Underrepresented Middle School Students to Gain Science-focused Skills at WPI's ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Camp

Open to Children from Boston, Worcester, and Southbridge, Camp Encourages Youth to Pursue Future Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields
Media Contact
March 09, 2009

WORCESTER, Mass. – Come July, underrepresented students from Boston, Worcester, and Southbridge middle schools will be able to experience Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) state-of-the-art robotics, science, engineering, and mathematics programs as the university hosts for the first time the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Science Summer Camp.

Sponsored by ExxonMobil and the Bernard Harris Foundation, the two-week residential camp runs at WPI from July 26 to August 7, and is free to participants. It provides a fun-filled setting for children to gain a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to promote future careers in the STEM fields. While there are 32 other such camps in the United States, this will be WPI's first year offering the program to 48 underrepresented students (24 boys, and 24 girls) in grades 6-8; in fact, this is the first time the camp will be held in Worcester.

"WPI is honored to be selected this year as one of 11 new institutions to provide this program to students who may not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in such an intensive academic camp that encourages participants to pursue technical and science careers," said Nicole Bradford, WPI's director of diversity programs. "WPI is committed to making a difference in the lives of all individuals that set foot on campus; we look forward to inspiring, motivating, and encouraging our participants in hopes of laying the foundation for future careers that are focused on science, technology, engineering, and math."

Harris, a former NASA astronaut and the first African American to walk in space, created the camps four years ago with support from ExxonMobil. More than 1,500 students across the country will take part in this year's camps and explore themes such as "Mission to Mars," "Revolutionary Robotics," and "Energy and Motion." WPI, which launched in 2007 the first-in-the-nation undergraduate degree program in robotics engineering, will feature the "Revolutionary Robotics" theme.  At the Harris camp, students will attend daily classes in natural science, engineering, mathematics, and technology taught by WPI faculty and secondary school classroom teachers, who also receive professional development training. Activities will include classroom study; experiments; individual, team, and group projects; weekly field excursions; and guest speakers who motivate students to fulfill their dreams.

The addition of this camp complements WPI's already well-respected K-12 outreach program, which is also focused on introducing young people to the STEM fields. Dozens of WPI programs, including other summer camps, provide myriad learning opportunities and resources for both teachers and students in kindergarten through high school.

"The success of this program is due to the support from ExxonMobil and our partnership with renowned universities across the country," Harris said of his science camp. "It's rewarding to realize how many kids we can reach by providing a new and fun experience involving science while raising awareness about math and science careers."

Numerous studies show that the United States faces a critical shortage of engineers, scientists and other workers in math and science. ExxonMobil is supporting programs and organizations that focus on improving mathematics and science education. The company also sponsors programs to increase the number of highly trained mathematics and science teachers, provide professional development and training opportunities for teachers, and attract students to pursue science-and math-related courses in middle school, high school, and college. Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil Corp., said the camps help inspire young minds.

"ExxonMobil is dedicated to supporting programs that generate interest in math and science education and provide career options for students," said Tillerson. "Our country needs future scientists and engineers and these camps are an investment in that future."

To apply for attendance at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, students must be academically qualified, genuinely interested in mathematics and science, and be recommended by two teachers. More information about student eligibility and selection criteria can be found at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp website, www.theharrisfoundation.org.