On July 23 students from Galveston Independent School District’s R4 program paid a visit to Rice University.

The students were participating in an intensive four-week camp which took them beyond the classroom to experience real-world mathematics through project-based learning.

The program R4 Relations: Robots Rockets and Roller Coasters was an exciting summer camp that involved students in sixth through 12th grades exploring physics chemistry and mathematics. It is the result of a partnership between the school district and the Rice University School Mathematics Project.

The visit to the Rice campus provided students with an opportunity to tour a university campus and to learn about college admission and the preparations for admission. RUSMP directors Anne Papakonstantinou and Richard Parr talked with students about the importance of preparing early for college and discussed the steps needed for college admission and financial aid.

As part of R4 students learned about nanotechnology and the role Rice University played in this emerging science.

To prepare for the visit students read ”Prey” by Michael Crichton and researched Nobel Prize winners. Rice is the home of two Nobel laureates the late Richard Smalley and Robert Curl who received the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their groundbreaking work in nanotechnology with Sir Harold Kroto a British chemist.

Kristen Kulinowski director of the International Council of Nanotechnology and director for External Affairs for the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechology made a presentation to the group on ”Nanotechnology: what is it and is it safe?”

Kulinowski explained what nanotechnology is noted its many uses in consumer products medicine and industry and discussed its risks and benefits. She closed with the possibility of what is yet to come in nanotechnology and of its convergence with other emerging technologies.

The visit ended with students taking part in RUSMP’s famous mathematics tour of the Rice University campus led by RUSMP directors Papakonstantinou Parr Susan Troutman and Carolyn White. Students explored the mathematics of the Rice campus by translating the Roman numerals on the cornerstone of Lovett Hall identifying the various symmetries of shapes on campus estimating the number of holes in the decorative frieze at one of the entrances to Anderson Hall and identifying the measures of the angles of the sculpture in the engineering quadrangle.

Students experimented with the whispering niches and the vaulted ceiling in the Physics Building and marveled at the engineering feat of turning the statue of William Marsh Rice to face Fondren Library. They discovered concentric circles on campus estimated slopes of ramps and marveled at the stylized hyperbolic triangles at the entrance of the Humanities building.

The students left the Rice campus with a newfound appreciation for mathematics outside of the math classroom an understanding of the college admission process and a glimpse of the sciences behind the novel ”Prey.”

Dr. Anne Papakonstantinou is director of the Rice University School Mathematics Project.

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