BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) –A summer camp at Beckley-Stratton Middle School demonstrated just how important the human touch is to science. A camp hosted by the West Virginia Department of Education and WVU STEAM Tech turned Raleigh County students into medical device engineers on Tuesday, June 22nd.

Kids spent time working with a special guest, the 73-year-old mom of STEAM Specialist Cliff Sullivan. Sullivan said she’s a retired assistant professor who’s living with multiple sclerosis. The disease makes everyday tasks harder for her, he said.

Campers on Wednesday used science to build devices that helped Sullivan’s mother, who was in a wheelchair, to use her thumbs to pick up objects.

When a student succeeded, everyone celebrated.

Cathryn Sampson, a Park Middle School student, said the activity was her favorite.

“We are building a hydraulic claw to pick up the things, using just water and syringes and other materials,” Cathryn explained.

Sullivan said the activity was a good science lesson and a lesson in empathy.

His mother had not left the house often during Covid, and she enjoyed spending time with students at the camp, he added.

“Seeing kids really trying to make this work for her, I think she’s going to go home with a full heart from that,” said Sullivan.

State Board of Education President Miller Hall visited the camp, and BEST principal Yohan Smith was also present, along with a number of Raleigh Schools administrators.