Astronaut Bernard Harris sells students on science, technology

Dozens of middle school students were awed today about space travel, during an address by former astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp on the Southern University campus.

Harris' speech highlighted "Space Day" for campers who created and designed durable spacesuit swatches using household items that mimic protective materials. Teams tested the strength of their samples using an "impact tester" that imitated the rigors experienced during spacewalks.

Harris, in his address in the High Tech room of the P.B. S. Pinchback Engineering building, told the students about his space travel and his walk in space. Students took great interest in his discussion of weightlessness in flight and the safety aspect of his spacesuit.

Some 50 area students have been immersed in science, technology, engineering an mathematics, so-called STEM courses, for several weeks. The focus of the classes is to reinforce critical-thinking skills, encourage innovation and curb summer learning loss.

The two-week, all-expenses-paid experience, is one of 20 camps for underserved youth nationwide ExxonMobil Foundation provides funding and expertise of talented engineers

Harris is the first African American to walk in space and he has been on two shuttle missions. Harris and ExxonMobil engineers worked alongside campers, offering guidance as students use math and science skills to construct their designs.

He encouraged the young scientists to consider one of the STEM subjects as a path of study in college.

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