Monday, July 20, 2009

The Big Ending

"You saved the best for last, Dr. Moreno!" This was what several camp participants told me on Friday. And I have to agree.

It all began on Thursday with our visit to Old Dominion University's Vision Lab. ODU's Prof. Asari hosted our camp for an afternoon of technological delights. Several of Prof. Asari's Ph.D. students were on hand to offer demonstrations to the campers and to involve them in such technologies as iris mapping and scanning, facial recognition programs, and facial mapping. All of these technologies are used for security and intelligence applications. What was so cool is that the lab's staff emailed to many of us our own 3-D facial map! It was both creepy and cool (I saved mine as my computer's screensaver).

Then came Friday - the longest and fullest day of the week. It began with a trip to the Virginia Beach Police Explosives Unit where we were able to witness first hand all of the latest technologies and preventive measures that bomb technicians use. One of our campers (go Harry!) was selected to be the "trigger man" in a small scale explosives demonstration. What was most impressive was the willingness of the explosives unit staff to sacrifice themselves for their fellow citizens. This was crystal clear when we looked at the protective gear these staff wear. While the gear could protect them from a 10 lbs. TNT blast at 10 feet away, their hands were always unprotected since they are essential for their work. These staff are willing to take this risk to save lives. Talk about sacrifice!

In the afternoon we arrived to the Navy Ordnance Disposal Unit at Fort Story. It is hard to put into words all that we did at Fort Story. Simply put - it was an AWESOME experience and hands down the best field trip of the entire week. We crawled through constructed mountain caves (similar to those in Afghanistan), rode the MRPP vehicles through forests and dirt roads, and truly experienced so many other things that not only made us realize how priviliged we were to attend this trip but also helped us to understand the sacrifice and extreme training of American troops.

To top it all off, the camp closed with a first-class banquet at the Founders Inn. We were treated to an excellent meal and to the evening's keynote speaker Dr. Walid Phares - an internationally sought-after terrorism expert. The talk was great, the food was superb but more importantly, it was the relationships that had developed that week that were the most memorable. Several students came and thanked me for the week, for all of the trips and experiences, and for all of the fun. Some of them hugged me and asked me for future help and advice. Many parents thanked me for the camp and for all that their children had done and learned. And many of the campers hugged each other, exchanged email addresses and promised to stay in touch. It was wonderful and so fulfilling to know that all of our hard work and planning had a positive human effect, that a difference, a positive one, had been made on students and parents alike. This was the most enriching and fulfilling aspect of the week for me.

Now, I am off to go and think and plan about next year's camp. So the fun begins again...

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