Educator Features

Science in the Summer
Bernard Harris in an orange spacesuit
As a member of two space shuttle crews in the 1990s, Bernard Harris played an important role in making those NASA missions a success.

Image to right: Selected as an astronaut in 1990, Harris made two spaceflights, including a visit to the Russian Mir space station. Credit: NASA

Now, Harris has a mission of his own, and NASA is helping him make it a success.

The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is an academic project of The Harris Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the former astronaut. Along with ExxonMobil, NASA is a major sponsor of the Summer Science Camp.

Among the ways NASA supports the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is through the agency's Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy, which engages K-12 students in exciting, hands-on activities that encompass the research and technology of NASA's missions. SEMAA and its involvement with the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp support NASA's goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The summer of 2007 marked the second year for the Summer Science Camp project. Twenty free camps for students (beginning grades six through eight) were held at colleges and universities across the nation. During the two-week camps, students took part in hands-on projects designed to inspire interest in technical disciplines.

Harris, in a white spacesuit, stands at the end of the shuttle's robotic arm with another astronaut
The NASA SEMAA project and the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps share common goals and objectives, according to Jo Ann Charleston, chief of the Education Programs Office at the NASA Glenn Research Center. "Both are focused on inspiring and engaging underserved and underrepresented students in STEM," Charleston said.

Image to left: On the STS-63 space shuttle mission in 1995, Harris became the first African-American to conduct a spacewalk. Credit: NASA

After the first year of the Summer Science Camp, representatives of the Bernard Harris Foundation contacted SEMAA to discuss a possible collaboration. At the time, SEMAA was facilitating a Mars robotics outreach project for middle school students in North Carolina, and shared information about the project with Summer Science Camp representatives. Inspired by the SEMAA effort, four Summer Science Camp sites incorporated the Mars robotics project into their camp activities. SEMAA officials trained the science camp workers on the projects.

In addition to student project support, NASA SEMAA contractor Paragon TEC, Inc., developed an online information management system for the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, based on the NASA SEMAA Information Management System. Paragon employees provided training on the system for Harris Foundation officials.

Related Resources
+ Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp

+ NASA Glenn Research Center Education

+ SEMAA Homepage

+ NASA Education Web Site

+ Get a Head Start on a NASA Career
Selected as an astronaut in 1990, Harris was the first African-American to conduct a spacewalk. Before his selection, Harris was a flight surgeon and a medical research scientist. His first spaceflight was in 1991 on the STS-55 space shuttle mission, a Spacelab flight on which he conducted physical and life sciences research. His second flight, STS-63 in 1995, was the first flight of a new Russian-American cooperative spaceflight endeavor, and included an approach and fly-around of the Russian Mir space station. Harris resigned from NASA in 1996 to enter private industry.

In 1998, he established The Harris Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes education-, health- or wealth-focused community-based initiatives. In particular, the foundation supports projects aimed at assisting minorities and other economically and socially disadvantaged groups. The Summer Science Camp is one of the foundation's two major education initiatives, along with Dare to Dream, which works to introduce positive role models to elementary school students.

The SEMAA project is a national project designed to increase the participation and retention of historically underserved and underrepresented K-12 youth in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The project is managed by the Educational Programs Office at NASA's Glenn Research Center and operates in 14 locations throughout 11 states and the District of Columbia.

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services