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Students spice up their summer in Bernard Harris STEM Camp

Bernard Harris STEM campLamar University focuses on promoting real-world research experiences with the younger generation through the College of Education and Human Development’s, Bernard Harris Summer STEM Camp (BHSSC).

Under the leadership of Executive Director Otilia Urbina, the BHSSC is hosting 16 students from Jefferson County school districts as they explore “Biodiversity: The Spice of Life.” To be eligible for the two-week camp, the students must be entering 7th grade and have an A-B average in their science and mathematics courses.

During the camp, the students will go on several field trips and gain hands-on experience in STEM subjects. Kayleigh Romero, who teaches 8th grade math and algebra at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and is a camp instructor for the summer said, “some of our different projects are robotics. … We include a research project that’s based on animation so they’re learning how to program, animate, and develop research and presentation skills.”

Bernard Harris STEM campRomero, who has been with the camp since it began 12 years ago, said they hope to instill in the students a strong interest in the STEM fields, or at least expose them to what is out there in the hope that they will someday pursue STEM careers. Of the students who have attended the camps in the past 12 years, 46 percent have gone on to attend Lamar University after reaching college age, and of those who came to LU, 91 percent have enrolled in STEM fields and many have gone on to STEM professions.

The BHSSC has several partners in the Beaumont area including: Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Big Thicket National Preserve, Shangri-La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, the Art Museum of SETX, the Edison Museum and the Texas Energy Museum.

On June 14, the students visited the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center near China, Texas. While there, the students, “went on a nature walk, got to learn about the biology of different insect pests of rice. They learned about how to sample, did some statistical work, sorted samples, and they learned how to plant different seeds,” said M.O. Way, a professor of entomology at Texas A&M and one of the scientists at the center. “Most importantly, they learned about different cultures from scientists who are here at the Beaumont center. They learned about customs, language, food, education, and family.”

Bernard Harris STEM campScientists at the AgriLife Center conduct research on rice to develop new varieties and new pest management tools, sharing these results with farmers and the crop consultants to improve rice production practices, so that farmers can continue to farm rice more economically and sustainably, said Way.

Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., the sponsor of the BHSSC, is a former NASA astronaut and the first African American to walk in space, said Urbina. She went on to say that the BHSSC is incredibly competitive, with Lamar’s program being one of only 10 nationwide.

For more information on the Bernard Harris Summer STEM camp, contact Rebecca Broussard, camp program director, at rlbroussard@lamar.edu.