2020 Virtual NYSCamp

Out of an abundance of caution in response to the COVID-19 national health emergency, the National Youth Science Foundation canceled the in-residence portion of the 2020 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp). Held in West Virginia since 1963, this is only the second time that the annual program has not been held in the Mountain State.

Design by Annie Griffith

One-hundred eight delegates representing the United States, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago will, however, have the opportunity to connect from home for an exclusive virtual program. The 2020 Virtual NYSCamp features a lecture series, directed studies, breakout seminars, special events, and a panel discussion with STEM policy experts.

Brian Kinghorn, PhD, Director of the National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp) welcomes delegates to the 2020 Virtual NYSCamp during the orientation lecture on June 1, 2020.

NYSCamp Director, Dr. Brian Kinghorn, noted that, “these NYSCamp delegates are some of the best and brightest STEM students from across the nation and deserve to be recognized for their potential for leadership and achievements. The virtual camp will provide them with opportunities to interact with STEM experts, build lasting friendships, and get a jump start on changing the world for good.”

On June 2, 2020, Julie Robinson, PhD, of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission, talks with delegates about how NASA is planning for human missions to Mars.

Speakers are selected from among prestigious and up-and-coming STEM professionals who are making a difference in their fields of study and changing the world for good. Dr. Julie Robinson, the former Chief Scientist of the International Space Station, presented the opening lecture on Tuesday and explored the realities of human space exploration. Topics range from exploring and understanding the vastness of space to the microcosms of potential COVID-19 treatments. Delegates will explore the wonders of mathematics, the powerful potential of technology for education, adventures of paleontology, cutting edge neuroscience research, and the varied possibilities of shaping STEM policy.

David Trowbridge, PhD, creator of the Clio app, and Brian Kinghorn, PhD, NYSCamp Director, (both professors at Marshall University) lead a question and answer session after Dr. Trowbridge’s lecture about the Clio App on June 4, 2020.

NYSF Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Blackwood said, “While it is disappointing that the delegates to the 2020 NYSCamp won’t immediately be able to visit our beautiful state, I am very pleased that we have been able to pivot from our traditional residential program to this very impressive virtual program so quickly.”

Introductions by NYSCamp Director Brian Kinghorn, PhD, volunteer staph Emily Gentles, and California delegate Alaina Joby before Ernie Ting’s lecture on social connection in our virtual lives. Mr. Ting, the founder and CEO of CivImpact labs, unveiled a new social media platform (qXtro) that the 2020 delegates are beta testing during camp.

The delegates will also have opportunities to interact and connect with one another and to join in interactive question and answer sessions with our presenters. Even though they can’t gather in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, the 2020 Virtual National Youth Science Camp will be an engaging, exciting, and unforgettable experience!

Delegate Yearbook

Photos and information about this year’s delegates can be found here:


The centerpiece and highlight of this year’s Virtual NYSCamp is the nightly lecture series. Each weeknight during the three weeks of camp delegates can tune in at 8 PM for a world-class lecture by an expert in a STEM field. Recognizing the challenges of tuning in from home during a pandemic, we will also be recording the lectures for later viewing by delegates.

Directed Studies

Directed studies provide opportunities to delve deeper into a topic with an expert. They are designed as mini courses (whether it is creating an online Clio entry, using online modeling tools, working with a team to think and plan ways to communicate science, etc.). One of the keystones of directed studies is small facilitator to delegate ratio (maximum 15), which allows for deeper learning, discussions, conversations, and mentorship. Within the first 24 hours of camp, 2020 delegates had the opportunity to sign up for two directed studies on a first come first served basis.

Breakout Seminars

Breakout seminars, limited to 20 delegates, are designed to be an interactive experience where you can have discussions about a topic (STEM related or not) with someone who is passionate about the topic. Seminars are sometimes presented by experts, but the only real requirement is that the presenter be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the topic. Many of our presenters kindly agreed to run their seminars multiple times (on different days and times) to accommodate most delegates who wanted to participate. 

