Soon-to-be eighth-grader Isaac Smith wants to be a mechanical engineer.

He said that is why he is taking part in the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp hosted by the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP).

Isaac, from Noatak, Alaska, along with 47 other students from around the state, are spending 12 days at the camp, living in UAA’s dorms and learning about the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field.

Friday, the campers were challenged to build and test a Mars lander.

“The students have to think about their design,” Yosty Storms, an ANSEP regional director, said. “They have to draw it out and then they have to figure out what materials they are going to use.”

The kids worked in groups of three and had time restrictions for each part of the process. They were given materials, like a cup, cotton balls and bubble wrap, each “costing” a specific amount.

Teachers taped a starry, space-like panel to a ladder. From the top, students dropped their spacecraft, aiming for a red target on the floor.

The students received points based on how much the craft “cost,” how close it was to the target and whether the astronaut, a marble, was safe, as well as other criteria.

Isaac didn’t think his project scored too well, but, “I can make changes to make it better,” he said with a smile.

The students will get a chance early next week to critique and retry their designs.

“We have to use papers or bubble wrap; I chose to use papers so it gets flow because, if you use bubble wrap, it will just be harder,” Isaac said.

An engineer with ExxonMobil was at the camp to lead the project.

“I’m trying to really spark kind of that creative math, science, engineering mindset within all these students,” ExxonMobil Engineer Benjamin Knight said. “It’s really trying to introduce them to what we do as engineers in the real world and really build an opportunity for them to have some excitement around those fields.”

Friday was day four of 12 for the camp, and in the next few days, the kids will learn about more than just STEM.

“[The camp is] setting a foundation for future problem solvers,” Knight said. “It’s really showing theses kids what they have to have in order to be successful, not just in math and science, but in problem-solving in daily life.”