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North Texas middle-school students at UT Arlington to study science and math, meet astronaut

News Release — 20 July 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contact: Traci Peterson, (817) 272-9208, tpeterso@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - Forty-eight North Texas middle-school students are building their knowledge and confidence in natural science, engineering, mathematics and technology on the UT Arlington campus this week as part of the free ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

Bernard Harris at last year's camp.

Bernard Harris at last year's camp.

The students - who will be entering grades six, seven or eight - were chosen from more than 400 applicants. They were selected based on their grades, test scores, teacher recommendations and interest in math and science.  The program targets low-income and minority students, many of whom may not have otherwise had such an experience. 

One of the camp's main focuses is to reinforce students' early interest in science and math, said to Greg Hale, director of the UT Arlington College of Science Education and Career Center.

"Middle school years are when kids start to switch from loving math and science to starting to think it's not so cool," Hale said. "We want them to see the light at the end of tunnel, beyond their late middle school and high school years where their peers might be disapproving. They can see what it's like in college, where they can be with a lot of people who are passionate about math and science. I tell them, there aren't any knuckleheads in college."

Campers spend the next two weeks in class with university and high school faculty, doing experiments, traveling on field trips and learning from guest speakers. The camp started Sunday and ends July 30.

Beyond the reinforcement of their interest in math and science, the camp also stresses college readiness and 21st century skills. Among many other activities, the campers will be building robots during the camp, exploring the energy content of different foods, and learning about waste water and drinking water treatment plants.

Campers also will get a chance to meet with Harris, a physician and former astronaut who was the first African-American to walk in space. On Wednesday July 21, he'll help guide students as they break into groups and complete an interactive activity called "Escape from Harris Island." The exercise challenges teams to build miniature rafts that can carry loads of pennies across a pool of water.

This is the third year UT Arlington has hosted the prestigious ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, which is being offered at 30 universities and colleges in the U.S. this year. The programs seeks to encourage math and science education, motivate youth to stay in school, foster leadership and citizenship and instill the values of fairness, responsibility and respect. The Harris Foundation, which was founded in 1998, supports programs that empower individuals, in particular minorities and those who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams. 

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