Mona Abdelrahman
(ND 2017)
America’s Next Top (Machine Learning) Model: Learn the basics behind machine learning.
Joseph Tibbs
(IA 2016)
Science of Sound Waves
Patrick Robichaud 
(ID 2016)
Climate Change Discussion
Brian Thornber 
(RI 2017)
Product Design: Making Cool Stuph
Art StormerA Science Song Sing-Along
Chelsea Maher 
(AL 2010)
Fauxligraphy: An Introduction to Calligraphy
Kim Phillip (WI 2014)Codename: Delegates Next Door
Kai Cui 
(CO 2016)
Monica Mah
(CO 2016)
Houston, we have a problem … AND we need YOU to solve it!
A taste of mission control from NASA interns
Juanca Badilla Rojas
(Costa Rica 2014)
Spanish 101 
Tate Greene
(KY 2016)
What You Wished You Learned in Health Class: Taking Care of Minor Ailments in College
Liv Gotte 
(LA 2018)
The Built Environment and its Role in Health Outcomes in a Population
Juanca Badilla Rojas
(Costa Rica 2014)
A Brief Talk about Tapirs and Conservation through Education 
Kara Christensen, Ph.D. 
(SC 2007)
Sleep from A to Zzz
Brian Thornber 
(RI 2017)
Hackathons: Ivy League Competitions for Everyone
Juanca Badilla Rojas
(Costa Rica 2014)
Let’s Try to Learn Some Python and Data Analysis in an hour (or more!)
Toby Arment
(WY 2019)
Society Shapes Science and Science Shapes Society
Chelsea Maher
(AL 2010)
Beginning Calligraphy: Brush Lettering for Beginners
Sidney Taylor
(NV 2019)
Everett RirieIntro to Astrophysics
Victoria Rose
(WV 2019)
Avalon, But Make It Virtual
Shantanu Kadam
(AL 2018)
Creating Happiness
Chelsea Maher 
(AL 2010)
Leveraging your STEM knowledge in a non-STEM career: A look at Commercial Real Estate

Cabin Meetings

Each night at camp, the delegates in each cabin gather together with their Cabin Leader to engage in a reflective experience or discussion. Cabin Leaders select a variety of topics to help facilitate these discussions and reflective experiences. Some camp staph (intentional misspelling to connote the infectious enthusiasm of our staff) have kindly volunteered to host some virtual cabin meetings at the 2020 Virtual NYSCamp.

Kylie Conover (NV 2009)Opening Cabin Meeting
Kylie Conover (NV 2009)REPEAT: Opening Cabin Meeting
Liv Gotte (LA 2018)Imposter Syndrome
Liv Gotte (LA 2018)Building Connections in College
Kim Phillip (WI 2014)Change
Kylie Conover (NV 2009)Embracing Challenges
Patrick Robichaud (ID 2016)What does Science Mean to You?
Liv Gotte 
(LA 2018)
Trailblazing (First generation college students, immigrants, POC, etc.)
Jessica Frey, MD (PA 2008)Dealing with Struggles
Toby Arment
(WY 2019)
Tate Greene (KY 2016)Self Confidence—How is it formed? How does it evolve? How do we know if we have the right amount?
Kylie Conover (NV 2009)Finding Joy
Emily Gentles
(AR 2015)
Learning from Failure
Patrick Robichaud (ID 2016)Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking In
Tate Greene
(KY 2016)

Laura Dill’s Porch

As part of the 2020 Virtual National Youth Science Camp the 2020 Delegates have been beta testing a new social media platform designed by Ernie Ting (NJ 1972) and his team at CivImpact Labs. The application, called qXtro, is designed to create a space for small group conversations at a virtual conference that mirror what might happen around a lunch table, talking in the hall between sessions, or gathering to get coffee at a physical conference. We’ve called our lobby Laura Dill’s Porch (referring to the porch at the dining hall at Camp Pocahontas) because we’re trying to provide a space for some of the informal conversations that might have happened with delegates, staph, and presenters on the porch at camp or around the breakfast, lunch, or dinner tables.

As the first beta testers of the application, we’ve also been providing Ernie and his team feedback on the glitches in the program along with suggestions for improvement. It has been wonderful to both provide a space for informal conversations and allow the delegates to be part of the testing/design process for this platform that CivImpact Labs will be marketing to big conferences who will be meeting virtually instead of in real life.