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Summer Campus for Scientists

Campus Científico de verano

Summer Campus for Scientists

July is Summer Campus for Scientists month at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), which takes part in this initiative from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports  (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte - MECD) and the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology  (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología - FECYT).  A total of nearly two thousand young people from all over Spain will join 64 research projects at 16 universities in 11 autonomous communities. The UC3M was chosen to be the sight of the opening ceremony of the 2014 edition, with the presence of (left to right in the photograph) the Director of the Department of Science and the Environment (Área de Ciencia y Medio Ambiente) of the Caixa Foundation, Enric Banda; the Secretary of State for R+D+I of the Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad), Carmen Vela;  the UC3M President, Daniel Peña; the General Director of University Policy at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport), Jorge Sáinz; and the General Director of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT). José Ignacio Fernández.

Each week, a new batch of teenagers will work together with university professors to learn about science from the inside, using the same laboratories that the researchers do. These are high school students who, for the most part, are entering university classrooms for the first time. And they are doing so in order to participate, for six days, in science and technology projects that revolve around different areas of knowledge and different disciplines, from physics, chemistry and biology to initiatives related to astronomy, robotics, engineering, electricity, oceanography and more.

David García Santacruz (Madrid, 1994) participated in the Science Campuses at the University of Oviedo 4 years ago, and he is now working on a degree in Computer Engineering at the UC3M. As part of one of the projects he took part in at that time, he learned to make an electronic die, which is exactly what he showed during his talk at the opening ceremony (see cover photo). “I felt more involved in engineering, because they explained things to us up close,” he recalls. “In high school, you see things in books, but here they teach you about the internal workings of different devices, the electronic circuit with the microprocessors, condensers, the circuit board, the resistances… you actually “do” science yourself,” he sums up. The experience reaffirmed his scientific vocation, allowed him to learn to work as part of a team, and to make good friends with others, who he is still in contact with. Almost all of them study in different universities, like his fellow “campuser” Gemma, who is now studying Medicine. David chose UC3M because it offered what he was looking for: “The chance to study a quality engineering degree and to do it in English,” he concludes. He has finished his second year at UC3M and next year he will be studying at the University of California in Irvine (EEUU), very near the mecca of computer science: Silicon Valley.

A total of approximately 120 students, divided into four turns of seven days each, will participate in UC3M’s Summer Science Campuses from the 29th of June until the 26th of July 2014. Each student will focus on a project designed by university professors and high school teachers to bring science closer to the students. This way the teens will be able to see the work done by researchers first hand: from using scientific method, following work techniques, to obtaining and analyzing data and reporting the results, all of which are part of a scientist’s daily work. 

Four projects will be carried out at UC3M. First, in one called “computer assisted mechanical design”, the participating students will learn the techniques of 3D modeling and the basis of good design, among many other things. In another project, called “design of light structures”, the students will have the opportunity to design and build their own structures using balsawood beams, and then test their reliability in the laboratory, or to learn about the properties of composite materials. In the third project, on “the design and construction of micro-robots”, the students who take part will learn to develop a device of this type that can follow a line on the floor or move around its surroundings without crashing into obstacles. Finally, in a project called “network and internet security”, the concepts of threat, vulnerability and attack in several different malware programs (trojans, virus, backdoors, etc) will be discussed, and basic concepts of cryptography and digital identities, for example, will be explained.

When they finish their time on campus, the young people will give a presentation about the results they obtained from the projects they were involved in. The Science Campuses offer a complete program of complementary activities that go beyond pure research, including meetings with researchers, games involving knowledge and cooperation, workshops on emotional intelligence and popular science on-line, in addition to other sports and leisure activities and special evenings dedicated to discoveries or humor and science.