LINCOLN — Here's a cool thing about a rainbow, explains 12-year-old Kelsey Bouc: Two people standing side by side see different ones.
The reason, she said: Rainbows are visible through drops of rain, and each person looks through different droplets.
And another thing, said the young camper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's inaugural Weather Camp: Some colors in rainbows are invisible to the human eye.
Spend a few minutes with Kelsey, a self-assured preteen from rural Ceresco, Neb., and it's clear she is on her way toward her chosen profession, teaching science. It was that love of science that drew her to the weeklong camp at UNL.
Fourteen middle-school students, mostly from the Midlands, but some from outside the region, spent this past week researching weather, meeting scientists and getting to know one another.
The camp concluded Friday, with students presenting research projects to their parents. Kelsey's was on rainbows.
Ken Dewey, the UNL professor and climatologist in charge of the camp, said the goal is to convince kids that their love of science is not unusual, even if it sometimes feels that way at school.
“The bottom line is that the number of students interested in science wanes as they leave middle school,” Dewey said. “We want to make sure they don't lose sight of careers in math and science. We want to nurture them, and make sure they know there are kids just like them, and to meet real scientists so that they can relate to them.”
Among the UNL scientists the students met were members of the research team drilling ice cores in Antarctica and a tornado expert who has sent a drone near a tornado for data.
“Awesome” is the way 13-year-old Dallas Jones of Lincoln described the camp. He wants to become a research meteorologist and says he's already prepared for the inevitable jokes he'll hear about missed forecasts.
“That's OK. I don't care much. I'll try to do my best, and that's all that matters,” he said.
Like so many people who devote their lives to weather, Dallas has long been fascinated by it.
As a little kid, he would watch the Weather Channel and draw his own maps of Nebraska storm cells, using red and green crayons to distinguish the storms' worst from bands of rain.
Like Dallas, 11-year-old Christopher Hudson has loved weather for as long as he can remember.
He traveled to Lincoln from DeSoto, Texas, for the third science camp of his young life. When he was 2, storms rolling through DeSoto drew him into his garage.
“I loved going outside and watching the rain,” he said.
Christopher wants to be a forecast meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He's researching tornadoes for the camp and is focusing on the Tri-State Tornado, known to have killed 695 people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in 1925.
Despite a tornado's deadly power, Chistopher offered an observation indicative of someone with weather in his DNA: “Most are pretty.”
Allison Snurr, a 12-year-old from Beatrice, Neb., chose cloud seeding in China for her research.
“It's been done in Texas, too,” she said.
If Nebraska's dry spring evolves into drought, would she advocate cloud seeding?
“I think it's a neat idea, but I don't like the idea of forcing nature to do something that's unnatural,” she said.
Like Kelsey, she was drawn to the class because of her love of science more than weather. She's not sure about the future, but likes the idea of becoming a scientist and discovering a cure for cancer.
“I like teaching and learning,” she said.
In addition to the research and meeting scientists, campers also took daily weather readings and analyzed what was ahead.
On Thursday, they determined that the barometic pressure had dropped significantly, and that a change in the weather, along with a chance for storms, was in the works. As many who drove that day know, it was.
Torrential rains, hail and strong winds swept across eastern Nebraska, causing, among other things, the cancellation of the College World Series' opening ceremony.
Like so many Nebraskans, 13-year-old Dalton Van Stratten of rural Fort Calhoun enjoys the state's weather because it changes so much. He, too, wants to become a meteorologist. He wants to help people.
“It's neat,” he said. “Every day you get to see what's up next.”
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