The baggage claim of a tiny airport in Charleston, West Virginia turned into a welcome area for more than 100 young people from every state and around the world on Wednesday. Picture towering stacks of pizza boxes, about 20 greeters dressed to impress, and big signs waiting for them: “Welcome 2018 Delegates National Youth Science Camp.”

Recent high school graduates selected as delegates to the 55th annual National Youth Science Camp arrived at Yeager Airport in Charleston on Wednesday.  Excited chatter, laughs and introductions filled the room. Some delegates answered phone calls from mom. Others answered questions during their very first media interview. Francisca Abdo Arias, a delegate from Chile, told the State Journal “I want to learn about the different cultures, and learn why people like the same things I do.” Of the 107 delegates, 17 were international guests. Other delegates and members of staph made several West Virginia news outlets, including WCHSWV MetroNews, and the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Francesca Garafulic Justiniano, a delegate from Bolivia, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail she heard about the camp from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. “I’m expecting to get some guidance,” she told the newspaper. “I think this camp is going to be a light on my path.”

Dr. Andy Blackwood, Ed.D. and the director of the National Youth Science Foundation, explained to the newspaper that camp was designed “to showcase West Virginia and to encourage students to pursue … careers in math and science.” “It changes the perspective that these students have about our state in ways that no media campaign could ever do.”

Camp staphers*, many former delegates, ensured delegates arrived safely and shared some of their own camp experiences.  They then bussed the delegates to a local riverside park (Coonskin Park) for fresh air, frisbee and team-building activities.  Delegates who arrived earlier in the day had the opportunity to tour the University of Charleston Innovation Center. The delegates finished off the busy day by having dinner at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, and then witnessing a drone demonstration on the university’s lawn. Delegates will stay at the University of Charleston tonight, before listening to Tim O’Neal of Dow Chemical give opening remarks at the campus tomorrow. They’ll return to the same airport on July 21, 2018, after a little more than three weeks of outdoor adventure and STEM education in the mountains, getting to know each other and themselves.

Follow this blog, and we’ll keep you updated on how they change. A more extended photo gallery can be found here.

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