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Astronaut highlights summer science camp experience

June 29, 2009

An appearance by veteran astronaut, scientist, physician, and educator Bernard Harris will highlight a summer science camp at Arizona State University in July.

About 50 Arizona middle school students will take part in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp coordinated by ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

The camp – from July 12 to 24 – gives youngsters first-hand experience with science experiments, role models and innovative education programs to encourage their interest in math and science courses in the schools they attend.

It’s the first year ASU is partnering with ExxonMobil to offer the camp, which is free of charge to students. To participate, students had to be academically qualified, recommended by their teachers as genuinely interested in math and science, and complete a competitive selection process. More than 200 applications were received.

ASU becomes one of 30 university campuses in the United States to host the ExxonMobil science program this summer. The camp supports the goals of the Harris Foundation (founded by Bernard Harris) and the ExxonMobil Foundation to raise awareness among youngsters about career possibilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to invest in the future of youth through education in those areas.

Studies have shown that the United States faces a critical shortage of engineers, scientists and other workers with advanced training in mathematics and science. A significant number of practicing engineers are nearing retirement and not enough students are pursuing engineering degrees. Through numerous efforts, ExxonMobil is supporting programs and organizations that focus on improving mathematics and science education at all levels.

In addition to science and engineering education, the summer camp is designed to nurture students’ leadership potential and citizenship skills, along with their abilities to work in teams and think creatively, while spending two weeks in a college campus environment.

This year’s camp theme is sustainability. The program is designed to introduce students to the topic, and give them a look at the growth of sustainability research at ASU and elsewhere. Among other things, students will learn some of the ways that energy from the sun impacts our ability to sustain life in our environment.

“We’re providing these students with an amazing two weeks on our campus, and working to help develop the next generation of creative thinkers and inventors,” said executive camp director Stephen Rippon, the engineering school’s assistant dean of student services.

Bernard Harris will visit the camp at ASU on July 21, beginning the day with a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the ASU Memorial Union. Prior to the press conference, he will join the students for breakfast, and then observe them at work -- designing and building small rafts for a “Raft Rally” activity.

Harris was a crew member on a Space Shuttle Columbia mission in 1993, and on a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1995, the first flight of the joint Russian-American Space Program. On the latter mission he became the first African-American to walk in space. In all, he has logged 438 hours and traveled more than 7.2 million miles in space.

He now is chief executive officer and managing partner of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital firm that invests in health care technologies and companies, and founder of the Harris Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports math and science education, and crime prevention programs for America's youth.

He also is on the board of the National Math and Science Initiative and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. For a complete career biography of Harris, see the attachment to this e-mail.

To see a biographical video about Harris, go to the web site and click on the link to YouTube.

For a complete of list of campus locations where the camps are being offered this summer, visit the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp web site at

The camp is funded by ExxonMobil, with additional support from the Helios Education Foundation, the Emerson Company and Resolution Copper Company.