Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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15-Jun-2012

Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston

Kids become space suit engineers at UH Science Camp this summer

Former astronaut, ExxonMobil scientists make learning fun for middle school students



Astronaut Bernard Harris works with students using the impact tester on their space suit swatches at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at the University of Houston. Courtesy of University of Houston

Campers will be given the opportunity to meet an astronaut and become space suit engineers for a day at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at the University of Houston (UH) next week.

Showcasing their skills to a media audience 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 19, the 54 campers will be tasked with designing and creating a space suit swatch capable of absorbing the impact of space debris. Using household items to mimic essential protective materials, students will assemble a test sample to submit for competition. The durability of their samples will be subjected to an "impact tester" to imitate the rigors faced during spacewalks. At this year's event, the campers will have the opportunity to work alongside former NASA astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., who is a UH alumnus and the first African-American to walk in space.

During this competition, groups of students will be challenged to manage their money while testing their science skills learned at camp. Each team will have 20 minutes to choose and purchase materials ranging from Styrofoam and aluminum foil to wax paper and duct tape for constructing a 14-layer space suit capable of standing up to the hazards of the micrometeoroids that astronauts often encounter in space. These particles typically travel at speeds 150 times faster than a passenger jet plane.

This is just one of many hands-on experiments and interactive demonstrations that take place during this camp. Throughout the two-week period at UH, these middle-school students have an opportunity to work side by side with ExxonMobil engineers and scientists, as well as UH faculty and teachers from the greater Houston area.

The camp has transformed the summer vacations of local middle school students for 12 years by giving students the opportunity to get ahead in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, meet inspiring role models and experience college life at UH. Offered free of charge to academically qualified students entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the two-week camp was started at UH in 1999 by Harris.

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The Harris Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization that supports programs empowering individuals in particular minorities and the economically or socially disadvantaged to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams. In collaboration with Harris, the ExxonMobil Foundation again awarded UH an $80,000 grant to provide funding for this year's camp. Read more about the grant at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2012/march/031511ExxonMobilBernardHarrisGrant.php.

WHO:
Houston-area middle school students building space suits Bernard Harris, the first African-American to walk in space

WHAT:
ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at UH

WHEN:
9 to 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 19
Best visuals: 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.

WHERE:
University of Houston
Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall (PGH), Room 232
(map: http://www.uh.edu/campus_map/buildings/PGH.php) Off Cullen Boulevard, Entrance 14

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, sign up for UH-SciNews at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/mailing-lists/sciencelistserv/index.php.