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Campers reach for stars at air base camp

July 23, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Launching rockets, building a circuit board, taking the controls of a light aircraft simulator and studying Isaac Newton's three laws of motion.

These and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities exercised the brainpower of 20 children attending a four-day STARBASE Kids Camp at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, which wrapped up Thursday.

The STARBASE Kids Camp was open to children -- in fourth to eighth grades -- who had family members assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing. Campers learned much of the same challenging core curriculum geared toward STEM academics that is taught to all Berkeley County fifth-graders who attend the STARBASE Academy for a week during the school year.

Laura Meske, an instructor at the STARBASE Kids Camp, said most of the children attending the summer venue are from Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia and don't have the opportunity to attend the STARBASE Academy like their Berkeley County counterparts.

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Meske, who is deputy director for the Martinsburg STARBASE, said the STEM activities taught via the academy are designed to get students thinking about the importance that science, technology, engineering and math plays in their everyday lives.

For example, campers learned from Newton's first law of motion why it is important to wear a seatbelt while riding in a car down Interstate 81 at 70 mph. A chemistry activity allowed the kids to not only build their own molecules, but eat the marshmallow creations.

Teams of campers tried to ensure the safe landing of "Eggbert" -- an egg simulating an astronaut placed atop a wooden model of the space shuttle -- as they learned about the four forces of flight -- thrust, drag, lift and gravity.

Using computers, the youths not only explored the solar system, but were given the opportunity to pilot a Cessna 182 light aircraft in STARBASE's flight lab. Campers took control of the yoke and made a six-minute hop between Burke Lakefront and Cleveland Hopkins airports in Cleveland.

And while none of the 20 campers might ever step foot on the moon or Mars, each of them has the potential to achieve whatever they set their minds to, Meske said.

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