First African American to walk in space visits science camp

Dr. Bernard Harris, First African American to perform a spacewalk and founder of ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

HATTIESBURG, Miss – A rigorous application period gave kids across the state the chance to be part of a nationwide science camp, it’s called the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

This advanced science camp included weekly excursions and projects that challenged the middle-schoolers’ thinking and encouraged their interest in math and science. Aspiring scientist Samuel Hill said he loves experiments, “Physical changes, chemical changes. It just all excites me.”

The first African-American to walk in space and camp founder, Dr. Bernard Harris said the purpose of this camp is to prepare kids for the future of jobs based on math and science, “As an astronaut I have what I call an extraterrestrial job. I went to the Russian space station, did a space walk and got a chance to do something very people have done. Which leads me to my terrestrial mission; and that is to come back down to earth and share that experience and use that experience especially amongst kids to let them know you can do anything that you want to do.”

Dr. Harris told the campers NASA announced that in 2030 they’ll be on Mars. That means they’ll be close to the age Dr. Harris was when he became an astronaut, “The prime age to become one of those astronauts that might have the opportunity to step on Mars. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. In this group here, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, might be the next Martian astronaut,” said Harris.

One last experiment today had the campers using everyday supplies to build a Mars lander. The structure had to keep the astronaut safe and hit a target. The winning team’s spacecraft could possibly be used as a reference when building the actual Mars lander in the next few years.

Dr. Harris logged an astonishing 7.2 million miles in space. He said he wants to teach children that they can make change in the world, “My job here is to say you have the potential to do anything that you want to do. You have the skills; you were born with these talents that were uniquely yours. You need to take advantage of that.” Harris said he wants to children to understand that everyone has a purpose but we must find that purpose and act on it.

One 7th grader said he almost cried upon meeting Harris, “He inspired me to keep on doing what I’m doing. Keep making the best grades that I can and make everyone smile,” said Hill.

Only 20 colleges and universities across the United States were chosen to host the camp. USM is the first university in Mississippi to participate.

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