You wouldn’t think forty-​​seven middle-​​schoolers and their home­made bottle rockets would make for a great combination.

But you’d be proved wrong at the Exxon­Mobil Bernard Harris Summer Sci­ence Camp, hosted by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and housed at John D. O’Bryant High School, in Roxbury.

The two-​​week camp is open to middle-​​school stu­dents with a strong interest in math and sci­ence, giving them the chance to work along­side North­eastern fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents on projects that increase their knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence in the areas of sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering and math­e­matics (STEM).

For the bottle-​​rocket chal­lenge, twelve teams of three to four stu­dents had about an hour to design and build their mis­siles. The win­ning team, named the Orange Man Group, used a 2-​​liter bottle, paper and tape to build a rocket that stayed air­borne for nine seconds.

Watching the rocket fly so high into the air was totally awe­some,” says James Joutras, a member of the win­ning team, who will enter the eighth grade in Hyde Park this fall. His fellow team­mates, all thir­teen years old, were Rafael Kin­sella, of Roslin­dale; Griffin Aldrich, of Waltham; and Dylan Steefel, of Milton.

Taking time to talk their ideas through pro­vided an extra boost, says Steefel: “We def­i­nitely learned how to work better as a team, and that effort helped us win.”

During a day filled with space-​​related activ­i­ties, the stu­dents heard from Bernard Harris, former NASA astro­naut and the first African Amer­ican to per­form a space­walk, and Al Sacco, former NASA astro­naut and a chemical-​​engineering pro­fessor at Northeastern.

Rachel Gaudet, an eleven-​​year-​​old from Lynn who par­tic­i­pated in the camp last year, returned for the day to tell cur­rent campers about her expe­ri­ence. “It is hard to find pro­grams like this where I live, and it is impor­tant for kids inter­ested in sci­ence to have this kind of expe­ri­ence,” says Gaudet, who wants to be a robotics engineer.

Throughout their time at camp, the middle schoolers take part in hands-​​on activ­i­ties in sci­ence labs. At Northeastern’s Marine Sci­ence Center, for instance, they saw live ani­mals and learned about marine ecosystems.

The goal of this pro­gram is to engage young stu­dents in STEM sub­jects, to help them build the con­fi­dence to suc­ceed both inside and out­side the class­room,” says Claire Duggan, director of pro­grams and part­ner­ships at Northeastern’s Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion.

The free pro­gram runs in 30 uni­ver­si­ties across the country. North­eastern is the only New Eng­land campus selected to host the program.