July 23, 2014  

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Kids' Science Challenge Winner Teams Up with Southern Miss Professor

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Peyton Robertson, left, had a chance to test his golf ball warmer project with University of Southern Mississippi polymer science professor Daniel Savin. (Office of University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

How many 9-year-olds can truly understand the concept of “diminishing returns?”

After a few minutes of conversation with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., third-grader Peyton Robertson, one ascertains quickly he is anything but the typical elementary school student. Thus, it comes as no surprise to learn Robertson was named one of three nationwide winners in the 3rd annual Kids' Science Challenge.

Part of his prize package for capturing first place in the Super Stuff for Sports category included a visit to The University of Southern Mississippi campus and collaboration with polymer science professor Daniel Savin. Robertson came up with the idea of inventing a golf ball warmer after discovering that his tee shots went farther on warm days than on colder ones.

“Dr. Savin took me into his lab and we did some tests on golf balls and I also got to see how a lot of other neat experiments are done,” said Robertson, who spent the better part of May 19-20 on the Hattiesburg campus with his father, Johnathan Robertson. “We found that the golf balls really didn’t have to be that much warmer than room temperature to work effectively, as long as they didn’t get colder than that. So, I guess instead of inventing a golf ball warmer, what I should call it is a golf ball preserver.”

The Southern Miss visit also included a stop at The Accelerator, the university’s research/business incubator. Savin said he could envision Robertson walking the halls at Southern Miss or testing theories in one of the university’s labs.

“Yes, I’ve already been recruiting him a little bit, letting him know about all the scholarship opportunities we have here,” said Savin. “Peyton is obviously a very bright young man with a genuine love of math and science. It has been a thrill to see his enthusiasm up close and an honor to work so closely with such a wonderful program as the Kids' Science Challenge.”

The winning students in this year’s competition (for 3rd-6th graders) were chosen from more than 1,300 entries. The event, funded by the National Science Foundation, was developed by Jim Metzner, award-winning producer of the “Pulse of the Planet” radio series.

For more information about the annual contest, visit www.kidssciencechallenge.com. To learn more about the polymer science program at Southern Miss call 601.266.4868 or visit http://www.usm.edu/polymer/