UTPA Report: Bernard Harris Camp

UTPA Report: Bernard Harris Camp
Friday, August 9, 2013 - 8:38am

It isn’t everyday that a junior high student gets to live in a dorm, and revel in a true college experience. But some lucky Valley kids, considered the cream of the crop in their school districts, took a break from lounging around at home, for some hands-on instruction at UTPA. In this week’s Newscenter 23 report, Roxanne Lerma takes us into the camp where science and math is taken to a whole new level.

Alan Castellanos, an aspiring scientist and student at K-White Junior High in Mission, traded a bit of his summer vacation to head back to class. This time, at the University of Texas-Pan American.

Alan Castellanos, K. White Junior High Student, “I would recommend for other kids from all around the Rio Grande Valley to come to this camp because it teaches you a lot about math and science and if you want to get a career that has to do with them then this is the camp for you.”

Over 600 kids applied for the Exxonmobil Bernard Harris science camp, but only 48 made the cut. The students dove into to all kinds of interactive activities...even constructing an underwater craft using P-V-C pipes.

Alan Castellanos, “We’re actually building a seaperch, which is like an underwater submarine and we are going to do three different obstacles for it. We are going to go around obstacles and we are going to pick up little toys and everything on the floor.”

The middle-schoolers also participated in a space suit challenge, a contest that required them to create a prototype of a space suit, a small fabric swatch that could withstand the impact of mock space debris. Only 20 schools across the nation have the opportunity to host this unique summer program for kids.

Barbara Garza, UTPA Community Outreach, “They’re here for the two weeks, they engage in a lot of great opportunities. But they also get to experience college life. And what it is like to be on a college campus; living in the dorms, eating in a cafeteria. They get a lot of great opportunities and experiences from being here.

Experiences like getting a chance to videoconference with Dr. Bernard Harris, the former NASA astronaut who was the first African American to walk in space. He’s also the man who started the youth camps.

Alan Castellanos, “I asked him some questions like has he ever gotten hit by a mini meteorite and he said yes. And I said does it hurt? He said no, because the suits are made so you won’t feel anything. He said it was like getting hit by a little pebble. He didn’t feel anything.”

McAllen middle school student, Carter Helmcamp, said while she loved the experiments and teamwork, she really appreciated getting a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Carter Helmcamp, McAllen Morris Middle School, “I think it’s really important for kids our age to come to camp like this because it lets you learn about what you could do in the future and about how coming to a smaller college can give you the same education. It’s just what you put into it.”

The fourth annual camp certainly got Helmcamp thinking. She’s considering a new career path.

Carter Helmcamp, “When I first came here I really wanted to be a vet but now more doors are opening of maybe going into different things like engineering because seeing things you could do they’re really fun.”

It’s a whole new way of looking at science and math. I’m Roxanne Lerma reporting for UTPA and Newscenter 23.

The science camp is part of the University's Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology program, which culminates with a weeklong celebration, known as HESTEC, in early October.


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