On Wednesday, July 20, the National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp) bid farewell to 120 delegates from over 40 states and 12 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Since its inception in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s centennial year, NYSCamp has honored more than 6,200 students by providing them with the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Administered by the National Youth Science Foundation, its mission is to inspire lifelong 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 included the most interactive STEM education program in NYSCamp’s 59-year history, featuring 320 interactive sessions from 95 speakers. 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. Speakers 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 speakers at the camp. Of the 15 keynote lectures, two were presented by Marshall faculty. On July 14, Dr. Suzanne Streit, Marshall University Professor of Biological Sciences and Associate Director of Science and Research at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, spoke to delegates about the history, anatomy and diversity of the gonads. Then, on July 18, Sydney McElroy, MD, a 2005 Yeager graduate, associate professor and family physician at Marshall Health, shared her experience dispelling misinformation as a podcast co-host Sawbones: A Conjugal Journey Through Deceptive Medicine.
When asked about the importance 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, politics, policy…sexuality, etc. Society would be a lot healthier if people knew a little more about their bodies.” Speaking about science literacy in general, she added, “There are so many levels where science interacts with culture, society, and politics, and most people are uncomfortable talking about it. To make people more friendly to science, it’s nice to present these topics in a more fun and light environment.”
Similarly, McElroy explained that “we have to become savvy communicators with all available formats… because we live in a time of HIGH availability of misinformation. [where] People [spreading] scientific disinformation wins the battle because they don’t have to worry about the truth.” She continued: “We have to be as experienced in these areas [of communication] as those who spread misinformation.”
Both speakers were impressed with the opportunities NYSCamp provided for delegates to build community together and reach beyond their own spheres of influence. As McElroy said, “As someone who has always loved science, it’s inspiring to see how NYSCamp brings people together to nurture and celebrate their love of science, feeling like a lonely, self-contained ‘nerd’ kid. It creates an environment and atmosphere for these young people’s passions to be nurtured and developed in the best possible way.”
Similarly, Strait said, “NYSCamp is a great place for young people; I am a big supporter of informal education for young people in science. The more people connect with others across the country and the world, the better off we will be. It’s never too early to network outside of our field!”
Workshops and directed research by Marshall faculty and alumni have included:
- “Cybersecurity: An Internet Scavenger Hunt,” presented by Bill Gardner, an associate professor in the Marshall Program in Cyber Forensics and Security;
- “Fractals and Hausdorff Dimension,” presented by Dr. Anna Mummert, Marshall Professor of Mathematics;
- “History of Mining and Environmental Impacts in Appalachia,” 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, Marshall Associate Professor of History, currently on sabbatical;
- “Exploring the Invisible Space with Radio Astronomy” is a three-day directed study presented by Ellie White, a 2021 Yeager Fellow graduate and Science Data Analyst at the Green Bank Observatory.
As the camp concluded at the Zoom Farewell Banquet, more than 30 delegates spoke about their amazing and life-changing NYSCamp experiences. “It didn’t feel like it was virtual at all,” said New York delegate Anitta Kottai. Argentina delegate Gabriel Antequera added: “The best three weeks of my life.”
California delegate Aditi Sharma, one of the four keynote speaker delegates, reflected on the camp, saying, “The past few weeks have been extremely humbling and have made me rethink the purpose of everything we do and the greater impact that science can have on the future generation,” she concluded, “completion of the camp left behind beautiful memories, and I hope that we will all remain friends for life 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 of this year’s National Youth Science Camp.