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Building a STEM Pipeline

middle schoolers at STEM summer camp

Middle-school students will explore STEM fields at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's science summer camp.

Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

This summer, Capital Region middle-school students eager to participate in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning will have an opportunity once again to explore the STEM fields at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. For the 12th consecutive year, the ExxonMobil Foundation and Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., the first African-American to walk in space, will sponsor summer science camps at colleges across the United States. This is the 10th year that Rensselaer has been selected to participate in the program. The program will be held on the Rensselaer campus from June 25 to July 4.

The program will feature a one-day astronaut-themed competition, the Mars Lander Challenge, developed by Harris. Students will compete to build the safest and most accurate spacecraft made of household materials. The competition will be held on the Rensselaer campus in the Russell Sage Dining Hall. Dr. Harris will also be present.

"STEM careers offer wonderful opportunities and open doors for students who choose them. The camps serve to encourage and inspire the creativity and enthusiasm in students who are interested in STEM," says Harris, president of The Harris Foundation. "My goal with the camps is to empower the next generation of innovative thinkers, particularly those who may be socioeconomically disadvantaged and have limited exposure to available options for careers in STEM."

This year, participating students are from the following school districts: Amsterdam, Argyle, Bolton, Broadalbin-Perth, Cohoes, Dover Union Free School District, Gloversville Enlarged Central School District, Green Island Union Free District, Hoosic Valley, Middleburgh, New Lebanon, North Colonie, Poughkeepsie, Roxbury, Saratoga Springs, Saugerties, Schenectady, Schoharie Central, Scotia, South Colonie, Troy, Warrensburg, Webucktuck, and Worcester.

"At Rensselaer, we understand the important role STEM programs such as these play in preparing students for the high-tech careers of tomorrow," says Cynthia Smith, assistant dean of students at Rensselaer, director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships, and the director of the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Rensselaer. "Over the years, we have seen incredible enthusiasm and interest from our campers, sparked by the opportunity they have to see science and math at work in the community through the exciting interactive experiments, field excursions, and the core curriculum taught by our highly qualified and motivated teachers." 

Throughout the 10 day camp, students live on campus and participate in interactive, inquiry-based classes taught by university faculty, secondary school teachers, and STEM educators. Campers also have the opportunity to explore local museums and nature centers — discovering science within their communities. This year, students will be visiting Peeble's Island State Park and Ecovative Design.

"ExxonMobil thrives on creativity and ingenuity to remain a strong global competitor, and building our next-generation workforce is of critical importance to the company," says Ben Soraci, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. "Dr. Harris is an outstanding role model, and his camps provide a vital opportunity for students to experience STEM, problem-solving, and teamwork in action."

"There is no better way to foster a love of STEM than through hands-on experiences," Harris says. "My goal with our camps is to foster the next generation of innovative thinkers."

The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps have served more than 12,500 students at colleges across the country since 2006. This year's university hosts are in Alaska, Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.


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