In the chemistry laboratory in Fuller Hall, Cougar Summer Science campers are either making bouncy balls through cross-linking polymers or figuring out the generation properties of oxygen. Tossing her laboratory-produced ball in the air, Kyleigh Kake of Spokane says that she has always wanted to be a doctor. Her lab partner, Elizabeth Perez of Grandview, Washington, attends Cougar Summer Science Camp through an award from her local science fair.
A camper from the next group, slightly less successful with his bouncy ball, says he “did some science at his house.” His description of his experiments make it clear he is better off in the hands of the Cougar Summer Science Camp.
Although the original intent of the camp was to dispel fears about science, most of the young teens arriving in Pullman in mid-June need little encouragement to hold human hearts and livers in the anatomy laboratory, test acids and bases, or prod the touch plant in the Abelson greenhouse.
The founder of the camp, former WSU chemistry professor Glenn Crosby, began the Cougar Summer Science Camp after discovering that many high school students who otherwise wanted to pursue degrees in human or veterinary medicine are intimidated by hard science courses such as chemistry. Crosby hoped that if these students were exposed to chemistry in a fun and exciting way, they might be more likely to pursue a medical or veterinary degree in spite of the demanding requirements. Brian Weissbart, the camp’s current director, was inspired through his advising and teaching first-year chemistry to continue the camp.
Campers originally spent all five afternoons of lab experience in the chemistry laboratory. But over time the camp has broadened to include hands-on laboratories in biology and physics, as well as demonstrations and lectures concerning a variety of other scientific fields, such as botany, psychology, and astronomy. Although Weissbart says he would like to increase camp attendance from its current 32 to an ideal 48, he enjoys every minute of watching future scientists in action-and looks forward to their return as WSU students.
Campers’ highlights of the week ranged from handling local raptors to lying on a bed of nails-but the overwhelming response to the question of what the campers liked most about Cougar Summer Science Camp was the enthusiasm that came from meeting 31 other campers who would rather be nowhere else than in a chemistry lab on a sunny summer afternoon.