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The first day of the 4-H Marine Ambassadors Camp offered attractions that most summer camps don’t — a tour of a wave research lab and the opportunity to build Lego structures to test in simulated tsunami waves.

Campers were given design guidelines and asked to build a structure from the plastic bricks strong enough to protect a Lego figure from a devastating wave. Then the structure was tested in a small wave generator in the wave lab at Oregon State University to see how the figure fared.

Camp participant Kayla Mackie said her structure turned out sturdier than she expected.

“I think we protected our person pretty well,” she said.

The camp is an opportunity for participants to learn about marine environments through such hands-on activities. After spending Monday at Oregon State University, the marine campers head to Newport today, where they will visit the Hatfield Marine Science Center. During the coming week, they’ll take two ocean trips on a research vessel.

“We’re calling this the ‘Marine Ambassadors’ because we want (campers) to learn things this week and then take that to their home community,” said Virginia Bourdeau, of the OSU Extension Service’s 4-H youth development program.

She said she hopes the marine campers learn responsibility for the ocean through the camp.

“In Oregon, all of our weather comes from the ocean,” she said. “If we’re not taking care of our environment, all of us are going to suffer.”

Christian Benson, a senior at the Dalles-Wahtonka High School, said he was given an application for the camp by his chemistry teacher.

“I saw this as an opportunity to get some field experience,” said Benson, who plans to pursue a career in biology.

He noted that he already has learned something about the chemistry involved in global warming.

Apart from a $35 application fee, the program was free for its 57 high school participants, who are from 20 of Oregon’s 36 counties. The program is funded by a grant from Samsung, and Bourdeau said each student was admitted to the camp based on an application essay. The organizers received three times as many applications as they had open spots at the camp.

Mackie, a senior at Lebanon High School, said she applied for the camp because of the learning opportunities it provided.

“The fact that it’s hands-on really drew me to it because it’s something that I wouldn’t get regularly in my high school,” she said. “I’m glad they are taking this opportunity to bring students here,” she said.

Mackie said she might want to pursue a career in public health and examine how changes in climate affect people.

She added that she was surprised by the type of research done at the wave lab at OSU.

“Knowing I could actually take part in this research if I really wanted to is impressive,” she said.

Anthony Rimel covers K-12 education. He can be reached at 541-758-9526 or anthony.rimel@lee.net.

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