Charleston, W.Va. –  “One of the many things from camp that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to know nothing.” 

At the farewell banquet of the 2022 National Youth Science Camp, California delegate Aadity Sharma’s remarks conveyed a familiar tale of gratitude and personal growth to her fellow delegates.  

On Wed. July 20, the NYSCamp said goodbye to 120 delegates from over 40 states and 12 Western Hemisphere nations. This year’s virtual camp presented the most interactive STEM education programming in its 59-year history, comprising 320 interactive sessions from 95 presenters. It included 15 keynote lectures, four panel discussions, two concerts, and virtual tours of the National Gallery of Art and the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory. 

The keynote lectures and panels featured an array of topics from molecular medicine to science communication. Among the world-class presentations included:

  • “STEM and Drug Control Policy” from Rahul Gupta, MD, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • “Preparing for Human Missions to Mars: Strategy for using ISS and Artemis as Analogs” from Julie Robinson, PhD, NASA’s Deputy Director for Earth Science
  • “How Data Informs Digital and Social Media Strategy” from Jake Rosen, YouTube’s Global Head of Integrated Insights and Measurement, Chris Jackson, Director of Global Content and Social Strategy at Lululemon, and Alex McPherson, Vice President and Director of Business Intelligence at Methods+Mastery 
  • “Science Communication and Podcasting” from Sydnee McElroy, MD, a Marshall Health Family Physician and co-host of the 300+ episode medical misadventure podcast “Sawbones” 
  • A panel discussion on navigating careers in science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

“I remember attending my first lecture at camp and not having the slightest idea about the signs of neuromodulation and how it worked. At the time, I felt that I’d been left behind,” said Sharma, continuing her banquet remarks. “I saw learning as grades and a race and that I’d already lost. My time at camp made me realize that in order for any learners to succeed they must pull out of the race. I am learning that knowing nothing has an incredible advantage. There’s always an insane new idea that is waiting for its own beginning and its own purpose to better the world.” 

Since its inception in 1963 as part of West Virginia’s Centennial, the NYSCamp has honored over 6,200 students, giving them the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Operated by the National Youth Science Foundation, its mission is to inspire lifelong engagement and ethical leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through its proven educational model for mentoring, challenging, and motivating students.

“It didn’t feel like it was virtual at all,” said New York delegate Anitta Kottai. Argentina delegate Gabriel Antequera added, “Best three weeks of my life.”

By the end of the banquet over 30 delegates spoke about their NYSCamp experience, leaving not a single dry eye on the Zoom call. 

“The last few weeks have been tremendously humbling and they made me rethink the purpose in everything that we do and the greater impact that science can make on generations to come,” concluded Sharma. “The ending of camp has left some beautiful memories, and I hope that we all stay lifelong friends, and we keep in touch forever.”