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Released July 15, 2005


Hattiesburg- Building a better mousetrap is hard enough. But building a better mousetrap car?

Casey Boss tried to do just that recently as part of The University of Southern Mississippi's Summer Science Camp 2005. With a determined look on her face, the 15- year-old from Gulfport sawed pieces of wood for a rodent-clamping hotrod that her team hopes can crush the competition at a race scheduled for Friday.

The showdown to see which group's car will travel the fastest and the farthest is one of the many hands-on activities planned for the 93 participants at the summer camp.

Led by faculty members of Southern Miss' College of Science and Technology, the group of Mississippi fourth- through 10th-graders are getting a crash course in physics, biology, chemistry, forensics, polymer science, ecology, microbiology, math, geology and astronomy.

"It's been fun because we don't usually get to do this in regular school," said Boss, who attends Harrison Central.

"We have learned about recycling and what different types of plastic to burn and what to not burn because different fumes could be harmful to the environment. We also went to a pond and scooped up pond water then went to the microscope and put them on slides where we got a chance to see the different bacteria."

Boss has also learned how to make slime and nylon, collect and process water samples from area water supplies, and has gotten an opportunity to canoe during a field trip to Brooklyn's Black Creek.

Registration costs to attend the camp included: a $150 fee for children entering grades four through six, $399 for those in grades seven through 10, and a nonrefundable fee of $25 per registration form. The cost for the older kids is higher because they get the perks of living on campus.

Some of the students are able to participate in the camp, which began on June 12 and ends June 24, thanks to scholarships provided by GEAR UP Mississippi.

The program, mostly funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, gives educational support services to school districts facing socioeconomic challenges, boost graduation rates and higher education enrollment rates.

"What they do (GEAR UP Mississippi) is offer mini grants in the state for summer camps, which is part of their focus," said Aimee Lee, camp organizer and Southern Miss instructor for the department of biological sciences. "The whole purpose is to get these kids, who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity, immersed in a college setting."

Lee said many science professors, instructors and graduate students were just as stoked about the camp as the kids were, many of them jumping at the chance to produce activities that would provide participants with an educational and memorable experience.
One of those eager to share her knowledge was Southern Miss biological sciences graduate student Sarah Wheeless. "I just wanted them to know that science pretty much involves everything that they do," said Wheeless.

Lee said she plans to make the camp an annual event. For more information on Summer Science Camp 2005, please contact Aimee Lee at (601) 266-4748.


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August 4, 2005 4:10 PM