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Middle School Students Will Learn Science at UW AstroCamp

May 8, 2015
middle school students in lab coats holding test tubes
Junior scientists test water samples for pH and turbidity during the 2014 AstroCamp at UW. This year’s AstroCamp is June 14-23. (UW Photo)

Middle school students from Wyoming and other parts of the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions will be transformed into star gazers and scientists during the University of Wyoming’s AstroCamp: Journey to the Stars June 14-23.

The hands-on camp will allow 48 students to observe the universe with professional telescopes; study astronomical images on computers; construct scientific spectrographs to identify chemical elements; build and launch model rockets; conduct soil tests; create solar ovens; and test their own Mars landers to see whether, in this case, they can land an egg softly enough without breaking it.

Professional astronomers; UW graduate students majoring in astronomy or education; and high school and junior high school teachers will lead the activities.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that UW has been chosen to host one of 20 ExxonMobil Harris Summer Science Camps. UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, cooperating with the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, will organize and conduct the camp.

Students entering the sixth, seventh and eighth grades last fall -- from Wyoming, western Nebraska, northern Colorado and western South Dakota -- were encouraged to apply for the UW camp. The free academic camp supports historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities.

“Applications are up 30 percent this year,” says Chip Kobulnicky, a UW professor of physics and astronomy. “I think this indicates a need for more academic opportunities for youth in our region.”

Campers were chosen based on demonstrated interest and academic potential in math, science, astronomy and space. Students need to have at least a “B” average in science and mathematics, and a passing score on the state’s standardized science and mathematics tests. As part of the application process, students had to submit written essays on why they wanted to attend the science camp. Up to 48 slots were open for eligible students.

For more information, call Michele Turner at (307) 766-2862.

Campers will attend classes that include problem solving, earth sciences, engineering and design concepts. Field excursions include an overnight camping trip under the stars near UW’s Wyoming Infrared Observatory, located on Jelm Mountain. Students will investigate the scientific, technological and biological factors that will be required to travel to distant planets and stars.

Founded in 1998 by Bernard Harris Jr., the Harris Foundation is a Houston, Texas-based nonprofit organization that invests in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. The foundation supports programs that empower individuals to recognize and pursue their dreams. Harris is best known as the first African-American astronaut to walk in space and as a NASA researcher.

Harris will be unable to attend UW’s AstroCamp due to commitments at 20 other similar camps this summer, Kobulnicky says. The event’s annual media day begins at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, in Room 219 of the Classroom Building.

There are still opportunities at UW for students not chosen for AstroCamp to learn more about science this summer. A complete list of options for K-12 students can be found at the WYSTEM website,

“UW is running more STEM camps and programs than ever before,” Kobulnicky says. “These programs provide training opportunities for teachers, too.”

For more information about AstroCamp, email Kobulnicky at or Daniel Dale, a professor and chair of UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, at

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