Indiana Academy is hosting a NASA face-to-face virtual summer camp

Following the cancellation of most summer activities and camps in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year they are happening again as cases continue to drop and restrictions are lifted.

The Indiana Academy of Sciences, Mathematics and Humanities is organizing a face-to-face summer camp June 21-25 for fifth through ninth grade students. The camp is called “NASA Make it Happen: What It Will Take to Live on Mars” and also has a virtual option.

Julie Tuttle-Davis, director of foreign affairs at the Indiana Academy, oversees outreach programming for the academy’s summer camps, which she said took place about 30 years ago.

“We do different summer camps,” Tuttle-Davis said. “We haven’t done it before, but the Indiana Academy has done summer camps (I won’t say every summer, but almost every summer) from the beginning.”

This particular camp was created through a partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Tuttle-Davis said the academy partnered with the research center in 2019 to train the camp instructor.

NASA’s camp is the only summer camp the Indiana academy hosts this year, Tuttle-Davis said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some summers we have had [camps] every week of June and we will have camps for various grade levels, “he said.” We are happy to be able to do one this summer, considering everything that has happened. “

Michael Niemeier, assistant professor of mathematics at the Indiana Academy, is the instructor who runs the four-day camp. He completed a course through the Glenn Research Center to obtain field teaching certification.

“I had to complete a two-day workshop taught by NASA to sketch the project and follow the design process,” Niemeier said by email.

Niemeier said campers have been involved in various activities, such as visiting the Charles W. Brown Planetarium, using virtual reality to walk the surface of Mars, and designing and building a prototype to solve some of life’s problems on Mars.

For the students who practically attend the camp, the experience has not been much different.

“Virtual students will work with face-to-face students, from the comfort of their home,” Neimeier said before starting camp. “They will be able to interact with other virtual students as well as face-to-face students, as I will have a webcam with which I will walk around so everyone can see their projects and what they are working on.”

Tuttle-Davis said the camp is fully synchronous for online students, making the virtual experience more like face-to-face. He said campers could also sign up to receive a kit of materials to build their prototypes, but most of the materials are household items. Campers in person used household items provided by camp staff.

“There’s an option for you to come pick it up at the Indiana Academy, or you can email us,” Tuttle-Davis said. “Either way, we hope you get the same experience and the same kind of materials that you can build your prototype and share with the group in real time.”

Tuttle-Davis also said that due to Ball State’s COVID-19 guidelines, enrollment in the face-to-face camp was limited to 20 students. Sixteen students personally attended the camp and four attended virtually.

He said he is very excited to see the solutions students are proposing to live on Mars and is interested in seeing his creativity.

“[Living on Mars] it’s not out of the realm of possibility, since we’re in space exploration, “Tuttle-Davis said.” They may be part of building what it takes to live on Mars. “

Neimeier is also excited to see students ’creativity with their projects and their interactions with each other.

He said: “I also think this will be the most successful part of the field, as the highlight of any academic endeavor is being able to share your ideas and solutions.”

Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at or Twitter @mayawilkinss.

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