ISEC 2019 Overview

August 2019 brought about a truly wonderful experience for 16 youth and adults. In addition to mentors Carlos, Oz, and Radka, 13 participants from 12 different countries gathered in El Solitario, Spain, eager to learn about various scientific topics. Upon their arrival, they quickly settled into their home for the next two and a half weeks. It was clear that everyone was excited, if not a bit nervous, to know what the next few weeks would hold. There was absolutely no need to worry though, as everyone made fast friends and had unforgettable experiences over the next fifteen days. 


Soon after their arrival, the participants began choosing various scientific projects that they were interested in. Some decided to measure the spin of a black hole, while others delved into Maxwell’s equations, and others still strived to understand the various forms of energy generation inside of stars. It was clear that the students all had a unique educational background and arrived at camp with various skill sets. There were participants who used the working sessions at ISEC 2019 to learn how to program, while others applied their previous extensive programming skills to writing a machine learning algorithm for classifying different types of galaxies. Everyone was able to find a project suited to their education level and interest. 

Throughout the two weeks, there were times when everything fell into place and other times when it seemed like there was one roadblock after another. After having extensive trouble getting a stellar modeling program to work, it was a welcome victory when Sofía was finally able to computationally evolve her first star from its pre-stellar phase to its post-main sequence phase. Anthony and Andrea had numerous “aha! I get it! This actually makes sense now!” moments as they explored every detail of Maxwell’s field equations. Yanni, Anisia, and Katie worked consistently and continuously on studying past, present, and future Mars missions, in order to create a review of not only the physical difficulties of a human mission, but also the biological effects that space travel has on the human body. 

Despite all the hard work that everyone put into their projects, the camp was not all science. Every day after the working sessions were over, everyone gathered for Games and Fun in order to relax and be active.  From classic name-learning games and hide & seek variations to water balloon fights, trivia, and a treasure hunt, participants and mentors enjoyed their time together while they got to know each other. There was working and singing and running and playing, but most importantly, there was lots of laughing. 

Even though camp was in English and there was a very international atmosphere, everyone got to experience some Spanish culture through the meals that were served. The participants ate everything from gazpacho and paella to churros and fresh figs. The fun and playfulness wasn’t restricted to Games and Fun sessions. During mealtimes, there were many, many variations of pattern-finding games, as everyone tried to determine whether a moon was drawn, whether something was black or white, or whether a line existed between two seemingly random points in space. If this seems like nonsensical gibberish, you might just need to come to ISEC 2020 to figure it out for yourself.

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