ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Science Camp Held at UVA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Science Camp Held at UVA

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Middle school students from across the state got an out-of-this-world experience at the University of Virginia. 

More than 50 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders teamed up for a "Space Day" competition, part of a two-week ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp held at UVA's engineering school. 

Friday morning, students faced a space simulation challenge, which put their math and science skills to the test. 

"I came here to learn about science and have fun," said 11-year-old camper Richard Zhai. Zhai got to channel his interest in a little experiment Friday. 

"Each of the teams are using papers, other foam, other different materials to make a 14-layer simulation of a space suit. Then we did an impact test on them to see how many layers survived after impact," said Ricky Zhao, an Exxon Mobil Corp. application engineer who led the competition. 

Fifty-two students broke into 10 teams and worked to make a durable spacesuit swatch out of materials like foam and foil. Then they watched to see how their creations held up. 

"One thing is to learn about specific things like kinetic energy and potential energy which they learned through those activities," Zhao said. 

He says the focus of the summer camp is to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math. 

"The only way to improve that is start with younger kids, starting before they go to universities, before they go to high school, at this middle school age," Zhao said. 

The students also got a virtual visit from former astronaut Bernard Harris himself. It's an experience 11-year-old camper Victoria Hargrove says every kid should experience. 

"If anybody else wants to do this, then I would recommend them to do it," Hargrove said. 

The students at UVA are about halfway through their camp. This is one of 20 camps being held on university campuses across the country.

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