D.C. Trip

Washington, District of Columbia – June 27th – Over 100 top students from across the United States and eight other countries, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) participating in the prestigious National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp), recently explored our nation’s capitol. Between a Policy Forum at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with AAAS Fellows, a luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room with US Senators and guests, tours of national memorials, behind-the-scenes exploration of our national museums, delegates were busy learning more about STEM and policy in our nation’s capitol.

Many delegates enjoyed the reflective solitude that the national museums afforded them. “After being around so many people for so long, it was nice to have some reflective time to myself,” said Rachel Gasser of Minnesota.

Aside from hearing from Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Mr. Wes Bush, the chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Northrop Grumman Corporation, was the keynote speaker at the senate luncheon. Bush, a 1979 alumnus of the NYSCamp from West Virginia, shared his experiences in college, his early career, and his excitement about the future of science and how the delegates are going to usher in a new era of research and innovation. In addition, Senator John McCain (Arizona) addressed the students, acknowledging their achievements and encouraging them to continue their path of excellence.

“I congratulate you on being here,” said Senator John McCain, “I hope that you will continue your efforts because we need you more than ever in this ever-changing world.”

“The senate luncheon cemented for me the idea that we’re all in this together, here for each other and for science,” said Stevie Schauer of Kentucky, “It was reassuring to listen to such impressive and powerful people and hear them say that we’d be in their positions some day, making important decisions and leading scientific progress.”

This trip gave the young leaders in STEM an in-depth perspective on how science policy is developed for the United States, as well as, a history of science innovation in our country. The presenters have inspired the students to go further in their STEM fields of achievement, thus creating a new hope for our nation and our future.

Back to Directed Studies After First Overnighter

June 21st – After the first overnighter it was back to business (or rather science) as usual. Delegates woke at 7am to the Rhododendron Song. They attended lectures, seminars, and directed studies with meals cooked in between by our illustrious chef Susie. This day also included some casual ultimate frisbee to warm-up for an upcoming tournament.

The morning lecture was given by Dr. Chuck Clevenger, professor and chair at Virginia Commonwealth University. He spoke about combating cancer with a deeper understanding of oncogenic processes at the genetic and cellular levels. With enhanced models of these processes cancer biologists can identify the “Achilles heel” of each cancer type and develop new therapeutic targets or even repurpose old drugs.

In preparation for the ultimate frisbee tournament, delegates played a game of disk after dinner on the lower field. They grouped into various teams like the Polypropylene Pros and the Stos Mens.

Seminars and directed studies Wednesday ranged from robotics to bacterial nanotechnology to computer music and even self defense. Dr. David Hackleman (pictured above), led a seminar on amateur radio. He also gave the evening lecture on Inventing; Dr. Hackleman was part of the team that invented the Thermal Ink-Jet printer and hopes to help delegates realize their own capabilities.

Greenbank OCE

July 26th – Delegates of the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC) began preparations for their trip to our nation’s capitol this morning. In Washington DC, students will participate in a wide variety of events ranging from tours of national museums to a luncheon with senators in the Kennedy Caucus room.

In addition, many delegates were excited to participate or spectate another slew of exciting ultimate Frisbee games. After lunch, campers boarded busses and headed out to the Green Bank Observatory to take a tour of the facilities, including the world’s largest fully steerable telescope.

The morning lecture, presented by Dr. Ricardo Valerdi, was on the science of baseball, with topics ranging from the physics of ball trajectory to the statistical analysis that teams go through to rank and select players. After dinner, Mr. Jim Kirksey presented a lecture on carbon capture and sequestration, which is a process to reduce carbon dioxide in the air by capturing it and storing it underground. Kirksey talked about the benefits and drawbacks of the process, as well as the roadblocks we face in our fight against climate change.

Many delegates are excited to spend the next few days in Washington DC, which will be a sharp change of scenery from the mountainous beauty of West Virginia. The out of camp experience (OCE) will introduce them to new challenges and help them grow and connect at a deeper level.

Second Overnighter

June 24th & June 25th – Delegates geared up for their second overnight camping adventure, and half of the delegation had the privilege of experiencing the adrenaline rush of whitewater kayaking. Those who attended different overnighters still got incredible exposure to West Virginia’s rugged beauty, whether it be the roaring water fall at the campsite of the High Falls hike, or the lush lookouts on top of the via ferrata-style mountain climbing, all the way down to the quiet and contemplative caverns and tunnels of the caving program.

“I was excited to give kayaking a try; this was my first time,” said Kevin Zhao, a Connecticut delegate, “I wanted to try new things, and I knew it would be a lot of fun. I wasn’t wrong.”

The overnighters allow delegates to not only explore the wilderness, but to also find deeper connections with their fellow students and with themselves. Within the hectic intensity of day-to-day activities at Camp Pocahontas, it’s often hard to find time to reflect and decompress. The outdoor adventures, while physically demanding, are the perfect place to mentally relax and refocus in preparation for the next few days back at camp.


Final day of second directed study block

June 23rd – Friday was the final day of a three day set of directed studies. Seminars this day included karaoke, preparing for college, leadership, and a nature walk.

Each day begins with circling up on the green at 8:15 for a morning radio show. Flag raising, after the morning show, was conducted by delegates from Trinidad and Tobago, Ricardo, Saif, and Cheziah to the national anthem of Trinidad.

Brian, whose birthday was today, taught fellow delegates a fun form of multiplayer chess in the Rec Hall during afternoon free time.

Nick Ohi’s directed study on Robotics finished today. Delegates competed to remote control their robots to pick up rubber balls. The robot with the most balls placed in a target goal won.

