W&J Hosts ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

Created: June 26, 2014
Last Updated: January 17, 2020

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (June 26, 2014)—Forty-eight students are having an out-of-this-world experience at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J).

W&J received a select grant to host the ten-day, partly-residential summer camp designed to engage middle school students in Washington and Allegheny counties in hands-on experimentation and science. W&J’s camp, free and open to students in grades six through eight interested in science, concludes June 27.

One thousand middle school students were selected to attend one of 20 camps held at colleges and universities across the country, where they are immersed in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

W&J is the only school in the Pittsburgh region, and one of only two in Pennsylvania, to receive the grant.

“This is science education for these students that really complements what they are doing in the classroom,” said Anne McGrain, Ph.D., biology program coordinator at W&J. “I also really value the fact that this is for students who are at an age when decisions can be made in what areas of interest they want to pursue.”

Students participated today in the Mars Lander Challenge, a space-themed competition inspired by camp founder and veteran astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., the first African American to walk in space

Using household materials, teams of students were challenged to create landing spacecrafts capable of absorbing shock from a planetary landing. Harris, who was in attendance, College faculty and ExxonMobil engineers worked alongside campers, offering guidance as they constructed their designs.

“From building spacecrafts to designing robots and bridges, students see first-hand science, technology, engineering and math come alive through real-world applications,” said Harris, president, The Harris Foundation.

“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, 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 first year W&J has been selected to participate in the program.

“At W&J we think science is important. We think it is really important, because, to me, it is what makes us most human, our curiosity. Our fascination. You have the curiosity,” W&J President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D., told campers.

The theme of the W&J camp in general is Foodology: the Science of Foodled instructional modules were featured in areas of mathematics, physical science, life science, nutrition and communication.

Campers participated in a variety of instructional activities, including the science of cheese-making, where campers prepared home-made cheese; and Kool-Aid, where campers identified the amount of food dye in various flavors of Kool-Aid using spectrophotometry.

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.

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