Wittenberg Saturday Science is an outreach program started in January 2008 that exposes area high school and home-schooled students to science and its many possibilities. Eight academic departments – biology, chemistry, computer science, geography, geology, mathematics, physics and psychology – are collaborating on the program, which is scheduled to run once a month during the school year.
Each program features a public presentation by a Wittenberg faculty member on an accessible science topic, likely something outside the typical high school curriculum. After a continental breakfast in the David L. Hobson Atrium, students then take part in a science experience led by current Wittenberg students and their professors.
"We are very happy with how the program started. Last semester brought more than 60 students to Wittenberg from 15 different area schools," said Adam Parker, assistant professor of mathematics. "Feedback from both parents and students has been positive. We look forward to continuing to reach out to area students and show them the beauty and usefulness of science."
Higgins' presentation will deal with what is sometimes called "recreational mathematics" – mathematics related to puzzles and problems people do for fun. Those who solve puzzles are sometimes unaware that they're doing mathematics. Finding a solution to a Soduku puzzle, for instance, may involve sophisticated logical reasoning.
"Like many people, I became interested in puzzles and recreational problems when I was young," Higgins said. "I especially liked puzzles in which you move things to find the solution. Some are classic, such as the "15 puzzle," the Devil's Needle and Instant Insanity.
"Rubik's Cube is another example, but I was old enough when it appeared to avoid becoming a Rubik's Cube addict. I want to give students a feeling for the history and stories behind a variety of puzzles and problems and give them some insight into the mathematics behind a few. And, of course, we'll try our hand at solving some."
Wittenberg Saturday Science is funded by a grant from Future Jobs, a regional workforce development program. Wittenberg is a partner with Future Jobs, and University President Mark H. Erickson is a member of its board of directors.
The 2009-10 Wittenberg Saturday Science program continues in February at a date to be announced. Presentations were made during the spring 2009 semester by Parker, Associate Professor of Psychology Michael Anes, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ray Dudek and Assistant Professor of Biology Michelle McWhorter. Fall presentations in the 2009-10 school year have been made by Professor of Geology and Chair of the Department John Ritter, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Steven Bogaerts, Assistant Professor of Geography Andrew Scholl and Assistant Professor of Physics Jeremiah Williams.
There is no cost to participate in Wittenberg Saturday Science, and the public is welcome to attend the lecture portion. However, space is limited for the hands-on experience. To register for the event, go to http://www.wittenberg.edu/science-outreach. For more information, e-mails can be sent to email@example.com.
Written by: Ryan Maurer
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