During afternoon free time some delegates enjoy playing soccer on the green. Many come from competitive high school teams and intend to continue through college.

The day ended with a lecture on gravitational waves by Dr. Maria and Dr. Tim Hamilton. Pictured above is a miniature interferometer. Tim demonstrates how it splits a laser, bounces the split beams off two equally spaced mirrors, then recombines them to show interference if there are any waves that would cause the mirrors to wobble. He asked one delegate in the back of the room to stomp the ground and we saw the interferometer detect the vibration, just like how full scale interferometers have detected real gravitational waves in the past year.

Next Day of the Second Directed Study Block

June 22nd Delegates entered their second day of the second directed study block, enjoying more seminars, lectures, and the rugged beauty of Camp Pocahontas. In the morning, campers heard from Dr. Mac Louthan on “Why Things Fall Apart”, both in engineering situations and in life. His sharp humor put delegates in a good mood as they made their way to their directed study blocks.

“Math is ubiquitous,” said Idaho delegate Henry Zhang of the ‘Combinatorial Games’ directed study, “Even in simple games, there are strategies to see into the future or write the game in your favor.”

Seminars ranged from learning Spanish and Japanese to improvisation games to making duct tape wallets, and they helped the students unwind after an intense morning. Additionally, the second game of the ultimate Frisbee tournament saw team Rutabaga face off against team All Hail Jordan Perry.

The evening lecture featured a glimpse into the process of inventing with Dr. David Hackleman. This lecture comfortably rounded out the day with humor and solid advice, as well as interesting bits of insider knowledge about different inventions throughout the year.

NYSC Center Overnight

June 19th & 20th – All NYSC delegates had the opportunity to spend a night outside camp via activities such as backpacking, biking, climbing, and caving. Activities were structured such that delegates led themselves with occasional guidance from staph; they followed maps with only a compass, prepared meals, and explored their surroundings.

One group of delegates spent the night at the new NYSC Center which will eventually be the new location of NYSC. Behind the center runs the Blackwater River. Delegates conducted a water quality test, strained the water looking for life, and studied the anatomy of crawdads.

Link: Arduino Music Video

Inside the center delegates operated a Mojo 3D Printer to create plastic frogs for one another. They also engineered creative projects with Arduinos. One group played Smash Mouth over an Arduino speaker and had the pitches of the music correspond with a row of LEDs (see video link above).

On the return trip, the group stopped at WV’s gorgeous Blackwater Falls to see the 62ft waterfall with rainbows reflected in its mist. Delegates from all trips returned safely to Camp Pocahontas just in time for dinner and an evening lecture on cyber security by Ms. Diane Miller.

Preparing for First Overnight Expedition

June 18th– The third full day at Camp Pocahontas saw delegates finish up their first directed study block. With their first major camp event behind them, delegates will begin preparing for their first overnight expedition, whether it is hiking, climbing, caving, or biking. Many here are looking forward to getting more in touch with nature.

“I’m excited about the scenery for sure, and I like exercise a lot,” said Jack Arnes, a delegate from Nebraska, “The quiet will be nice too; being out in nature gives you a long time to think.”

Additionally, Ultimate Frisbee teams have started to form and many delegates are excited to test their strength, speed, and skill in glorious competition. Ultimate Frisbee is the de facto camp sport, and a large number of the students have been practicing a variety of throws both for the competition and for their own enjoyment.

Lectures today were presented by Dr. Karla-Luise Herpoldt and Dr. Alyson Wilson. Dr. Herpoldt gave the delegates sage advice for their college and post college lives while discussing her own undergraduate and graduate experience as well as her innovative research in vaccines.

Second Full Day at Camp Pocohantas

June 17thDelegates entered their second day in West Virginia’s Camp Pocahontas. Directed studies delved deeper into their subject areas, and many students began hands-on experiments after being introduced to their areas of study yesterday.

A variety of seminars ranging from Latin dancing to logic problems and crayon melting helped delegates unwind or work their brain in creative and new ways.

“Acquiring different skills and knowledge gives the students access to new perspectives and the tools to analyze and understand them,” said Lenin Silva Gutierrez, the Logistics and Operations Assistant, “After exhaustive reflection, the student is capable of developing valuable perspective, reflection, and communication skills.”

In addition, delegates attended a lecture about how the human body reacts to the microgravity of the space station from Dr. Julie Robinson, the Chief Scientist of the International Space Station, as well as a lecture about innovative ways to heal spinal fractures using balloons from Dr. Sheila Stevens.

Many delegates took their late night snack to one of the lower fields, where they laughed and swapped stories as lights from the fireflies danced above them.

First Day in Camp

The first day in camp delegates were busy having fun and learning. Throughout the morning and afternoon there were sports, music, lectures, seminars, and directed studies conducted by guest speakers and staph. Topics ranged from solar to disk golf to tiny house design to music composition and even architecting tabletop RPGs.

The first lecture at Camp Pocahontas was given by Shiva Rajagopal, a Lord of the Rings fan and firmware developer at Fitbit. His lecture, titled “Things on the Internet,” covered the evolution of the internet-of-things (IOT). Many of our devices are small & portable and transmitting data via wifi and bluetooth to a cloud of servers. Shiva had an interactive demonstration of encrypting this data stream with many lord of the rings references.

Dr. Katie Inderbitzen held a directed study on scientific drilling of the ocean floor to study Earth’s ancient history. Delegates made observations of seafloor samples to infer a sequence of dramatic events in the past.

Underwater basket weaving was hosted in the art shack by Ms Karla-Louis Herpoldt and Katie Howell. After crafting the baskets delegates had the option to paint them as well.