A Wonderful College Experience for Kids: Kids’ Tech University at Virginia Tech
Submitted by Amy Wilson
Hey, folks, it’s time to sign up for Kids’ Tech University (KTU) if you’re interested. This is an amazing opportunity offered by Virginia Tech to kids ages 9 to 12 years old. The program is held one Saturday a month for four months, from January through April. The cost is $100, and scholarships are available for families with financial need.
At KTU, kids begin the day in a Virginia Tech lecture hall, so they can get the feeling of college classes. Each of the four sessions includes a “lecture” by a scholar in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (“STEM”). The lectures are geared toward the kids’ ages and are lively, generally including slides or videos, hands-on demonstrations, and time for questions. Parents and siblings are directed to a separate lecture hall, where they can observe the presentation and the kids in the audience via live video.
After the lecture, families head over to the campus dining hall for lunch. Each child is given a voucher with a cash value toward lunch, as well as a Kids’ Tech t-shirt. After lunch, parents and students are invited to attend a hands-on activities fair, presented by campus clubs, academic departments and community organizations.
My son Henry and I attended KTU in 2010, and it was a wonderful experience. Driving down from Northern Virginia once a month was a bit strenuous, and I opted to get a hotel room each time to split the 10-hour round-trip into two different days. That definitely added to the cost, but it was also a great bonding experience for the two of us (and my daughter got time with her Dad, which they enjoyed). I know some Northern Virginia families have carpooled and shared the driving, or have shared a hotel room to reduce expenses.
I was very impressed with the lecturers for the KTU program. They presented “real” college topics, but managed to do so in a way that appealed to kids in the 9-12 age range. For example, the kids learned about topics such as the changing ecology of the Everglades, and how scientists monitor populations to watch for negative effects from human development, or micro-scale engineering with DNA used as building blocks. The concept of the lectures was to get the kids excited about math, science and engineering, and about the idea of going to college. It definitely worked for my son, who now says he wants to go to Virginia Tech!
The hands-on activities fair was awesome! We got to see a 3-D printer that can “print” a coffee mug or a model building; Henry extracted DNA from a strawberry; we talked with materials engineering students who were building a racecar from the ground up; Henry was able to hold a newly-hatched baby chick (which he adored) an put his gloved hand inside a cow’s rumen to learn how agricultural scientists study bovine digestion (this experience was not his favorite, I’ll admit). The only downside to the activity portion of the event was that it tended to be very crowded; for this reason, siblings of KTU students are not allowed to attend this activity. This can be hard on families, and is the reason I left my daughter at home rather than bringing her along – she would have been unhappy to be left out of that part of the day, and my husband was unable to come for all of the weekends involved. But now Betsy is old enough, so perhaps it’s time for another KTU experience!
2012 Program of Events
January 28, 2012
“How Can Mathematics and Computers Help Us Understand Why Cancer Cells Misbehave?”
An interactive session led by Dr. Suzanne Weekes
Associate Professor and Associate Head of Mathematical Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
Director for the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics at WPI.
Co-director of the MSRI-UP program in Berkeley, California.
Click here to view the hands-on exhibits planned for Jan 2012
February 25, 2012
“Will Computers Replace Humans?”
An interactive session led by Dr. Wuchun Feng
Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech.
Director of the Synergy Laboratory and site co-director of the NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing.
Adjunct Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology and Translational Science Institute at Wake Forest University and at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.
Click here to view the hands-on exhibits planned for Feb 2012
March 24, 2012
“How Much Work Could a Network Net if a Network Could Net Work?”
An interactive session led by Dr. Stephen Eubank
Deputy Director of the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and a Virginia Tech Adjunct Professor of Physics
Click here to view the hands-on exhibits planned for Mar 2012
April 7, 2012
“Why Doesn’t My Banana Get the ‘Flu?”
An interactive session led by Dr. Brett Tyler
Director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing and Stewart Professor of Genome Research at Oregon State University
Click here to view the hands-on exhibits planned for Apr 2012
You can experience Kids’ Tech online at the Virtual Kids’ Tech page. There you can learn about Mars, Fractal Submissions, Patterns, Ecosystems and more, all in a fun online environment. Give it a try!