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KNBA News - Alaska villagers renew ties to Russian relatives; Science camp sparks kids' creativity

August 18, 2015

Little Diomede villagers to renew ties severed in the late 1940s by the Cold War
Residents of a tiny Alaska village are trying to resurrect ties with relatives or descendants of people who used to live on a neighboring Russian island before they were forced to relocate at the start of the Cold War.
National Park Service grants totaling more than $83,000 are funding the project involving residents of Diomede on Little Diomede Island. Less than 3 miles away is Big Diomede Island, but it is strictly off-limits, patrolled by Russian border guards.
The attempt to visit Russia's Chukotka region is being coordinated by a travel company, Anchorage-based Circumpolar Expeditions.
Company president Tandy Wallack says one goal is to travel to Chukotka communities with Diomede elders next year to visit relatives. Another goal is to host a reunion in Little Diomede.
Science and Math Camp Encourages Alaska Native Students to Excel
Kayla DeRosches, KMXT - Kodiak
A science and math camp aims to reach out to Alaska Native students and encourage them to craft, calculate, and compete. The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is organized with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). It puts kids to work on everything from spacecrafts to computers.
This summer, campers got to complete hands-on projects while spending two weeks on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, free of charge, with 48 other middle school students. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Dryden, from Kodiak, said building a PC was the first task campers took on. He also said it was his favorite activity.
“They ordered monitors for us and blue ray players so that the computer could actually play and read discs, but you had to hook the blue-ray reader up and the CPU, the CPU fan, the motherboard, you put everything in,” explained Nicholas. “It just came with the computer box itself. Programming took the long part. It only took us about two or three days to build and program the whole computer.”
He said campers participated in contests, and one was a Mars landing simulation.
“You got a hundred dollars, not actually, but as a fake budget and then you would buy stuff like foam sheets or bubble wrap or anything,” said Nicholas. “So the main objective was to get the ball down to the ground softly without the ping pong ball bouncing out.”
Nicholas said his group won and he feels proud of all that he learned during the camp.
And while he’s going into 6th grade, he’s already looking to the future.
Here’s what he imagines himself doing when he gets older.
“Probably game designing, ‘cause I like games and I like programming stuff,” said Nicholas, “and I’ve looked it up a few times and it pays a pretty good amount of money.”
He’s not the only one thinking ahead. Dahlia Berns, an 11-year-old from Old Harbor, said camp instructors told students about the different career paths open to them. Dahlia said it helped and urges other students to apply.
“If they have the opportunity to go to that camp, they should definitely go, ‘cause it’s amazing really,” said Dahlia. “And it makes your future seem a lot easier and it helps you decide on what you would like to do. It gives more ideas.”
Dahlia said she’d like to go to UAA for college and wants to be an engineer. These are big dreams for a middle-school student, but that’s what ANSEP encourages according to Herb Schroeder. He’s the organization’s founder as well as a professor of engineering and ANSEP vice-provost.
“The camp is the first step in a process where we work with those kids from sixth grade all the way through to a P.H.D if they want one,” said Shroeder. “And so what we are really focused on is working on socializing students to the campus and then preparing them academically to come to college.”
Schroeder said Alaska Native students as a demographic are shown to under-perform academically.
“The biggest barrier is that people tell them they can’t do it. There’s a lot of bias in the system, even at the university here there’s bias, but in K-12 system, there’s people out there who discourage the kids, just like women are discouraged all over the country from coming and doing science and engineering,” said Shroeder. “It’s very subtle, it’s ‘Oh, that’s a really hard class, you should think about this one.’”
He said ANSEP strives to inspire achievement by motivating its students. The summer program is open to children in grades 5, 6, or 7. To apply – or just find out more – visit