Camp Inspires Students to Reach for the Stars

  • Tuesday, August 10, 2010

     

    Thirty-five middle school students design, build and launch model rockets

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD -July 27, 2010-The University of Maryland Eastern Shore hosted its annual "Reach for the Stars" Summer Science Camp in cooperation with NASA and Mid-Atlantic Institute for Space and Technology, a non-profit association based in Pocomoke.

    Thirty-five middle school students from Worcester and Wicomico counties had a unique opportunity to learn about robotics from engineers who work at NASA and UMES.

    The two-week camp, which began July 19, was part of an effort to encourage students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It was geared to teens with disabilities, at-risk students as well as those who are gifted and talented.

    "I want to be an aerospace engineer for the military," said Hunter Johnson, 13, who enjoyed the task of building a Parallax Inc. Boe-Bot robot at the camp.

    Johnson said he learned to program his Boe-Bot to follow a line, follow light, or to avoid objects in its path.

    "I want to design robots that will keep people safe when you're backed into a corner, or you need to dismantle a bomb or you run out of ammo," said Johnson, an eighth grader at Snow Hill Middle School. "Robots don't have a heartbeat. They can be replaced."

    The campers worked alongside high school and university students, who are participating as interns in the STEP UP (Science, Technology and Engineering Pipeline for Underserved Populations) program sponsored by NASA and the Mid-Atlantic Institute.

    "STEP UP seeks to excite students about science and provide them with a path to opportunity by integrating hands-on experiences with real scientists and engineers with enhanced educational opportunities," said Brenda Dingwall, equal opportunity manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility.

    As Reach for the Stars campers, students designed, programmed and constructed robots and model rockets under the guidance of engineers and technical interns. They also launched, tracked and analyzed the flight path of their rockets.

    Samantha Dykes, a three-year participant of the program, was proud her model rocket reached the highest point among the group last year.

    "It was kind of special because I named my rocket after my dad (Bryan Dykes), who was fighting in Afghanistan, at that time," the 14-year-old Snow Hill resident said. "He made it home safe in March."

    Interns from the UMES Department of Rehabilitation Services provided support services for campers.

    "The camp provides a unique opportunity for UMES interns who are pursuing careers in rehabilitation to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field of study," said Dr. William Talley, acting assistant dean, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at UMES.

    Taylor Dumpson, an incoming freshman at Wicomico High School, said the annual rocket launch is easily the highlight of her summer. Dumpson, 14, has participated in Reach for the Stars since its inception in 2007.

    "I want to become a pilot for NASA," she said. "I think it would be a lot of fun."

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    Candice Evans, public relations specialist, UMES Office of Public