Former Astronaut Helps Local Kids Reach for the Stars

Dr. Bernard Harris has flown on two space shuttle missions and was the first black person to walk in space. Now, he wants to help kids here in North Texas reach for the stars.

“This whole camp is about inspiring kids to fulfill their dreams,” said Harris. “Then providing the tools to enable them to fulfill their dreams."

He believes science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM education — will be key to making that happen. And it’s why he and ExxonMobil have teamed up to create a special STEM camp for disadvantaged middle schoolers.

“It is such a critical age,” said Harris. “This is where kids either get turned on to science and math or turned off.”

About 50 students from the DFW area will spend this week and next week at the University of Texas at Arlington for the camp at no cost to them.

Luis Murillo, from Grand Prairie, said he’s very happy to be there.

“Because you get to do experiments, learn new things and stuff like that,” said Murillo, who will be in 6th grade next school year.

When NBC 5’s cameras were at the camp on Thursday, the students were challenged to create a space lander that would safely put an astronaut on the surface of Mars, using materials like Bubble Wrap and tape.

“Everybody is enamored with the notion that one day we’re going to go to Mars,” said Harris. “This activity gets them to think about what it takes to do that.”

After consulting with their real-life astronaut guest, the students got to test their designs, many of them with great success.

“It’s pretty cool because not many people get to see a real astronaut,” said Murillo.

The students said they’re grateful for this experience. And as for Murillo — he’s now more determined than ever to become a scientist.

More than 95 percent of the kids who have attended the camp in previous years have said it played a significant role in their decision to go to college.

Contact Us