WHAT: Bernard Harris, the first African-American astronaut to walk in space, will visit NJIT to meet with the 36 middle school students attending the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. Harris will spend time with the students as they prepare for and participate in the Mars Lander Challenge, a team competition tasking them with designing, building and testing a model spacecraft capable of “protecting an astronaut during a planetary landing.” Campers will have 35 minutes to perfect their spacecrafts, made with a variety of household materials, before testing them in front of a panel of judges.
WHEN: Thursday, July 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The competition begins at 10:30 a.m. NJIT Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Fadi Deek will offer welcoming remarks at 9:30 a.m. and the students will then divide into teams and compete in the Mars Lander Challenge, where they will apply what they have learned about the engineering design process, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Harris will address the crowd and meet with the students starting at 12:50 p.m.
WHERE: The Campus Center Atrium on the NJIT quad.
WHY: According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, economic projections indicate that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. The STEM employment gap is further compounded by persistent diversity challenges, as women and minorities, who comprise 70 percent of college students but less than 45 percent of STEM degrees, represent a largely untapped talent pool. The free Summer Science Camps, funded by the ExxonMobil Foundation in partnership with The Harris Foundation since 2006, and taking place at academic institutions around the country, introduce underrepresented and underserved middle school students to STEM as well as outer space. To date, the camps have served more than 12,000 students.
“STEM careers offer wonderful opportunities and open doors for students who choose them. The camps serve to encourage and inspire the creativity and enthusiasm in students who are interested in STEM,” said Dr. Harris, president of The Harris Foundation. “My goal with the camps is to empower the next generation of innovative thinkers, particularly those who may be socioeconomically disadvantaged and have limited exposure to available options for careers in STEM.”
CAMPERS AT NJIT: The rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are from Essex, Union, Passaic, Hudson and Bergen counties. For the two weeks of camp, they participate in interactive, project-based classes, meet university faculty and get a sense of college life by living in an NJIT dormitory. Students will be available for interviews throughout the morning.
BACKGROUND: The Center for Pre-College Programs, the most successful pre-college program in the state, has hosted the camp at NJIT for the past 11 years.
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SOCIAL MEDIA: Use the #EMBHSSC and other related hashtags. Tag @XOMFoundation and @bernardharrisjr on Twitter.