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Published March 06, 2023
A few select middle school students from four states will have an opportunity this summer to explore traveling to and colonizing planets during the Windy Ridge Foundation Astro Camp June 18-24 on the University of Wyoming campus.
Campers, who will be entering seventh or eighth grade this fall, will be chosen based on demonstrated interest and academic potential in math, science, engineering and space. As part of the application process, students must submit written essays on why they want to attend the science camp.
Twenty-four students from all backgrounds and economic statuses will be selected from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Participants will be selected with a goal of having an equal number of male and female campers.
The camp is free to selected participants. On-campus housing and dining will be provided for attending students.
The application deadline is Sunday, April 30. To apply, go here.
“Since I’ve been able to keep my crew of three excellent teachers over the past few years, the curriculum only gets revised/improved slightly, which is a good thing in general,” says Danny Dale, the Harry C. Vaughan Professor of Astronomy in the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy and an associate dean in the UW College of Arts and Sciences. “Hiring new teachers inevitably results in new ideas, but I’m perfectly fine simply perfecting our current curriculum with my teacher mainstays.”
However, Dale says there is at least one new wrinkle this year -- thanks to Ramesh Sivanpillai, a senior research scientist with the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center. The camp aims to add a hands-on puzzle exercise involving a very large floor-based puzzle of Mars, which Sivanpillai arranged to have made and then donated to Astro Camp.
“It will be something like 12 feet by 10 feet in size. We will likely use it to learn about geographic information technology and the surface features of Mars,” Dale says.
Dale says he wants camp attendees to take away “an excitement for math and science and the confidence that they are capable of doing both.”
The camp includes three in-service Wyoming science teachers and five UW undergraduate students who will serve as camp counselors. Once again, campers will take field trips to the local mountain ranges.
“We take soil samples and water samples, purify the water and test for signs of life in the soil when we get back to campus,” Dale explains. “Additionally, we use the opportunity to practice our skills in identifying different plants during the hikes. We also hike up at Vedauwoo, and the goal there is for students to identify on this ‘alien landscape hike’ signs of food and shelter.”
In 2020, the Windy Ridge Foundation made a $250,000 gift to support the Windy Ridge Foundation Astro Camp, which aims to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers while introducing the K-12 community to science programs offered through UW. The gift provided enough funding for five years of the camp, Dale says. This year’s camp marks the third year of funding by Windy Ridge.