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2013 Annual Science Report

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

EPO Activity: Bernard Harris ExxonMobil Summer Science Camp

Project Progress

The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (EMBHSSC) was held from June 24 to July 5, 2013, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This is the sixth consecutive year that RPI has been chosen as one of 25 host institutions in the United States for the EMBHSSC, and the fifth consecutive year that it has focused on Astrobiology. The EMBHSSC is a free academic program for students, made possible by The Harris Foundation and ExxonMobil; its goal is to take a proactive role in shaping the science education of students entering grade 6,7, or 8. The program is named after Bernard A. Harris, MD, an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and entrepreneur; Dr. Harris, the first African American to walk in space, plays an active role in the Summer Science Camp program and other programs for underserved youths.

A total of 48 middle school students from underserved communities and with proven interest in mathematics and science took part in the two-week session. The theme of the camp was “The Quest for Life.” The challenge for the participating students was to propose a mission to land a rover on Mars. The landing site, Nili Fossae, posed significant challenges because of its rough terrain. The winning team proposed to land the rover at a relatively smooth site and employ a “Mars helicopter” to scout out interesting sites to sample and safe routes for the rover to reach them. A nationally broadcast interview with the winning team can be found at