For 3 weeks in July, Brockton High School’s recent graduates Mary Pyrdol and Francesca DiMare were in the middle of West Virginia with no Wi-Fi or contact with the rest of the world – all thanks to the National Youth Science Camp.
Francesca and Mary were lucky winners of an award at MSSEF, which gave them a three week trip to the National Youth Science Camp along with two other winners from each state, and even some other students from across the world. All participants were recent high school graduates, and went on this trip to learn more about nature, science, and meet their peers who shared the same passion for STEM.
While both Mary and Francesca said they weren’t the most experienced outdoor campers, they were successful researchers. Francesca began her research for her project, “Using DNA Barcoding to Determine the Forging Pattern of Native Dating,” at a local community college after discovering a passion for environmental science and a previous project on water quality. Scientists at the college offered support for her new project where she analyzed pollen on native bees to see what plants they were on and where. Outside of the lab, Francesca was an active member of the marching band where she played the flute, the science olympiad team, and was additionally busy running her own candle business. Mary began research during her freshman year, after a school field trip where students looked at local water samples and the organisms that lived in highly polluted waters. This continued to spark her interest and eventually lead to her senior year project, “Using Natural Minerals to Combat Ocean Acidification.” Outside of research, Mary is a talented musician, playing five different instruments, as well as a painter.
The students were not given much information about the trip – just what to pack, and that they would be in a radio dead zone for three weeks. They expected some typical camping activities, including kayaking and climbing, but were otherwise unsure of what was in store for them.
Both Mary and Francesca admitted they did not have a lot of experience with outdoor living. However, after returning from their trip, both students seem much more confident about their abilities. The students at the camp never failed to be surprised with a range of different activities, both educational and fun. Through an intense 14 mile hike and sleeping in a cave all night, students were able to form friendships across state and international lines. The trip ended with a three day exploration of Washington D.C. and visiting some popular monuments.
Besides the wonderful activities available, it is clear that the true highlight of the trip was meeting other students with the same passion from different backgrounds. Francesca now has friends from all states, and Mary is still keeping in touch with a student from Argentina!
Before they head off to college, both students hope to go back to West Virginia to continue their outdoor adventures by going climbing again and showing their friends and family the beautiful mountains. Francesca will be traveling the rest of the summer before she heads off to Princeton in the fall. Mary will also be traveling with family until she moves in to her dorm at Brandeis later this month.
The trip to the National Youth Science Camp is an amazing opportunity for science fair students, and we are happy Mary and Francesca enjoyed this well-deserved trip. MSEF would like to congratulate the two on their hard work and all of their success to come!
If you have a chance to select an “experiential award” as a science fair prize…you should do so, or miss out on an exciting opportunity such as this one.
Blog piece written by: Paige Vincent