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A 2020 vision?? just imagine it

BY EILEEN SCHULTE | Times Staff Writer

PALM HARBOR

Picture it. ¶ It's the year 2020. ¶ NASA's Orion capsule has landed on the moon and a space station has been erected. ¶ Aimed at Mars is a launch pad. ¶ Somewhere in the stands of the Carwise Middle School gym Thursday sat a fresh-faced student who could be the first to blast off to the Red Planet and take a stroll. ¶ By then the brave explorer will be about 25, well of age to pilot a spacecraft. ¶ But, first, they need to know a little bit about science.

So about 750 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Carwise Middle, home of the Sharks, took a walk inside the brain of Sir Isaac Newton.

"This is going to be pretty boring, just to warn you,'' said Michael Elias, 48, Honeywell's director of engineering for space applications, based in Clearwater.

The room went dark.

A female voice shouted "Let's get this party started!''

With that, the room exploded as three young performers started dancing and rapping about Newton's laws of motion and the universal law of gravity while scenes of snowboarders and rock climbers played on two huge screens on each end of the stage.

The presentation was called FMA Live!, a hip-hop/variety educational show designed by Honeywell to get kids hooked on science and steer them into the engineering field.

Why?

A NASA study showed job opportunities in science, math and engineering fields will increase three times faster than all other occupations within the next decade. And the number of students pursuing careers in those fields is declining.

With heavy competition from countries such as India and China, Honeywell wanted to come up with a program to show American kids that science can be fun.

And it was.

"What would rock be without the roll?'' the singers rapped. "It's motion.''

Everything is in motion, they said (except most of the students who were glued to their seats).

"F=ma! F=ma! F=ma!'' the singers rapped.

Translation: force (F) acting on a body is equal to the mass (m) of the body times its acceleration (a), or F=ma to those of you who zoned out during physics class.

To demonstrate that law, as well as inertia and action/reaction, Kyle Bazin and Anthony Kanaris, both 13, put on special suits and threw themselves onto a yellow Velcro wall.

Two teachers donned fat suits and wrestled each other to the ground.

Rachel Ventrone and Halee Evola, both 12, raced each other across the stage in special go-carts.

Pam Fergusson, a science teacher, sat in a hover chair and was propelled face-first into a giant cream pie, something the students found particularly hilarious.

Elias said the show has been presented to more than 160,000 students at 435 middle schools in the United States and Canada.

It is funded by Honeywell which partnered with NASA in 2003 to create the program.

"I thought it was extremely interesting,'' said Alex Follo, 13, adding the presentation made Newton's laws much clearer to him.

An aide helped Alex, who is blind, "see'' the show by explaining everything that was happening on the stage and the screen as it occurred.

He said science is his favorite subject and added it "would be very cool'' to go to Mars.

Rachel Ventrone also said she learned a lot from the show.

"I never knew just from an apple falling that he (Newton) learned three laws (of science),'' she said.

But it didn't inspire Rachel to be an astronaut. She wants to be a singer. Perhaps sometime in the future she could be a star on Mars.

"She's really good,'' said her friend Halee Evola.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

A 2020 vision?? just imagine it 03/06/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2008 8:55pm]
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