Kids Become Space Suit Engineers at UH Science Camp this Summer

Former Astronaut, ExxonMobil Scientists Make Learning Fun for Middle School Students

Campers will be given the opportunity to meet an astronaut and become space suit engineers for a day at the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at the University of Houston (UH) next week.

Bernard Harris Science Camp 2011Showcasing their skills to a media audience 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 19, the 54 campers will be tasked with designing and creating a space suit swatch capable of absorbing the impact of space debris. Using household items to mimic essential protective materials, students will assemble a test sample to submit for competition. The durability of their samples will be subjected to an “impact tester” to imitate the rigors faced during spacewalks. At this year’s event, the campers will have the opportunity to work alongside former NASA astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., who is a UH alumnus and the first African-American to walk in space.

During this competition, groups of students will be challenged to manage their money while testing their science skills learned at camp. Each team will have 20 minutes to choose and purchase materials ranging from Styrofoam and aluminum foil to wax paper and duct tape for constructing a 14-layer space suit capable of standing up to the hazards of the micrometeoroids that astronauts often encounter in space. These particles typically travel at speeds 150 times faster than a passenger jet plane.

This is just one of many hands-on experiments and interactive demonstrations that take place during this camp. Throughout the two-week period at UH, these middle-school students have an opportunity to work side by side with ExxonMobil engineers and scientists, as well as UH faculty and teachers from the greater Houston area.

The camp has transformed the summer vacations of local middle school students for 12 years by giving students the opportunity to get ahead in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, meet inspiring role models and experience college life at UH. Offered free of charge to academically qualified students entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the two-week camp was started at UH in 1999 by Harris.

The Harris Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization that supports programs empowering individuals – in particular minorities and the economically or socially disadvantaged – to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams. In collaboration with Harris, the ExxonMobil Foundation again awarded UH an $80,000 grant to provide funding for this year’s camp. Read more about the grant at

WHO: Houston-area middle school students building space suits
Bernard Harris, the first African-American to walk in space
WHAT: ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at UH
WHEN: 9 to 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 19
Best visuals: 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.
WHERE: University of Houston
Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall (PGH), Room 232
Off Cullen Boulevard, Entrance 14

***Media encouraged to parallel park curbside along Entrance 14, clear of driving lanes. Please ensure vehicles display media credentials in dashboard, visible through windshield.***

Onsite day-of media contact: Kathy Major, 713-306-3532 (cell)


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