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Area Youth Conquer Summer Brain Drain with Science Adventure
Former astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris discusses the importance of math and science to middle school-aged students during the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Science Camp.

June 23, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla
. – Area middle school students are curing the summer “brain drain” this year with a heavy dose of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fun at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by Florida A&M University (FAMU).  The hands-on program offers students an exciting way to beat the heat as they design space suits while experiencing life on a college campus.

Founded by veteran astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., the program targets underserved youth.  It is a two-week, all-expenses-paid residential camp that encourages math and science.  The ExxonMobil Foundation provides funding and expertise of talented engineers to support the educational experience.

“Summer learning opportunities are crucial to continued academic success,” said Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., veteran astronaut and camp founder. “In partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, we are able to offer students a tremendous opportunity to hone the math, science, communications and leadership skills needed to realize their full potential.  Our goal is to inspire them to reach beyond the classroom and pursue careers in critical technology fields.”

For the sixth consecutive year, the ExxonMobil Foundation has partnered with Harris and his nonprofit organization, The Harris Foundation, to provide residential camps to underrepresented and underserved middle school students at 25 universities across the country. This is the second year FAMU has had the honor of participating in the program.

“ExxonMobil is committed to inspiring the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators who will be critical to our nation’s economic success,” said Suzanne McCarron, president of ExxonMobil Foundation. “By partnering with Dr. Harris, we are able to provide talented young students with hands-on experiences that could lead them to a career in math, science, engineering or technology.”

During a recent “Space Day” event, students were treated to a visit by Harris where they heard first-hand about his inspirational journey to become the first African American to walk in space and the extreme elements he encountered during his historic spacewalk.

“At Florida A&M University, we understand the importance of partnering with ExxonMobil and others to fuel the pipeline of students needed to keep our state and country competitive,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons.  “We are building the next generation of scientists and engineers and we are proud to be a part of the effort.”

Campers were then given the opportunity to become space suit engineers for the day. Students were 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 assembled a test sample to submit for friendly competition. Using an “impact tester” to imitate the rigors faced during spacewalks, students were able to test the durability of their sample.

The demand for workers with strong math and science skills is significant as eight out of 10 of the fastest growing occupations in the nation are in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The camp program aims to fill this critical need by offering a curriculum that features hands-on experiments, team competitions and field excursions to help students build essential skills. Campers receive quality instruction from local educators and hear from ExxonMobil engineers about the exciting and rewarding aspects of their profession.

“We have seen this experience positively impact youth in our community, and look forward to witnessing our students’ dramatic growth as they gain valuable knowledge and a passion for math and science this summer,” said Edith Davis, director of FAMU’s ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. “At FAMU, we understand the important role STEM programs such as these play in preparing students for the high-tech careers of tomorrow.”

About ExxonMobil Foundation
ExxonMobil Foundation is the primary philanthropic arm of the Exxon Mobil Corporation in the United States.  The Foundation and the Corporation engage in a range of philanthropic activities that advance education, health and science in the communities where ExxonMobil has significant operations. In the United States, ExxonMobil supports initiatives to improve math and science education at the K-12 and higher education levels. 

In 2010, together with its employees and retirees, Exxon Mobil Corporation, its divisions and affiliates, and ExxonMobil Foundation provided $237 million in contributions worldwide, of which more than $110 million was dedicated to education.  Additional information on ExxonMobil’s community partnerships and contributions programs is available at www.exxonmobil.com/community.

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 the community through innovative education, health and wealth programs. The foundation supports programs that empower individuals and their communities, in particular minorities and economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to develop 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 structured education programs and the use of positive role models.  More than 10,000 K-12 students participate and benefit from THF programs annually. www.theharrisfoundation.org.


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