All posts by John Giroir

End of Directed Studies #2

The morning lecture featured Dr. Dana Moshkovitz (MIT). Her talk explained  the basics of theoretical computer science: what are P and NP, why understanding them is important, and the limitations of approximation algorithms for NP-hard problems.

Dr. Dana Moshkovitz: "The Possibilities and Limitations of Computation and Approximation"

DS (directed study) block 2 had its last day today (see schedules on archives page)! DS’s included Combinatorial Games, Cybersecurity, and the Mathematics of Genetics.

Jonathan Powels (IL) in Directed Study: Failure Analysis

Dr. Scott Aronson (MIT) gave the evening lecture. He talked about computational complexity, discussing what can and can’t be computed. Along with a crash course of quantum mechanics, he touched on models of computation that might go beyond quantum computers.

Dr. Scott Aaronson: “Quantum Computing and the Limits of the Efficiently Computable”

Delegates and staph are heading out on overnight trips again; next update will be on June 27, 2016!

Science, Seminars, and More Science!

Today was a very busy day for the 2016 delegation, as they had two lectures, their last day of this directed study block, and a very full seminar block.

Directed Study
Directed Study: Structural Biology in a Post-Genomic Era with Dr. Pam Twigg

The morning lecture, Why Stuff Falls Apart by Dr. Mac Louthan (Consulting Scientist, Savannah River National Laboratory) was a humorous, motivational lecture that discussed the six fundamental causes of failure of large engineered systems: deficiency in design, improper material selection, defects in materials, improper processing, errors in assembly, and improper service.

Mac Louthan’s Lecture: Why Stuff Falls Apart

From Alcohol Art with Emily Holmes to Personality Types with Kiona to Hanging with Johnny G, a wide variety of seminars were available this afternoon for delegates to explore.

Delegate Kimmet Piedra
Costa Rican Delegate Kimett Piedra Garbanzo making candy in the “Art, Ethics, and Science of Food” Directed Study

The evening lecture, by Dr. Walter Stromquist (Research Associate, Bryn Mawr College), discussed fair division problems from a mathematical perspective.

Dr. Walter Stromquist: “Mathematics of Fair Division”

First Overnighter a Success!

Yesterday and today the delegates scattered in groups throughout the West Virginia wilderness and found their way back to camp. Many of the overnight trips offered at the National Youth Science Camp give delegates the opportunity to get in touch with Mother Nature and oftentimes try something they haven’t experienced yet in life.  For many delegates, these trips provide them with their first chance to use a map and compass, backpack through the woods, mountain bike, or crawl in a cave.

NYSC Delegates and great views on the Rohrbaugh hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area
Delegates navigating with a compass and map through wild and wonderful West Virginia
NYSC Delegates, Northfork trail, and  more beautiful views!

This evening’s lecture was given by Science of Baseball by Dr. Ricardo Valerdi (Associate Professor, University of Arizona).  His talk, “The Science of Baseball discussed the implications of sports movies on STEM education and the impact that baseball can have on academic achievement.

Dr. Ricardo Valderi
Dr. Ricardo Valderi Associate Professor, University of Arizona

As Directed Studies End…Overnighters Begin!

Today, the 2016 delegates learned about “Life Lessons Learnt in the Laboratory” from Dr. Karla- Luise Herpoldt of University of Washington.  In her lecture, Dr. Herpoldt urged delegates to explore across the boundaries of the education system that separate biology, chemistry, physics, and math.

Dr. Karla-Luise Herpoldt: Life Lessons Learnt in the Laboratory
Directed Study: Photovoltaic Power System Design with Mr. Jeff Gilbert

Seminars were once again held by various staph members, including, but not limited to: Creek Sampling , Dance-Dance-RevolutionHammocking 101, and Star Wars Trivia.  The delegates also received their outdoor orientation, which included how to: put together tents, use a portable stove and water filter, and make “phone calls” here in the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ).  Just after dinner, they selected their overnight trips, which included: hiking, biking, climbing, and caving.

Delegate Nicolás Aguerre (Argentina) in Directed Study

Cancer is Smart, can we be Smarter?  by Dr. Rick Walker, Instructor in Human Anatomy, Marshall University, was the evening lecture topic.  He discussed a variety of topics relating to treating cancer and why we may not necessarily want to cure cancer.

Dr. Rick Walker
Dr. Rick Walker, (1964 Delegate!) sharing his knowledge from 40 years as a cancer surgeon

Due to overnight trips, look out for the next update on June 21st!

Ink, Inventions, and Interstellar Science!

Today, delegates continued their first Directed Study block, went to seminars, and attended not one, but two guest lectures!

Delegates Richa Beher (MD) and Rachel Snyderman (DC) making earrings during seminar time

This morning’s lecture, Inventing Things with a few Case Examples by  Dr. David Hackleman, was an eclectic presentation that revealed the process of inventing and discussed the surprises and ramifications of inventions. Dr. Hackleman, part of a team that invented and delivered Thermal Ink-Jet printing to the world from Hewlett-Packard, shared his experience and passion for creating new things, hoping that the delegates would realize the potential in their own capabilities .

Dr. David Hackleman discussing thermal ink-jet printing

In the afternoon, delegates had the opportunity to participate in more seminars from Portuguese 101 with Hunter to Earring Making with Hallie. Also during seminar time, delegates had open Comp Sci to check email or social media and time to call home.

California delegate Grace Bower knitting during seminar time

Tonight’s lecture was by Dr. Maria Hamilton, Professor of Physics at Marshall University. In  A Cosmic Discover: The First Detection of Gravitational Waves, Dr. Hamilton explained what happens when two black holes collide, and demonstrated how gravitational waves are detected. Hamilton introduced the delegates to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which allowed us to hear the gravitational waves that come from the far reaches of space into the past that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein only dreamt of detecting.

