RSJH students earn scholarship to Clemson space camp over the summer

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Photo by Max Phillips

Carly Eversole, [email protected]

Rock Springs, Wyoming – Over the summer, 8th-grade students at Rock Springs Junior High Daniel Ramirez and Max Phillips were chosen to attend the Middle School Space Exploration Camp hosted in collaboration with Clemson University and Pari (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) in North Carolina.

Clemson University Science Outreach Center hosts summer camps and field trips for middle and high school students at the Pari campground. According to their website, Pari was initially constructed by NASA as a communication station in the early days of space discovery and exploration. The Department of Defense used the Pari location for a time during the Cold War until its rebirth as a not-for-profit location for teaching young people about science and all things space.

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Wyoming is one of the states whose students are eligible for scholarships through the Clemson Outreach Center. After sending an email to science teachers in the state, Stephen Gerard, a 3rd year integrated science teacher at Rock Springs Junior High, recommended the program to all students in his class but felt roughly 5 of them would have the most interest and meet the requirements for the camp. In order to receive a scholarship, students must be from a participating state, a rising student at their school, have a minimum GPA of 3.5 and have a recommendation from their teacher. Only Ramirez and Phillips completed the application process of the 5 students in Mr. Gerard’s class. Receiving the scholarship meant tuition for the camp was covered and also included a travel stipend to help participants get to camp.

Photo from Max Phillips

After turning in the necessary paperwork, which included a three-part essay, they received the word they had been accepted as 7th-graders. Off to Rosman, North Carolina, they flew for the camp from June 26 to July 2. At camp, the students could participate in various hands-on learning activities, including building rockets and parachutes, along with recreating the black hole. Campers got to exercise and eat like an astronaut, experience the smell of space, and much more. Counselors at the camp consisted of Clemson University students and previous camp alumni, who created a fun learning environment and even played video games with Ramirez and Phillips in the evenings. During midweek of their stay, students were taken on a trip to visit Clemson and see some of the South Carolina countryside, which is “very green, lots of trees and very humid” according to Ramirez.

“Once we got there (Clemson) we got to talk to a lot of professors and they showed us a chamber that could dehydrate stuff really fast. They dehydrated a marshmallow and gave us one. It tasted like a lucky charm. It was really fun visiting the school,” explained Phillips.

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Of the highlighted activities, each student had a different answer for their favorite. “We played this game called Pari Ball one evening, which is like a volleyball style game but a little different. We had teams where we could earn points to win this thing. Our team won, we won this plate that was 3-D printed that was the biggest crater on the moon,” Ramirez explained. While that was the highlight of camp for him, his interest in space stems from learning how planets and everything is formed. “I like thinking about the possibility that someday we could find different life in space. I have been interested in space for a few years now.” Ramirez has a life goal of becoming a veterinarian and would like to post-secondary education in California somewhere.

Phillips on the other hand enjoyed the museum trip at the Pari facility the most adding, “It was the big thing at the end we got to do. We got to look at a bunch of stuff, like their replicas, they showed us some stuff from the first moon landing and we got to hold a piece of the moon which was super cool.” Space has always been an interest as both of his grandparents were scientists and exposed him to space. “It always really interested me. I’ve always really loved it but especially this year when I got the opportunity, I felt like it was definitely something I should try to shoot for and go there.” Both space and the other sciences are in his future and he anticipates attending other space camps, including one he has his eye on in Alabama. Phillips has also been looking around at schools with good engineering programs to attend after high school.

Photo by Max Phillips

Both students agreed they would attend another camp and seek opportunities similar to the one through Clemson Outreach Institute, and would highly recommend other students with an interest in science to do the same thing. Not only did the students make friends at camp from across the nation but they developed a friendship with each other they hadn’t had prior to the trip.

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