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Faculty, students present at the 2021 virtual National Youth Science Camp

Dr. Brian Kinghorn, an associate professor of curriculum, instruction and foundations at Marshall University, and his National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp) staff organized and directed a second virtual camp this summer, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The entirely virtual experience combined world-class STEM programming with many other opportunities for learning and networking for one-hundred-thirty top science students from across the United States and twelve Western Hemisphere nations. Although delegates could not gather in the mountains of West Virginia, the camp was nonetheless an engaging, exciting, and unforgettable experience, Kinghorn said.

Between June 28 and July 21, over seventy STEM professionals, many of them eminent in their disciplines, presented more than three hundred lectures and small-group sessions at the 2021 camp. The interactive program covered a wide range of topics, from microbes to electrical grids, from NASA engineering to deep sea exploration; from CRISPR applications to music and art; from communicating science to 3D printing; and from science policy to how folding proteins can cure COVID-19. Weekends were spent disconnecting and spending time in nature with family and friends. Special virtual events at camp included two live concerts, tours of the Green Bank Observatory and M.C. Escher’s art at the National Gallery, and an AAAS STEM policy panel.

Marshall University faculty and students also presented at the camp.

Dr. David Trowbridge, associate professor of history at Marshall, taught delegates about the intersections of history, science, and technology during two seminars about his Clio App. Dr. Frederick “Rick” Walker, adjunct biology instructor at Marshall, taught a seminar about electric vehicles. In addition, MU physics junior Ellie White taught a directed study about radio astronomy, and her brother, Josh White, an incoming freshman, taught a directed study about computer programming and gamified learning. The delegation also had the opportunity to learn about patriotism and civic responsibility from WWII Medal of Honor recipient and local hero Hershel “Woody” Williams July 5.

Of the NYSCamp experience, Marie Hernandez, a delegate from Trinidad and Tobago, said, “Coming to camp I thought it was going to be all lectures and minimal fun but quite the opposite was true. There was a perfect balance that was created between work and play.”

And as Leonardo Mendoza Mora, a delegate from Mexico, put it, “I never imagined a virtual camp in the first place, and although we’ve been really frustrated with the virtual things this past year, I think that the team at the NYSCamp has showed us that making an amazing, fun, and engaging virtual camp is indeed possible.”

Mahia Rahman, a delegate from Virginia, added that “camp was absolutely amazing and has influenced every part of my life positively! It is an experience I will never forget.”

Lina Chihoub, a delegate from New Jersey said, “I loved camp! Everyone is so passionate about unique fields of STEM.  It was so inspiring to watch my peers learning for the sake of learning. Topics weren’t boring and repetitive but were instead super interactive, innovative, and informative, and changed the way I think about science.” Laboni Santra, a delegate from Florida, stated, “I have never been to a proper science camp before, and even though this year the NYSCamp was in a virtual format, I have learned more from the presenters, staff, and fellow delegates than I have all during quarantine.” Rida Siddiqi, a delegate from Texas, summed up her NYSCamp experience when she said, “I loved my experience at camp so much!! The quality of the speakers and [programming] was unimaginably inspiring and informative… I look forward to staying connected with the other alumni.”

Speaking of the 2021 delegation, Kinghorn said “it was a pleasure to virtually host such an amazing group of young people who are already making a difference for good in their communities and beyond. I hope that the NYSCamp experience has kickstarted their academic and professional journeys towards becoming innovators, changemakers, and leaders of the world.”

The National Youth Science Foundation (NYSF), which sponsors the NYSCamp, will continue to monitor the pandemic and hopes to be able to host the 2022 NYSCamp at Camp Pocahontas in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia next summer.

Further information is available by contacting Kinghorn by e-mail at director@nyscamp.org or by phone at 517-974-4996.

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About the NYSF and NYSCamp

The NYSCamp, which was first hosted by the State of West Virginia in 1963 as part of the state’s centennial, is normally held at Camp Pocahontas in the Monongahela National Forest. Since the its inception, the NYSCamp has honored over 6,200 students, giving them the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Operation and financial support for this program was taken over by the National Youth Science Foundation (a 501(c) (3) organization) in 1983. The NYSCamp has been the Foundation’s well-established response to the documented need for improved science, math, and technology education among promising youth across the country.

The mission of the National Youth Science Foundation is to inspire lifelong engagement and ethical leadership in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) through its proven educational model for mentoring, challenging, and motivating students. By building communities among students, teachers, and professionals, NYSF programs bridge the gap between the traditional school curriculum and STEM careers.

This year’s delegation included an unprecedented, one-time increase to fifty international delegates, made possible by a generous contribution and cooperation from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The camp was also made possible through generous contributions from the State of West Virginia, Northrup Grumman, the Martha Gaines and Russell Werhle Memorial Foundation, the Daywood Foundation, SCHED, and NYSCamp alumni and friends.

Additional information about the 2021 virtual NYSCamp can be found at press.nyscamp.org.

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Photos available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xddsxvwicjldg99/AAALK7Kopwr0n_HqZnofmERia?dl=0