Dr. Maria Hamilton
Dr. Maria Hamilton explains the electromagnetic spectrum

Directed Studies and Seminars Begin!

Today after breakfast, the 2016 delegates selected their first Directed Studies through a lottery system. Directed Studies (DS) are hands-on, interactive small group experiences. Lasting 60 to 75 minutes on each of three consecutive days, directed studies are frequently investigative in nature and provide opportunities for full student involvement. During the study, a presenter provides a model and a close guiding hand. The participants are able to pose questions, develop conceptual understanding through exploration, and draw conclusions.

Delegates Danielle Damon (NV) and Samantha Harper (NH) with Dr. David Hackleman extracting essential oils from plants.

Directed Study Block I:

Solvent Free Microwave Extraction of Essential Oils with Plants with Dr. David Hackleman Nat Sci
Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones with Dr. Rick Walker Rec Hall
Photovoltaic Power System Design (plus some other fun solar activities) with Mr. Jeff Gilbert Circus Tent
Holography with Dr. Ralph Oberly Men’s Bathhouse
Computational Protein Design: Making old proteins learn new tricks with Dr. Karla-Luise Herpoldt Comp Sci
Unlocking the Mysteries of the Aether: Radio Frequency Engineering with Dr. Mike Elsbury Phys Sci
Cancer: A Genetic Disease with Dr. Ximena Bonilla PAC
Screenprinting with Mr. Jordan Perry Art Shack
The Great Outdoors with NYSC Outdoor Staph The Great Outdoors

After DS’s and lunch, the delegates headed to afternoon seminars. Seminars are informal presentations or group discussions that provide an opportunity for interaction and sharing among the participants. Unlike a directed study, a seminar concludes at the end of a single meeting. The presenter may choose from a wide range of topics which may include technical subjects, hobbies, philosophies, and personal experiences. Generally guests are invited to present directed studies or lectures and volunteer to present seminars spontaneously. From Typography with Chalice to  Ultimate 101 with Jordan, delegates had the opportunity today to explore and investigate a wide range of program areas.

Staph Miranda Ella leading a seminar on American Sign Language (ASL)
Staph Miranda Ella leading a seminar on American Sign Language (ASL)

The day concluded with our first lecture at Camp Pocahontas: Paradise Under the Knife by Mr. Allan Daly.  Coupling science, technology, and the willingness to look outside his own sphere of existence, Mr. Daly shared his experiences in the Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands, encouraging  delegates to follow the roads that will help change this world for the better.

Paradise Under the Knife
Paradise Under the Knife with Mr. Allan Daly

From Charleston to Camp Pocahontas!

After staying the night in Middle Hall, the 2016 delegates headed over to the University of Charleston Ballroom for breakfast. Next, Judge Ronald Pearson, Chairman of the National Youth Science Foundation gave an official welcome to the 2016 delegation to West Virginia and the National Youth Science Camp. Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, gave the Martha Wherle opening lecture, sharing his insight from over 30 years of experience in academic administration, emphasizing the importance of STEM education and policy.

Welcome to West Virginia NYSC 2016 Delegates!
Welcome to West Virginia, NYSC 2016 Delegates!

Later, the delegates took a tour of the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy, where they participated in hands-on activities and explored Compounding Labs, Simulation Labs, and the History of Medicine. After lunch, the students boarded buses to Sunny Camp Pocahontas.

Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor, West Virginia High er Education Policy Commission
Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

When the delegates arrived at camp, they settled into their cabins, gathered on the green for frisbee, and had their first dinner in the Laura Dill Dining Hall.  After a tour of Camp Pocahontas, NYSC Director John Giorir introduced the 2016 Staph* and discussed camp guidelines. Finally, delegates and unit leaders gathered in for cabin meetings and lights out for a well-deserved night of rest!

Delegates on the interactive tour at the Unversity of Charleston: School of Pharmacy
Delegates on the interactive tour at the University of Charleston: School of Pharmacy
Deleware delegate Soni Aggarwal greeted by Staph at Camp Pocahontas!
Delaware delegate Soni Aggarwal checking in with Staph* at Camp Pocahontas!

* Staph is a traditional spelling for “Staff”; our enthusiasm is infectious!

Bonus: Check out this article by the Charleston Gazette-Mail for NYSC  2016!

NYSC Fly-in!

CHARLESTON, WV– The 2016 session of the National Youth Science Camp starts today as delegates arrive at Charleston’s Yeager Airport and begin their nearly month-long experience with science enrichment.  As delegates arrive, they will be transported to Coonskin Park to kick off their participation in the program.

Staph* eager to meet our 2016 delegates!
Staph* eager to meet our 2016 delegates!

Afterwards, they will travel to the nearby University of Charleston to spend the night in the dorms. They will hopefully start to adjust to the 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. sleep schedule that is structured at the camp. Tomorrow, Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, will deliver the Martha Wehrle Opening Lecture in Geary Auditorium. The lecture will discuss Dr. Hill’s background and perception of science, higher education, and governmental policy. The event is free and open to anybody interested in coming.

WV Delegate Drew Gupta checks in at Charleston.
WV Delegate Drew Gupta checks in at Charleston.

After a tour of the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy, the delegates will board buses and be on their way to Camp Pocahontas!






More delegates arriving at Yeager Airport!
More delegates arriving at Yeager Airport!









* Staph is a traditional spelling for “Staff”; our enthusiasm is infectious!