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By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian
BY PAVAN VANGIPURAM, Californian staff writer email@example.com
Model rockets crossed paths in the skies above Cal State Bakersfield on Thursday afternoon as 200 middle-school students finished the NASA Summer of Innovation program at CSUB.
The program, which in Bakersfield is in its second year, seeks to make middle-school students interested in mathematics and science professions.
"There are endless problems to be solved," said Russ Billings, pre-college programs manager for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center through Aero Institute. "These kids will be the ones to work on those problems in a few years."
The Summer of Innovation program is an eight-day summer day camp with hands-on activities for students interested in exploring a scientific profession. Students were tasked with problem-solving activities, such as rescuing a mock astronaut (represented by a marshmallow), and they ended the program by building and launching their own model rockets.
"The response has been tremendous," said Trisha Fitzgerald, one of the program teachers. "The kids were completely engaged with some of these projects. You know, it's kind of hard to get kids at this age engaged in anything."
Fitzgerald said the students were especially excited about the opportunity to build things with their hands.
"A lot of hands-on stuff has been removed from regular classrooms," said Fitzgerald, who teaches high school. "In elementary school there's hardly any time for science at all."
Carmen Vargas, 13, said she was afraid her rocket wouldn't launch. When she saw it soar into the air, she said, she was filled with feelings of relief and accomplishment.
"I told my friends to get into the program," she said. "It's a lot of fun. They said they didn't want to because they didn't like science, but when they showed up, they had a blast."
Vargas said he wants to work for NASA when she grows up, though she isn't sure in what capacity.
Ashley Arellama, 13, said the program inspired her to have an interest in science.
"They made it all sound so interesting," she said. "It gave me the sense that I want to explore new things more now."
She said she would definitely recommend the program to her friends.