COURTESY RYAN SMITH
Amandin Chyba Rabeendran, left, and Evan Nakagawa, students at Montessori Community School, fashioned underwater vehicles from LEGOs on Friday. CLICK FOR LARGE
LEGOs create equation sensations
Math: As easy as 1-2-3
Mathematics isn't boring or difficult, says Monique Chyba.
To prove that it can be fun and exciting, the University of Hawaii-Manoa professor is presenting a free program from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Campus Center Ballroom.
People are welcome to arrive early and watch four groups of students and adults experimenting with LEGOs to create underwater robotic vehicles.
An assistant professor of ocean and resources engineering and mathematics, Chyba has received two National Science Foundation grants to apply mathematics to underwater technology research and experiments.
The College of Engineering laboratory and Manoa Partnership joined with the Mathematics Department to sponsor the program tomorrow.
It isn't targeting scientists, engineers or technicians, Chyba stressed. "It's the opposite," she said, explaining she wants to reach "people who are afraid of mathematics."
Parents are invited to take children from kindergarten age on up, she said, noting it is a chance to show them the university. "It makes a bigger experience."
Chyba will give a lecture with a lot of visuals entitled "The Treasures of Mathematics Island." She will have surprise guests, and people can walk around and see "hands-on technology," she said.
Three undergraduate students will supervise four groups as they build underwater LEGO vehicles from 4 to 6 p.m. Their creations will be demonstrated in a tank of water after the lecture, she said.
Two students each from kindergarten, middle and high schools and two adults -- one a firefighter and the other an elementary school teacher -- will make up the groups.
They have to think about such things as hydrodynamics, density and buoyancy and have to be creative, Chyba said. "The results are pretty amazing, usually."
Visitors will be able to look inside an underwater vehicle built by the Autonomous Systems Laboratory.
Song Choi, assistant dean of the College of Engineering and chief executive officer of Marine Autonomous Systems Engineering, will be available to answer questions, Chyba said.
A movie will be shown of a large autonomous robotic vehicle built by the lab for deep-ocean work, and Choi will describe how the vehicle has improved since the project began in 1991, she said.
After receiving her second $150,000 two-year NSF grant, Chyba developed an outreach education program called STOMP (Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program) that Tufts University used to help stimulate interest in engineering.
"The idea is to use LEGOs and incorporate that into the curriculum, into the classroom, at elementary through high school," she said.
The program encourages children to be creative in solving problems and introduces them to engineering concepts and terms as they build underwater robots with LEGOs, she said.
She plans to begin holding teacher workshops starting Feb. 10 on Oahu to explain the program, and will send undergraduate students to classrooms to work with kids.
"We want to reach as many children as we can," she said, "especially the ones who never get a chance to play with these things."