Students Will ‘Journey to Mars’ at UW’s Teton STEM Academy June 16-23

two people leaning over a lit work surface in a dark room
Campers at the 2023 Teton STEM Academy examine a cosmic ray detection chamber in a lab in the University of Wyoming’s Physical Sciences Building. This year’s camp is scheduled June 16-23 on UW’s campus. (Teton STEM Academy Camp Staff Photo)

Twenty-four students from across Wyoming will have an opportunity this summer to explore the interdisciplinary sciences as they relate to a mission to return to Mars during the Teton STEM Academy June 16-23 on the University of Wyoming campus.

Campers, who will be entering ninth, 10th and 11th grades this fall, will be 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 must submit written essays on why they want to attend the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp. Additionally, each student must have two teacher recommendations.

The application deadline is Thursday, April 18. First preference will be given to Wyoming residents. However, students from other states are encouraged to apply. For an application, go here.

The UW Teton STEM Academy is free to participants.  It is funded by a generous gift from the estate of Harry and Mary Ann Lawroski of Teton County, says Chip Kobulnicky, a professor in the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy and director of the Teton STEM Academy. On-campus housing and dining will be provided for attending students.

“Campers will explore the physical sciences, biological sciences, math and engineering as they plan a journey to Mars,” Kobulnicky says. “The camp will explore the scientific and technical challenges presented by such a human mission from activities based in physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, health sciences, engineering, mathematics, arts and communications.”  

The hands-on camp will allow students to design a Martian colony; choose landing sites on Mars; learn about digital communication; explore solar and hydrogen energy sources; take a field excursion in the Snowy Range; test for signs of life in soil samples; interpret geological features; and visit UW’s 2.3-meter Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Jelm Mountain near Laramie.

Kobulnicky’s hope is that campers will take away “a love of learning, new friendships with other students in their peer group, and a passion to pursue higher education at UW or another university.”

Professional astronomers; UW graduate students majoring in astronomy or education; and high school and junior high school teachers will lead the activities. Megan Candelaria, an assistant research scientist in the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy and associate director for the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, serves as the associate camp director.

For more information, email Kobulnicky at

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