ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

Congratulations to the 50 New York Capital Region students selected to participate in the 2009 EXXONMOBIL Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute!

American Museum of Natural History, June 23, 2009 (picture by Jeff Green)

In 2009, and for the second consecutive year, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was chosen as one of the 30 host institutions in the United States for the 2009 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (BHSSC). The EMBHSSC is a free, academic program of The Harris Foundation, which takes an active role in shaping education in students entering grade 6,7, or 8. The program is named after Bernard A. Harris, MD, an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and entrepreneur; Dr. Harris, the first African American to walk in space, plays an active role in the Summer Science Camp program and other programs for underserved youths.

Science, mathematics and engineering are critical to society’s infrastructure for the 21st century and preserving that future requires an investment in our youth today. Studies have shown that the United States will face a critical shortage of engineers, scientists and other technically trained workers in the near future. To help address the nation’s math and science crisis, ExxonMobil is committed to supporting programs and organizations that focus on improving math and science education from pre-school through higher education. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is designed to support historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities.

The theme of the 2009 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Rensselaer was The Quest for Life. The program is being conducted in partnership with The New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer, a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

The camp was held from June 14 to June 26, 2009 on the campus of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A total of 50 middle school students in grades 5, 6 and 7 with proven expertise and interest in math and science took part in a two week session concerning the topic of Astrobiology and The Quest For Life. The goal of the Science Camp was for the students to propose a mission to search for life on another planet. The 8 proposals by the teams of students selected Mars, Europa, or Titan for their missions to search for life in our Solar System. During the two exciting weeks, students went on several field trips to The Albany Pine Bush, New York State Museum, Herkimer Diamond Mine, and the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City. After hearing about NASA’s upcoming missions to the Moon from John Delano, the students were excited to watch the liftoff of the Atlas-V rocket on NASA-TV carrying the LRO and LCROSS spacecraft to the Moon. Students also took many classes and completed many activities dealing with topics such as life, astronomy, space exploration, the cosmic calendar, the Drake Equation, and satellites and geocaching.

Scientists associated with the New York Center for Astrobiology (Douglas Whittet, Bruce Watson, Jim Ferris, Linda McGown, Wayne Roberge, Glenn Ciolek, and John Delano) participated in several parts of 2009 BHSSC (i.e., first day program, laboratory tours, judging of the eight proposals during the oral and poster presentations). The team with the proposal that was deemed by the scientists to be the best developed (Team 5) was a mission to Europa to search for life. The students on Team 5 will be invited to be interviewed at WAMC Northeast Public Radio studios in Albany, NY. We hope that these students will inspire others with their enthusiasm and with the richness of experiences that they had at the 2009 BHSSC. Those experiences included their meeting and speaking with Dr. Bernard Harris at the beginning of their second week. Dr. Harris vividly described his experiences of travelling into Earth orbit on the space shuttle, and his perspectives during his space walk.

For more information, email RPI's program director.

The information below relates to some of the activities held during and after the camp, for students and their families. Please check regularly for updates!

Updates on LCROSS

On September 26, the students came back to campus for an update on the LCROSS mission, which rendevoused with the moon on October 9, 2009. They conducted an experiment to demonstrate how water might be extracted from water ice on the moon's surface, and participated in a video conference with NASA Ames Research Center. The Video Conference with Dr. Brian Day with the NASA Ames Research Center begins with an update of the mission, and then Q&A with our students. Mission updates are found at the NASA LCROSS website.

Last modified: Feb 13, 2010
Pre-College Initiatives, Phone: (518) 276-3098, Fax: (518) 276-4839