Newark Charter High School junior Runyl Liu said her passion for science comes from a middle school jingle she heard.
“We heard this one song about the periodic table and I just really liked the song,” Liu said. “I sort of fell in love with the periodic table and all how chemistry works. It was a very, very odd journey, but what I know is that I am definitely a STEM girl.”
Liu will join MOT Charter School senior Maanvi Sarwadi as the two Delaware delegates selected to attend the all-expenses-paid 2023’s National Youth Science Camp.
Both hope the experience will help boost their planned STEM careers.
From June 19 to July 12, the two will head south to Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, where the camp has been held since its founding in 1963.
“I’m really looking forward to the outdoor adventures where we’ll combine nature with science,” Liu said. “I’ve always found that interesting.”
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Each state sends two representatives to the camp, as does Washington, DC, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Celebrating its 60th year, the camp is designed to honor and challenge rising leaders and provide them with opportunities to engage with STEM professionals and participate in outdoor activities.
“They get to go kayaking and rock-climbing, do yoga, practice different languages, listen to keynote lectures during the day with prominent scientists and engineers, and really get to have a wide array of experiences,” said Tonyea Mead, Delaware’s coordinator for the camp.
The speakers for this year have yet to be announced, but previous years included astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, astronaut Neil Armstrong, mathematician John Nash, fighter pilot General Chuck Yeager, physician-geneticist Francis Collins, NASA scientist Julie Robinson, former Yahoo! President Marissa Mayer and inventor David Hackleman.
Liu said meeting professionals in the fields she’s interested in will help grow her network before even entering college.
“The camp will help me make connections, get to meet really like-minded people that are interested in science, and get to meet very well-acclaimed experts in the fields is an awesome opportunity,” she said.
HOSA-Future Health Professionals, FIRST Robotics Challenge Miracle Workers Team 365 and the Youth Environmental Summit have been very vital for Liu’s growth as a student of STEM, she said.
The overall experience of staying in West Virginia for a couple of weeks excites her.
“This will be one of my first camps that are far away from home, in a sort of boarding atmosphere,” she said, “I want to absorb anything and everything that they have to offer.”
Students will tour facilities such as the Green Bank Observatory and the National Art Gallery.
Women make up half the workforce in America, but only about a quarter of STEM positions are filled by women, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Both of Delaware’s representatives plan on pursuing a STEM career. Liu wants to be a healthcare worker, biologist or chemist, and Sarwadi wants to be a computer scientist with a concentration in bioinformatics.
“I definitely look up to some of those amazing women in either medicine or biology, such as Marie Curie, and I think that being able to be a woman in STEM is really encouraging for other people, for other young women,” Liu said.
She hopes to inspire and encourage other young girls to pursue the field.
Sarwadi agreed, but pointed out that Delaware does a great job of having programs introducing young women into STEM and providing opportunities.
“In my experiences I’ve seen many women rise to the occasion and excel in STEM fields,” she said. “I’ve never really experienced the disparity to the point where it’s ever discouraging because I’ve grown up in a supportive environment with all my friends and my teachers.”
Sarwadi said she still feels a bit of imposter syndrome, being one of just two students in the state to be selected to the camp.
That won’t stop her from making the most of her time, she said.
“I learned very early on that I was not a humanities person, and English and history were just not my subjects in school,” she said. “I always enjoyed doing math and my interest in STEM has grown through high school and when I have experiences like this science camp.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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