FSU mentors teach kids physics
Education: Outreach program for gifted students at FSU
Leo Mendez, Senior Staff Writer
Despite the title, researchers have been known to do more than just research. Take for instance Dr. Per Arne Rikvold and graduate physics student Steven Mitchell. These two, along with junior high school teacher Joan Crow, have gone beyond their job descriptions to bring science and their work to kids.
Every Monday at the Super Computer Institute (SCRI), located on the fourth floor of Dirac Science Library, Crow brings her brightest students to participate in a program where mentors from various scientific fields teach the children everything from statistics to chemistry.
At SCRI, Dr. Rikvold and Mitchell have been enlightening students as to the wonders of physics and computing, while constructing a robot. An innovation of LEGO, the robot was a dream come true for both Dr. Rikvold and Mitchell, who both have a special fascination with LEGOs.
"After Steven and I discovered that we were LEGO freaks, we decided to give the kids engineering and computing skills," Dr. Rikvold said.
There are two areas in this particular project - the programming and engineering aspects. Michael, a 14 year old whose assigned to build the robot, said the project was fun but very complicated. His partner, Elliot, a 14 year old writing programs to make Michael's creation move, deals with the difficult engineering feats.
Together, the kids are taught everything from levers to gears to more complicated physics concepts such as torque, strain and stress.
"We give them and intuitive idea of what these things are. In order to work, they have to understand the engineering and physics of it. That's where they need to work together," Mitchell said.
The robots themselves, when properly built, can perform the duties of a light-sensitive intruder alarm, while moving around obstacles. The main component is the RCX, a LEGO microcomputer that can be programmed with a personal computer. Using sensors to take input and process data, the system contains over 700 pieces. With everything from gears to levers, the system is sold at toy stores and goes for approximately $200. At the end of every semester, the kids put together a science show with everything they have learned.
If you would like to become a mentor, call Larry Dennis @644-1864, for more info.
Leo Mendez is a senior majoring in chemistry who covers scientific research programs and the scientific community at FSU.Back to Mentorship Page