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Summer camp that’s out of this world

Photo by Mike Mazzanti.

Written by Lauren Horn.

As part of a Northeastern University summer program, 11-year-old Ella Moyes donned a pair of safety goggles to design a multilayered “spacesuit” crafted from household materials.

“We had a lot of layers of foam but we did it in a pattern,” said Moyes, whose spacesuit fabric proved most durable. “Foam was between the other materials so we could make sure they were safe and had a lot of support.”

Moyes is among some four-dozen middle school students in Boston who are participating in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. 

The free, two-week program — run by Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education —gives students the chance to work alongside Northeastern faculty, staff and students on projects aimed at increasing their knowledge and experience in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Co-executive directors Claire Duggan, Richard Harris and Rachelle Reisberg coordinate the program.

On Monday, Bernard Harris — the program’s namesake and the first African American astronaut to walk in space — addressed the campers.

“We know you’re the smartest kids in your schools,” he said. “I think you guys have a lot to offer this world and I can’t wait to see it.”

Harris and the young campers toured Northeastern’s Amilcar Cabral Memorial Student Center, where an exhibit from the Institute of Black Invention and Technology was on display.

“Doctor Harris is inspiring,” said 13-year-old Julio Lanzo, who learned that an African American invented the electric lamp and the pencil sharpener. “He showed us that many African Americans paved the way for us.”

“I didn’t know an African American made the super soaker,” he said. “That’s cool.”

Eleven-year-old camper Meghan Turner praised the program’s educational activities and her peers.

“The best part of camp was learning about everything in space and how it affects you,” said Turner, whose career goal is to become an engineer. “I’m really happy because usually in camp people don’t know that much, but these campers know a lot more than regular kids. We motivate each other.”