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Lecture marks start of 51st National Youth Science Camp

By By Jack Suntrup
Staff Writer
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette-Mail -- Jay Lockman gives the opening lecture for the National Youth Science Camp at the University of Charleston Ballroom. This is the 51st year the camp has been held in West Virginia.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette-Mail -- Delegates from across the country listen to Jay Lockman give the opening lecture at the National Youth Science Camp. About 100 delegates from across the United States and Latin America came to West Virginia for the four week camp.

Young science students from all over the country and Latin America got a taste of what was to come during their four weeks in West Virginia during the annual Martha Wehrle Opening Lecture for the National Youth Science Camp on Saturday morning.

Felix “Jay” Lockman, principal scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, lectured about 100 delegates in the University of Charleston Ballroom about “How to Make a Milky Way (Galaxy).”

But before he spoke, introductions and advice were in order.

Campers are set to spend four weeks in rural Pocahontas County, learning about anything from biology to astronomy, mountain biking and rock climbing. But to get the most out of camp, meeting people and challenging oneself is necessary, Andrew Blackwood, the camp’s executive director, told delegates.

“We do have a 51-year history, and many traditions over those 51 years, but really you should think of this as a framework,” he said. “You will make the 2014 National Youth Science Camp what it is. ... It’s up to you to take advantage of this and make it what it is.”

With a 51-year history, there are thousands of camp alums all over the country. Some make donations to ensure the camp remains free to those attending. More than a few have made significant contributions to society because of their research, said Ronald Pearson, the chairman of the board of trustees.

He said that these students will have that same opportunity.

“When you leave the camp, consider the fact that you really do have substantial influence,” Pearson said, “In states, in countries where you come from to encourage the peaceful application, the thoughtful application, of scientific information.”

Pearson added that he hopes students will “encourage members of Congress, encouraging your national leaders not to forget the importance of continuing and improving the amount of resources that are devoted to basic scientific research.”

Lynne Schwabe, the director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation, reminded the delegates that while they aren’t paying for the camp themselves, generous donors are. She said she hopes the 2014 class can join the scores of others who have made the program last through the years.

Then it was time for Lockman to speak.

He described the swirls of gas and stars that make up the Milky Way and other galaxies like it. Lockman described how incomprehensible the size of those galaxies are, and on top of that, the billions of stars that are in the universe.

Now, how do you weigh the Milky Way? Lockman had the answer. He talked equations and calculations, the kind of stuff that flies over most peoples’ heads.

Then he said to the students, “pretty simple, right?” To them, it was.

Reach Jack Suntrup at jack.suntrup@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.

Jay Lockman of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank gives the opening lecture for the National Youth Science Camp at the University of Charleston Ballroom. This is the 51st year the camp has been held in West Virginia.

LAWRENCE PIERCE |Sunday Gazette-Mail

Delegates from across the country listen to Jay Lockman give the opening lecture at the National Youth Science Camp. About 100 delegates from across the United States and Latin America came to West Virginia for the four week camp.

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