Students in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Lamar University concluded week one of the two-week residential camp Friday by competing in a “Raft Rally” to put their engineering know-how to the  test.

The camp, which is in its second year at Lamar University, introduces engineering, math and science concepts to middle-school students. The camp has interactive learning opportunities show students that math and science can be entertaining and enticing and can lead to rewarding opportunities in the future.

During Friday’s “Raft Rally” in the John Gray Center on campus, students in groups of three or four were challenged to create rafts that would float on water while holding the highest numbers of pennies possible. Each group received two “20-centimeter squares of aluminum foil and four plastic  straws. They had five minutes to plan and 10 minutes to build the rafts.

 Students estimated how many pennies their rafts would hold before sinking. Then, they tested the rafts by placing them in tubs of water and adding pennies one at a time until the rafts took on water.

The winning design stayed afloat until the 194th penny was added.

The winning team was Jaylon Godfrey, an incoming eighth-grader at Smith Middle School in Beaumont; Areal Hawthorne, an incoming eighth-grader at Odom Middle School in Beaumont; and Raven Morgan, an incoming seventh-grader at Odom.

“We estimated our raft would hold 150 pennies, but after 100 I thought it was going to sink,” said Jaylon, who came up with the design. “I just really wanted to build one that would win and we did.”

The team used all the supplies they were given and braced the outside of the raft with the straws.

“We made sure we sealed it really good so there were no holes in the raft,”Raven said.

“I really wanted to use my design but after thinking about it I decided to trust Jaylon’s idea. It seemed logical,” Areal said.
The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps are offered free of charge to middle-school students who are academically qualified, recommended by their teachers and genuinely interested in math and science.

Applicants are required to submit a “50-word essay explaining why they would like to attend. Each camp has at least 48 students entering grades six, seven and eight, half of them male and half female.

The program started at the University of Houston in 1999 through the work of former NASA Astronaut Bernard Harris, who was the first African-American to walk in space, and National Camp Director Barbara Foots. The residential camps will reach 1,200 students at “5 college campuses across the country this year, an increase from 900 students at “0 camps last year.

Lamar University was selected as a camp host because of its long-standing commitment to math and science education and its efforts to support and promote local community youth in these disciplines. “I am also very partial to this area because I am from Sour Lake,” Foots said. She met Harris while she was science director for the Houston Independent School District and worked with him on the design of the camp.

For more information on the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps, visit