Scientists in the Making

Several dozen campers have enjoyed an eye-opening adventure into the world of science in the two-week-long Discovery Camps. The students toured UC Santa Barbara’s marine biology lab and Raytheon and also worked on experiments, made speakers, assembled water rockets and worked on chemistry experiments with liquid nitrogen. They learned how to drop eggs from a six-story building without cracking them and how to make a boat from cardboard and tape.

On their final day, the campers received a daytime tour of Carroll Observatory. Michael Sommermann, professor of physics, says the kids asked some great questions.

“Of course, there was no lack of volunteers when I needed help with the operation of the dome and the telescope,” he says. “Looks like we’ve got nothing to worry about when it comes to the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

That same evening, several of the campers and their families attended the college’s monthly public viewing of the stars. Members of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, including Tom Whittemore, set up several telescopes around the observatory. Visitors had a chance to try out these scopes and heard some interesting celestial stories. They were invited to come up into the dome to look through both Westmont’s eight-inch TEC refractor as well as the big 24-inch Keck reflector scope.

The group saw some of the spectacular images and results of research that students performed this summer.

Students and Faculty Embark on Adventure

A dozen students will start their Westmont experience far from the college's Montecito campus. They will join three professors and four Sierra Trek guides for Inoculum, a 12-day trek through the North Yosemite backcountry. The optional orientation program begins Aug. 9 and provides a unique introduction to Westmont.

Surrounded by spectacular scenery, the group will dig deeply into assigned readings and explore the meaning of a liberal arts education set in a committed Christian community. Discussions around the campfire will encourage students to think about issues they'll confront during their college years.

The group hikes through Yosemite and the surrounding wilderness, which is some of the most untouched alpine country in the United States. Along the way, they spend one day rock climbing and another reaching the summit of a High Sierra peak.

Westmont alumnus Dave Willis established Inoculum in 1974. "The idea was to provide a little introduction to the challenges of Westmont so students would do better when they confronted them," he says. He coordinates Sierra Treks, a program that builds faith through wilderness experience.

The professors leading the trip include Wayne Iba (computer science), Eileen McMahon (biology), and David Vander Laan (philosophy). Psychology professor Tom Fikes coordinates the program.