National Youth Science Camp will stay virtual this year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For a second year, traveling to Pocahontas County won’t be a requirement for delegates to the National Youth Science Camp.

After first going virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic for Summer 2020, Dr. Brian Kinghorn, camp director, said virtual plans were also being made for Summer 2021 at the camp focused on STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Dr. Brian Kinghorn

“We just felt like that for the safety of everybody involved, even if it was a possibility to be face-to-face in this summer, that we would stick with another virtual year just for the safety of it and I think we made the right decision,” Kinghorn said.

This year’s dates for the program were June 28 through July 21.

Feb. 28, 2021 was the application deadline for graduates from high schools between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

Additionally, summer staffers were in the process of being hired.

Kinghorn, who took over as director in 2019, oversaw the abrupt transition of the on-site camp experience to an online format beginning in March of last year.

Summer lectures from leading STEM professionals, directed studies, breakout sessions and nightly “cabin meetings” for smaller groups of students went virtual.

It worked, according to Kinghorn.

“We weren’t sure if they (delegates) would buy in. We weren’t sure if they (the activities) would have the same magic that camp typically has for these kids at the physical camp and, yet, it happened and they’ve got lifelong friendships with people they’ve never met in person,” he said.

“We got really lucky. We were flying by the seat of our pants last year, quite literally, and it worked out well and so we’re building on what worked.”

More interactions were being planned for lectures.

Delegates were to be assigned to specific staff members for more regular contact.

Outside activities, especially on Saturdays locally for delegates, were going to be encouraged.

“We’re still going to have a world-class experience and a life-changing experience with this virtual National Youth Science Camp this year,” Kinghorn said.

The National Youth Science Camp dates back to 1963 when it was first held as a residential STEM program in the Monongahela National Forest.

Kinghorn said the hope was campers would be able to return to Camp Pocahontas in 2022.

Typically, two delegates are selected for the National Youth Science Camp from each state and the District of Columbia. International delegates also regularly participate.

For 2021, Kinghorn said the size of the international delegation would be doubled with 12 countries represented.

In all, 140 delegate spots could filled this year. Last year, just more than 100 delegates participated.

“We do anticipate that some people are going to feel a little hesitant about a virtual camp, especially after a full year of everything virtual, we hope to be able to have a full delegation,” he said.

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