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Youth exposed to math and science at college’s Super Science Saturday

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A lesson on engineering at Jefferson Community College’s Super Science Saturday came in the form of aluminum foil, a plastic container partly filled with water and a collection of coins and washers.

The challenge: Build a ship that could hold the most weight without sinking.

Waiting in line for a chance to test his design was Samuel J. Lachenauer, 8, carrying a wide and flat boat he had folded a few minutes earlier.

“I just kind of did it,” he said. “I thought it would be fun.”

At his turn, his boat filled slowly with individually added washers and coins. Soon, all of the table’s 122 pieces filled the boat.

“The champion...ship,” joked one of the volunteers at the table.

Excited with his boat, Samuel soon watched as the boats of his older brothers Ethan, 13, and Nathaniel, 14, submerged carrying a third as many pieces. The Sherman Elementary School third-grader said he did not expect his design to do so well.

“I didn’t think it would make 30” pieces, Samuel said. “I ate my words.”

The ability to see and try different designs helps participants visualize engineering concepts, according to the display’s organizer, the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair.

“We’re trying to jump-start their thinking, imagination,” said Daniel J. O’Leary, a freshman environmental studies major at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse.

The contest was one of dozens of displays that filled the college’s Jules Center, McVean Student Center and Guthrie Science Building during the day, as the event marked its seventh year. Other groups focused on topics such as small-animal care, robotics, planets and nutrition.

Pamela F. Smith, an assistant professor of mathematics at JCC, said she hoped the exhibits piqued their interest, as she watched children making a bridge out of uncooked spaghetti noodles.

“Someday these kids may want to build a real bridge,” she said.

It wasn’t just children who learned something new. Natalie Goode, 11, standing next to her sister Amber, 8, said she learned Saturday that many poison dart frogs become poisonous through what they eat.

“I didn’t know that, either,” said their mother, Juwia.

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