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NASA camps teach kids about rockets
By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Summer of Innovation Camps being held across Mississippi look like a lot of fun with rockets, but children who participate are also brushing up on their science and engineering skills.
The camps are a White House effort spearheaded and funded through NASA. In Mississippi, 26 camps are being offered this summer through 4-H, the youth development arm of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“These camps revolve around a lot of rocketry,” said Mariah Smith, Extension instructor and camp coordinator. “Young people are learning about energy, the laws of motion, gravity and more as they make four different kinds of rockets out of different materials and launch them with air pressure or water.”
The camps are scattered about the state so a wide range of young people in grades four through nine can participate in the free experiences. Each event accommodates up to 30 campers, and the 20-hour camps are set up either over consecutive days or once a week for a set period.
“The Summer of Innovation program is an opportunity to engage students in science in an exciting and hands-on atmosphere,” Smith said. “They get to put the knowledge they gain in school into practice over the summer. These camps expose them to what they can do with science, and it builds on the knowledge they already have.”
One day, students make rockets out of two-liter bottles, paper fins and nose cones and launch them with water pressure. Another time, participants make rockets with paper and tape and launch these “stomp rockets” with air pressure supplied by stomping on a two-liter bottle taped to a launch pad made of plastic pipe. Many other activities fill their time.
“These camps give young people a chance to see scientific theories put into practice,” Smith said. “They can take something they actually built and see what happens to it in flight.”
Gwyen Elizabeth Sutphin, 13, is an eighth grader from Starkville. She participated in the camp held June 27-29 at MSU.
“I’m really into science, and I love astronomy,” Gwyen Elizabeth said. “I want to be a surgical eye doctor and have a hobby with astronomy and space.”
Her mother, Sylvia Sutphin, said Gwyen Elizabeth did more than just enjoy the camp.
“Gwyen Elizabeth appears to have gotten the science side of what was presented rather than just looking at the activities as cool things to do,” Sylvia said. “In fact, she has an idea for her science fair project at school.”
Casey Sexton, 12, is a seventh grader from Starkville. He said he made friends at camp and enjoyed the experience. His mother, Julie Sexton, noted the contrast between his enjoyment of camp and his attitude toward lessons at school.
“Casey came home from camp one day and spent about an hour trying to improve upon the design of the ‘Jitterbug’ rocket he made,” Julie said. “The camp is piquing his interest in science and electronics enough to want to spend time at home. He loves science, but he said he was bored and hated it in school, so this should tell you what this camp has done.”
Smith said 4-H has a mandate to engage children in science, and these camps do just that, providing an academic experience that helps keeps students’ minds sharp before they head back to school.
“4-H is interested in getting children engaged in science, technology, engineering and math,” Smith said. “These Summer of Innovation Camps are a perfect fit for 4-H.”
NASA provided funding for materials, a camp curriculum and training for the Extension 4-H youth agents who are running the camps from June 1 through Sept. 1.
For more information on a local camp, contact Smith at (662) 325-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Martha Jackson-Banks at (601) 857-2284 or email@example.com.
Released: July 7, 2011
Contact: Mariah Smith, (662) 325-3226