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Lamar STEM camp becomes more interdisciplinary

The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, a 21st century Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) interdisciplinary camp for middle school gifted and talented students are the first to utilize LU’s makerspace under the direction of Robert Kelley Bradley.
Bernard Harris with Bradley
Dr. Kelley Bradley works with a Bernard Harris student camper.

“The collaborative effort between the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp has been a cross-college objective between the Colleges of Education and Human Development, Arts and Sciences, Department of Computer Science to provide gifted and talented students an opportunity to experience teaching and learning centered on inquiry, which is a 21st century approach to teaching,” said Bradley. “It provides students an opportunity to express themselves by making and creating something unique in a physical form, which in essence gives them an opportunity to become innovators and produce hands-on STEM projects that could possibly solve real-world problems.”

Students, like Kevin Jackson, a seventh-grade student who attends Smith Middle School in Beaumont described the makerspace as “awesome.”

“It had a lot for us to learn. We made coins and used a lot of different technology,” said Jackson “When I grow up I want to be in the NFL but on my free time I would like to be a scientist. There is a lot about science you can use when playing football.”

The Bernard Harris Summer Science camps was started by the first African-American astronaut, Bernard Harris who recognized a need to develop STEM education. Lamar University began hosting the Bernard Harris in 2007.  According to Otilia Urbina, research assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Lamar University and coordinator of the camp, Harris connected with ExxonMobil to address the issue of STEM and created thirty-six STEM camps throughout the nation. “The performance of the camp here at Lamar University is exceptional,” said Urbina. “We are the smallest University to host this camp and we are proud of that.

Urbina said through LU’s camp, participants are exposed to different activities, which allows them to experience many different aspects of STEM learning.

Bernard Harris STEM Camp
Campers examine the wooden nickels they made.
Alyssa Harris is a seventh grader from Beaumont who took part in the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp enjoyed both the makerspace activity but her favorite was robotics, another component of the camps.

“In the makerspace we got to use the laser to print our names on a coin, and we also used the 3D printer,” said Harris. “I liked getting to build the robot. My partner did most of the programming, and I am better at building things so I focused on that. I want to be a dance teacher when I grow up and I think there is a way for robotics to help dancers do hard moves.”

Urbina believes the camp gives students a glimpse of what’s possible and helps them begin to think about how they can apply the science they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives. 

“They are able to visualize the real-world application of what they learn in the classroom,” said Urbina. “We hope this will both help students to appreciate what they are learning in school while also showing them different pathways they can take in pursuing a STEM career.”

The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp will resume summer 2020. Urbina plans to include even more disciplines across campus in the future.

“This is only one of the many camps we have developed across the university,” said Urbina. “In the past we have had camps teaching construction, coding and programming, forensics, and optics. After twelve years we are turning heads, people are paying attention.”