-eight Boston-area middle school students are taking part in the two-week camp. (Craig Bailey/Northeastern University photo)|
|(From left): Somerville High School physics teacher Mike Maloney, camper Dolma Tsering of Somerville, camper Christopher Hansel of Roxbury, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., camper Joshua Barton of Brockton, and Nicholas Yang, a Northeastern Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, prepare to launch the team’s handmade bottle rocket during a competition held last Wednesday at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Northeastern. (Craig Bailey/Northeastern University photos)|
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics probably aren’t the first subjects that come to most middle schoolers’ minds when they think of summer vacation. But for the 48 Boston-area students participating in a science camp at Northeastern University this month, math and science might just be the keys to a brighter future.
Beyond the figures and formulas, however, there is some traditional summer fun to be had at the camp. Students took their curiosities to new heights last Wednesday, splitting into 16 teams to watch makeshift bottle rockets they had constructed launch into the summer afternoon sky, an activity intended to unlock the students’ creative mindsets before starting actual coursework. The winning team’s rocket remained airborne for a total of 6.1 seconds.
Offered free of charge, the 2008 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is a partnership between ExxonMobil and The Harris Foundation, founded by Bernard Harris Jr., M.D., the first African American astronaut to walk in space. It introduces science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to middle school-aged children who have shown aptitude in those subjects.
The two-week program is coordinated on 25 college campuses nationwide, allowing a total of 1,200 students to experience living and learning in a college setting. This summer marks the camp’s second year at Northeastern, the only New England school selected to participate in the national program.
According to Harris, who visited the Northeastern camp last Wednesday while the kids were learning about space travel, the program’s objective is to stimulate interest in STEM-related career paths, particularly in students from urban and undeserved areas.
“We must answer the question of college enrollment and retention on a national scale if these children are to be future leaders competing in a global marketplace,” said Harris.
A recent Congressional Research Service policy briefing on STEM initiatives suggested the U.S. is falling behind in the fields, citing an international assessment of 15-year-old students that ranked American high schoolers 28th in the world in math literacy and 24th in science literacy. The lagging continues through college, with the U.S. placing 20th among all nations in its share of 24-year-olds who earn natural science or engineering degrees.(p2)
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