UVA Summer Camp Stresses STEM Skills - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Summer Camp Stresses STEM Skills

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Campers at ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp Campers at ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

School is out, but some Virginia middle-schoolers are choosing to keep their minds sharp throughout the summer at the University of Virginia.

Fifty-four students are currently staying at UVA for the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris partnership has brought in kids who would otherwise be unable to attend such a camp - free of charge.

It was Space Day at the science camp Friday. The campers broke up into teams and got the chance to build their very own "spacecraft". The goal was to have the spacecraft land an astronaut safely on Mars, and that's where the help of a real engineer came in.

"I think camps like this are really great tools for building the next generation of innovators, engineers, and scientists in our country,” said Ben Swiniarski, ExxonMobil applications engineer.

For the task at hand, campers chose a marshmallow to be their astronaut. They used small boxes to build their craft, and made good use of bubble wrap, pipe cleaners, cups, and tape.

UVA engineering students say they're getting to show the campers that science applies to their everyday lives - and can be fun.

"You can go from making ice cream to roller coasters, and we want to give kids a chance to experience things like that,” said Desiree Johnson, UVA student and camp counselor.

The campers dropped their spacecrafts from about seven feet, to see if their “astronaut” could survive. The goal was to land the ship right-side up - and not squish the marshmallow.

The camp goes until June 26 and will continue to focus on projects with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) connections.

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