An inaugural program is taking place this week at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. It is the “Ishango STEM Summer Camp” and is being put on for the first time by the nonprofit Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine.
A total of 17 local middle and high school students are taking part in the five-day summer camp. Paleoanthropologist Noel Boaz, ICSM President and a Senior Fellow of the VMNH, is leading the camp. Each day is spent in experiential learning about the African World Heritage archaeological site of Ishango, where the famous 20,000-yearold “Ishango Bone,” one of the most ancient mathematical artifacts in the world, was discovered.
Campers learn from 3D-printed copies of the artifact such skills as coding their own names in Base 2 and finger counting to 60 in Base 12 with their hands. They build their own paper microscopes to investigate specimens in the “microcosmos” and use a camera lucida app to draw specimens from the “macrocosmos” in Martinsville’s city park. Other skills learned include gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction to investigate the genome and how to identify the major species of human ancestors in the fossil record using “Bone Clone” casts.