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Former astronaut tells students to reach for the stars

July 16, 2009

As we celebrate the 40 anniversary of Apollo 11 and man’s first walk on the moon, another former astronaut is trying to inspire middle school students in the same way the Apollo 11 astronauts inspired him.

Former astronaut Bernard Harris speaks to the campers about his experiences in space

Former astronaut Bernard Harris speaks to the campers about his experiences in space

Bernard Harris, a veteran of two NASA Space Shuttle missions and the first African-American to walk in space, spoke to a group of 50 Delaware Valley middle school students at Temple’s Ambler campus yesterday.  They are attending the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, which is being hosted by Temple’s College of Science and Technology.

“I remember when I was 13 years old seeing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon,” Harris told the 5-, 6- and 7th graders. “When I saw that, I said ‘I want to be an astronaut’ and I never looked back.”

Harris explained to the campers what it is like to be in space and what is required to become an astronaut.  His message emphasized education and having goals, then working hard to achieve them.  “I want you to finish middle school, finish high school and begin preparing for college.  Eastablish goals and find mentors that can help you along the way.  You can do anything you want to do, it’s up to you.”

Harris works with some of the campers to build a raft out of aluminum foil and plastic straws to test Archilles' principle of buoyancy

Harris works with some of the campers to build a raft out of aluminum foil and plastic straws to test Archilles' principle of buoyancy

Harris started the summer science camps in 1994. In 1998, he created the Bernard Harris Foundation and has partnered with ExxonMobil to sponsor the summer science camps for the past four years. Designed to enhance middle school students’ knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the camps are being held at 30 college and university campuses throughout the United States. Activities included classroom study, experiments, individual and group projects, weekly field excursions and motivational guest speakers.

Before leaving, Harris advised the campers to “go back to your school and brag about this experience you had.”

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