Math, science focus of two-week residential summer camp at WUSTL for St. Louis-area middle schoolers

Former astronaut Harris visits free science camp he founded to encourage next generation of creative inventors 

  • Sponsored by ExxonMobil, two-week camp is free to underserved middle schoolers
  • Bernard Harris, camp founder and first African-American to walk in space, works side-by-side with campers June 30
  • St. Louis-area middle schoolers exposed to exciting career possibilities in math and science

Washington University in St. Louis hosted its fourth ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp June 20-July 2 for 44 middle school students from St. Louis City, County and Metro East schools.

The free two-week residential camp offers innovative programs to enhance middle school students’ science and math knowledge. It incorporates group work and communication skills with science, technology, engineering and math projects.

As a highlight, former NASA astronaut and camp namesake Bernard A. Harris Jr., MD, visited the campers from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, June 30, in Holmes Lounge, Ridgley Hall. Harris, the first African-American to walk in space while payload commander on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1995, shared his path to becoming a surgeon and an astronaut. He also worked side-by-side with the campers to complete an engineering challenge.


This is the fifth year that Harris, who founded the Summer Science Camp in 1994, has partnered with ExxonMobil to provide these camps on university campuses to inspire young students as well as educate them on career possibilities in math and science. The camps are being held on 30 campuses throughout the country this summer.

This year’s campers represent the districts of St. Louis Public, Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Jennings, Kirkwood, Ladue, Pattonville, Riverview Gardens, Rockwood, University City and Webster Groves; and the Metro East districts of Alton, Belleville, Cahokia and East St. Louis.

Students from the charter schools Imagine Academy of Careers, KIPP Inspire Academy, Lift for Life Academy and St. Louis Charter attended, along with students from Community School and Tower Grove Christian, both private.

Washington University’s Science Outreach program, which provides math and science resources to K-12 students and educators, received an $80,000 grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation and The Harris Foundation to support the camp.

The camp is offered to middle school students from traditionally underrepresented populations who are academically qualified, recommended by their teachers and genuinely interested in math and science. Unlike most summer camps, there is no fee required to attend the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

The residential camp gives students a first-hand experience with experiments, role models and innovative programs to encourage their continued participation in math and science courses in school.

Additionally, their leadership potential and citizenship skills are fostered along with their abilities to work in teams and think creatively, while spending two weeks on a college campus. The ultimate goal is to raise students’ awareness of career possibilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Washington University is excited to be part of this wonderful camp experience for our local students,” says Mary C. Mohr, camp director and WUSTL Science Outreach program coordinator. “We’re not only providing these students with an amazing two weeks on our campus, but we are also doing our part to develop the next generation of creative thinkers and inventors.”

Campers stay in residence halls on the South 40 and attend daily classes in natural science, engineering, mathematics and technology taught by graduate students from Washington University and faculty from area school districts. Activities include classroom study, experiments, individual/team/group projects, weekly field excursions and guest speakers who motivate the students into fulfilling their dreams.

About ExxonMobil Foundation

ExxonMobil Foundation is the primary philanthropic arm of ExxonMobil Corp. in the United States. The foundation and the Corporation engage in a range of philanthropic activities that advance education, health and science in the communities where ExxonMobil has significant operations. In the United States, ExxonMobil supports initiatives to improve math and science education at the K-12 and higher education levels. Globally, ExxonMobil provides funding to improve basic education, promote women as catalysts for development, and combat malaria and other infectious diseases in developing countries. Additional information on ExxonMobil’s community partnerships and contributions programs is available at

About The Harris Foundation

Founded in 1998, The Harris Foundation is a 501 (c) (3), nonprofit organization based in Houston, Texas, whose overall mission is to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. The foundation supports programs that empower individuals, in particular minorities and economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams. The Education Mission of the Harris Foundation is to enable youth to develop and achieve their full potential through the support of social, recreational and educational programs. The Harris Foundation believes that students can be prepared now for the careers of the future through a structured education program and the use of positive role models. To date, more than 10,000 K-12 students have participated and benefited from THF programs.

About Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis is a leader in teaching and research worldwide, and is highly regarded for its commitment to excellence. The university draws students and faculty from all 50 states and more than 125 nations. Approximately 13,500 students are enrolled in more than 90 programs leading to bachelor’s, master’s, professional and doctoral degrees. Its Science Outreach program enhances learning for K-12 students and educators through graduate courses, school partnerships and enrichment programs like the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp.

Assignment desk note: Harris will be available for interviews from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. June 30 at Washington University. B-roll video is available that includes footage of Harris in space; comments from an interview with Harris; footage of a previous camp at WUSTL; and comments from Mary Mohr, WUSTL’s camp director.