Charleston, WV – In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp) is again being hosted as an entirely virtual experience for one hundred thirty-two top science students from across the United States and twelve Western Hemisphere nations. Although delegates cannot gather in the mountains of West Virginia, the virtual camp has provided the opportunity to attend the world-class NYSCamp experience to significantly more delegates this year, including an unprecedented fifty international delegates from Argentina, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago. This one-time increase of international delegates was made possible by a generous contribution from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

On Monday June 28, 2021, the 59th delegation of the NYSCamp was welcomed to the 2021 virtual camp with special welcome messages from West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito followed by the Martha Wehrle Opening Lecture from Shiva Rajagopal, an Embedded Software Engineer at Google Fitbit. This event kicked off the world-class STEM lecture series and delegates’ 3.5 week journey into the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics exploration.

Rajagopal lead a discussion about computers, focusing on how they are becoming increasingly pervasive in our everyday lives, sometimes in ways that we cannot see. With this growth, technology is giving rise to new ethical dilemmas that affect everyone. These include who has access to technology and the internet, how we use computers and social media, and the impacts of technology use on our mental and physical health. Rajagopal’s lecture concluded with an invitation to think of ways to work towards a better technology world.

Over seventy presenters, including twenty camp staff members and prestigious and up-and-coming STEM professionals from across the nation, are slated to present at camp. In all, the camp program comprises more than three hundred twenty-five individual sessions, including lectures, seminars, directed studies, program areas, and special events. Delegates will also be able to host their own seminars during the closing days of camp.

During the first two weeks of camp, lectures included an exploration of the deep sea with Katie Inderbitzen, PhD; an assessment of NASA’s Columbia disaster with NASA’s former Chief Risk Offficer, David Lengyel, PhD; an exploration of leveraging STEM education in a business career with Scott Boyle, PhD, Vice President of Business and Corporate Development at Forma Therapeutics; discussions about scientific epistemologies with Kennan Salinero, PhD, Executive Director of Reimagine Science; a special Independence Day lecture about freedom and sacrifice from Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient; a discussion of CRISPR applications with Enrique Lin Shiao, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Doudna Lab at U.C. Berkeley; an examination of electrical grids from Eric Macbeth, a project director at Freeport LNG; an exploration of microbes with Kara Tinker, PhD, a Research Scientist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory; and an exploration of data, statistics, and big science with Alyson Wilson, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for National Security and Special Research Initiatives in the Offfice of Research and Innovation at North Carolina State University. 

Delegates also had the opportunity to participate in a virtual tour of the Green Bank Observatory, a virtual behind the scenes look at MC Escher’s art at the National Gallery of Art, and a virtual concert from folk musician and long-time camp presenter Peter Mulvey. During the weekends, delegates have been encouraged to disconnect from technology and spend time outdoors with family and friends.

Camp Director, Brian Kinghorn, PhD, said, “last year we had to transition to a virtual camp in only 10 weeks and pulled off a virtual camp experience with only a handful of remarkable volunteers. Although it was an amazing experience for the 2020 delegates, we wanted to make this year’s camp even better. We’ve spent a year planning the 2021 camp, including hiring 20 staff members to engage with delegates in sessions and cabin meetings, to make the 2021 virtual National Youth Science Camp the best possible experience for our  delegates.” The hard work has paid off. Feedback from delegates about the 2021 virtual NYSCamp has been very positive. 

Quotes from Delegates:

After the first week of camp, delegates received a survey requesting feedback about the camp. Below are some of the delegates’ responses. Feel free to use any of these quotes in your reporting on the NYSCamp:

I have never been to a proper science camp before, and even though this year [the] NYSCamp is in a virtual format, I have learned more from the presenters, staff, and fellow [delegates] than I have all during quarantine. There is so much diversity in the topics, and many times I think about topics I have never thought about or dived deep into. 

– Laboni Santra, Florida 

Coming to camp I thought it was going to be all lectures and minimal fun but quite the opposite is true. There ia a perfect balance that was created between work and play… I love the way that it is a holistic development and journey… [Camp is] a safe place where everyone can learn about one another free of the fear of judgment. 

– Marie Hernandez, Trinidad and Tobago

I loved my first week at camp! Everyone is so passionate about unique fields of STEM…[It] is so inspiring to watch… [learning] for the sake of learning… Topics aren’t boring and repetitive but are instead super interactive, innovative, and informative, [and] changing the way I think about science and pushing me outside my comfort zone as I truly reflect about current discussions in STEM. 

– Lina Chihoub, New Jersey

I never imagined a virtual camp in the first place, and although we’ve been really frustrated with the virtual things [this] past year, I think that the team at the NYSCamp has showed us that making an amazing, fun, and engaging virtual camp is indeed possible… [I’ve] really had fun so far, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I’m showing to my closest friends and family every night. 

– Leonardo Mendoza Mora, Mexico

This first week has been very motivating. I have been able to learn totally new topics, some outside my comfort zone, but that is the goal! Learning from new cultures and listening to different points of view is amazing. Barely a week has gone by and I don’t want it to end! 

–Giuliana Rivadeneira, Ecuador 

I am having a blast! The staff is amazing!… It is so much fun to meet other delegates and talk about topics in common. 

– Franco Chioato, Argentina

This has been one of the best weeks of my life. I love my cabin leaders, and I’ve already made new friends…I’m so grateful for [camp]. 

– Javiera Pinol, Chile

Additional Information about the NYSF and NYSCamp

The NYSCamp, which was first hosted by the State of West Virginia in 1963 as part of the state’s Centennial, is normally held at Camp Pocahontas in the Monongahela National Forest. Since the its inception, the NYSCamp has honored over 6,200 students, giving them the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Operation and financial support for this program was taken over by the National Youth Science Foundation (a 501(c) (3) organization) in 1983. The NYSCamp has been the Foundation’s well-established response to the documented need for improved science, math, and technology education among promising youth across the country.

The mission of the National Youth Science Foundation is to inspire lifelong engagement and ethical leadership in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) through its proven educational model for mentoring, challenging, and motivating students. By building communities among students, teachers, and professionals, NYSF programs bridge the gap between the traditional school curriculum and STEM careers.

Additional information about the 2021 virtual NYSCamp can be found at press.nyscamp.org

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Please reach out to Dr. Brian Kinghorn, Director of NYSCamp at director@nyscamp.org or 517-974-4996 with any questions. 

Photos available for distribution: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xddsxvwicjldg99/AAALK7Kopwr0n_HqZnofmERia?dl=0