48 Young Students from Central Mass. Prepare for Mars Landing at ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at WPI

Future innovators flock to Worcester Polytechnic Institute for all-inclusive science and math summer camp
July 21, 2014

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Forty-eight students will have an out-of-this-world experience during the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). As part of the program's science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum, students will participate in the Mars Lander Challenge, a space-themed competition inspired by camp founder and veteran astronaut Bernard Harris Jr.

Students will learn about his journey to become the first African American to walk in space, and the extreme conditions he encountered during his two space shuttle missions.

Using household materials, teams of students will be challenged with creating spacecraft capable of absorbing the shock of a planetary landing. University administrators and faculty, as well as an ExxonMobil engineer, will work alongside campers, offering guidance as they construct their designs.

"From building spacecraft to designing robots and bridges, students see, firsthand, science, technology, engineering, and math come alive through real-world applications," said Harris, president of the Harris Foundation, who oversees the mentoring of underserved youth at 20 such camps nationwide.

The two-week, all-expenses-paid experience is aimed at helping middle school students enhance proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The ExxonMobil Foundation provides funding and employee mentors.

This year's camp focuses on teamwork and hands-on activities such as creating rockets, roller coasters, and model homes, using specially designed software. Additionally, area teachers will show campers math and science at work in their community through field excursions to local ecosystems, nature parks, and area museums.

"Technology is essential to nearly every industry, and students need to be well-versed in science and math in order to be prepared to succeed in the high-tech nature of the 21st century," said Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. "ExxonMobil is committed to preparing the future workforce through programs like the Bernard Harris science camps that help today’s youth develop an interest and solid foundation in STEM."

This summer marks the ninth consecutive year the ExxonMobil Foundation and The Harris Foundation have partnered to offer science camps that help close the achievement gap. This is the fifth year WPI has been selected to participate in the program.

"This is the fifth time in six years that WPI has partnered with ExxonMobile and Dr. Harris to bring this program to underserved students in Central Massachusetts," said Bonnie Hall, executive director of the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at WPI. "This type of hands-on STEM program will help give them the self-confidence to thrive in the classroom and beyond."

For more information, visit: http://www.theharrisfoundation.org.

About The Harris Foundation

Founded in 1998, The Harris Foundation is a 501 (c) (3), non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas, whose overall mission is to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. The foundation supports programs that empower individuals, in particular, minorities and economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams.

The Education Mission of The Harris Foundation is to enable youth to develop and achieve their full potential through the support of social, recreational, and educational programs. The Harris Foundation believes that students can be prepared now for the careers of the future through a structured education program and the use of positive role models. More than 15,000 students annually participate and benefit from THF programs. www.theharrisfoundation.org.

About the ExxonMobil Foundation

The ExxonMobil Foundation is the primary philanthropic arm of Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) in the United States. The foundation and the corporation ExxonMobil engage in a range of philanthropic activities that advance education, with a focus on math and science in the U.S., promote women as catalysts for development, and combat malaria. In 2013, together with its employees and retirees, Exxon Mobil Corporation, its divisions and affiliates, and the ExxonMobil Foundation provided $269 million in contributions worldwide, of which $110 million was dedicated to education. www.exxonmobil.com.