On Wednesday, July 20, the National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp) bid farewell to 120 delegates from over 40 states and 12 nations in the Western Hemisphere. Since its inception in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s Centennial, NYSCamp has honored over 6,200 students by giving them the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Administered by the National Youth Science Foundation, its mission is to inspire lifelong engagement and ethical leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through its proven educational model to mentor, challenge, and motivate students.
This was the third virtual camp led by Dr. Brian Kinghorn, Associate Professor of Curriculum, Instruction and Foundations at Marshall University. Building on previous virtual experiences, this year featured the most interactive STEM educational programming in NYSCamp’s 59-year history, featuring 320 interactive sessions from 95 presenters. It included 15 keynote lectures, four panel discussions, two concerts and virtual tours of the National Gallery of Art and the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Presenters represented prestigious institutions such as the White House, NASA, AAAS, NIH, YouTube, Harvard Medical School and many universities across the country.
In addition, seven Marshall University faculty and two Yeager Scholars were among the world-class camp presenters. Of the 15 keynote lectures, two were presented by Marshall faculty. On July 14, Dr. Susan Streit, Marshall Professor of Biological Sciences and Associate Director in the Division of Science and Research at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, taught delegates about the history, anatomy and diversity of the gonads. Then, on July 18, Dr. Sidney McElroy, a 2005 Yeager graduate and assistant professor and family physician at Marshall Health, spoke about his experiences dispelling misinformation as a podcast co-host Sawbones: A Conjugal Tour of Wrong Medicine.
Asked about the relevance of her topic to NYSCamp delegates, Streit said, “We’re not comfortable enough talking about reproductive anatomy [which] has a big impact on people’s lives, policies, politics…sexuality, etc. It would be a much healthier society if people knew a little more about their bodies.” Speaking of science literacy in general, she added, “there are so many levels where science interacts with culture, society and politics, and most people don’t feel comfortable talking about for that. To make people more science-friendly, it’s nice to present these topics in a more fun and easy environment.”
Similarly, McElroy explained that “it pays to become skilled communicators with every format at our disposal… because we live in a time of HIGH availability of misinformation [where] the people [spreading] scientific disinformation wins the battle because it doesn’t have to deal with the truth. She continued: “We have to be so skilled in these areas [of communication] such as those who spread misinformation.
Both speakers were impressed with the opportunities NYSCamp gave delegates to create community together and look beyond their own spheres of influence. As McElroy said, “As someone who has always loved science, from feeling alone as a ‘nerdy’ kid who kept to himself, to see how NYSCamp brings people together to nurture and celebrate their love of science is inspiring. It creates an environment and an atmosphere where the passions of these young people can be nurtured and developed in the best possible way.”
Likewise, Strait said, “NYSCamp is a wonderful place for young people; I am a big supporter of non-formal education for young people in the sciences. The more interaction people have with others in the country and the world, the better off we will be. It’s never too early to network outside of our own spheres!”
Workshops and guided studies by Marshall faculty and alumni include:
- “Cybersecurity: Internet Scavenger Hunts,” presented by Bill Gardner, associate professor in Marshall’s Cyber Forensics and Security Program;
- “Fractals and Hausdorff Dimension,” presented by Dr. Anna Mummert, Marshall Professor of Mathematics;
- “History of Mining and Environmental Impacts in the Appalachians,” presented by Dr. Scott Simonton, Marshall Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering;
- “Bringing History and Science to Life with the Clio App,” presented by Dr. David Trowbridge, Associate Professor of History at Marshall, currently on sabbatical;
- “Exploring the Invisible Space with Radio Astronomy” a three-day focused study presented by Ellie White, a 2021 Yeager Fellow graduate and current Science Data Analyst at Green Bank Observatory.
When the camp ended at the Zoom Farewell Banquet, over 30 delegates spoke about their incredible and life-changing experiences at NYSCamp. “It didn’t feel like virtual at all,” New York delegate Anitta Cotai said. Argentine delegate Gabriel Antequera added: “The best three weeks of my life.”
California delegate Aaditi Sharma, one of the four delegate keynote speakers, reflected on the camp, saying, “The past few weeks have been extremely humbling and made me rethink the purpose of everything we do and the greater impact that science can have effect on future generations,” she concluded, “the completion of the camp left some beautiful memories and I hope we all remain lifelong friends and keep in touch forever.”
For inquiries, photos and interviews, please contact Delaney Rose “DR” Ahrens, Camp Director of External Relations and Development, at [email protected]
photo: Participants in this year’s National Youth Science Camp.