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ALBANY, N.Y. (August 15, 2016) – Why would almost a dozen high school students hang tiny objects in trees on a hot summer’s day?

The answer: they are science enthusiasts who were drawn to UAlbany’s weeklong Weather Camp, hosted by the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

With guidance from atmospheric scientist Justin Minder, campers learned about weather analysis and forecasting through hands-on labs and field trips, and were mentored by local weather forecasters.

Temperatures were in the 80s as the students set up their assignment around Indian Pond, but that did not faze best friends Hajir Othman and Khadeeja Hussein, who grew up in Iraq, where the high temperature for the day was 111 degrees F.

They like Albany, but not its cold winters.

The two students from Albany Leadership Charter High are both interested in science.

“I want to be an engineer and design things,” said Othman, who moved here two years ago.

“I like biology,” said Hussein, who left Iraq for Syria. In 2011 her family moved from Syria to the U.S. because it was not safe to stay. Both teens still have family members living in Iraq.

Othman and Hussein learned of Weather Camp from Minder, who had visited their high school classrooms and captivated students by creating a cloud in a bottle.

“Through the camp we try to give the students a taste of the challenges and rewards of doing science in a college or research setting,” said Minder. “This includes delving deeply into topics and doing hands-on research. Hopefully this will encourage some of them to pursue higher education and careers in atmospheric sciences specifically, or just science, technology and math in general.”

During last Monday’s outing at Indian Pond, the idea was for every group of two or three students to change two variables. One group checked temperature and humidity at two different heights above the ground. Another placed one sensor in mulch and another in the grass in the Liberty Terrace parking lot.

The students would return the following day to collect data from their sensors.

“Dr. Minder has been amazing,” said Peter Tedeschi of Columbia High School, who wants to be a meteorologist. “I’ve been interested in weather all my life,” he said. “I watch Al Roker in the morning.”

This is the second year of Weather Camp. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the camp is free for urban youth in grades 9-11 from Schenectady, Albany, Troy, Watervliet and Rensselaer.

Autumn Brown of Rensselaer Junior Senior High School and Mykailah Kelly of Colonie Central High School teamed up on the assignment.

“I’m interested in science,” said Brown. “I am looking to be an engineer. I have a passion for math and science.”

Kelly enjoys science too and is exploring different types, like meteorology, to discover which branch she likes best. Outside of weather camp, she stays active during the summer with soccer, basketball and softball.

Fascination with the weather runs in the family for another student, Victor Pragnotti of Christian Brothers Academy, who said his dad, Vito, has a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from UAlbany. Victor routinely looks at radar and goes to the Albany weather page every day.

And Andrew Makowski, also of Colonie Central High School, wants to be an Earth Science teacher. He partnered with Zo Ko of Rensselaer, who also learned of the camp through Minder’s visit to the school.

The camp was created by Minder with a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.