Math Counts campers build solar-powered cars

From the Abilene Reporter News
June 17, 1999

Senior Staff Writer,
Abilene-Reporter News

It wasn't the lesson Jennifer Winn was expecting when she signed up for a math and science camp at Abilene Christian University, but it falls generally into the category of science.

"I learned that gravity can pull you down really hard," she said, gently touching a sprained arm supported by a sling.

That lesson wasn't in the camp training manual but came unexpectedly when Jennifer, who just completed eighth grade at Lincoln Middle School, fell while walking on top of a wall on the ACU campus.

But the minor injury didn't keep Jennifer from returning to camp Wednesday, along with a roomful of other sixth- through eighth-graders who were eagerly putting together solar cars as part of their science lesson.

This is the second year for ACU to have the camp, sponsored by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. Called, "Math Counts," the camp stresses the importance of math and science in today's society. A second, more advanced session, will be held next week.

"You have to use math in almost everything," Jennifer said.

But nobody was complaining Wednesday as the youngsters put together little solar-powered race cars, which they will pit against one another today.

Ronnie McQueen, an ACU design technology professor, held up plastic gears of differing sizes and asked the students what happens when changing from a small gear to a larger one.

"It reduces the speed, but you gain what?" he asked.

"Power!" the students shouted in unison.

While McQueen talked about gear ratios, Travis Cabasal and Stephen Smith, both seventh-graders next fall at Wylie, held their solar panels under a light for a test run. The panels were attached to a little motor with a plastic blade on it. As soon as the light struck the panel, the blade whirred.

"Man, this works good!" Travis proclaimed, explaining that the speed produced by the panel depends on the intensity of the light.

As much fun as the camp is, its purpose is to be educational. Co-director Leslie Koske, a math teacher at Lincoln Middle School, wasn't disappointed. Nor was Susan Jenkins, an engineer with ABCO and a sponsor from the Texas Society of Professional Engineers

"They are absolutely fascinated with math," Jenkins said.

Koske said both camp sessions are for students interested in all disciplines, including the arts, because all aspects of today's society include technology.

"We need people from all walks of life to be interested in math," she said. "Our country has a deficit of technologically advanced workers."

For more information on next week's camp, call Koske at 698-4610 or send e-mail to Loretta Fulton can be reached at 915-676-6778 or


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Last update: June 17, 1999
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