August 20, 2014  

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Southern Miss Professor to Work with Kids’ Science Challenge Winner

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Peyton Robertson

There are inquisitive kids … and then there are youngsters like Peyton Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who take curiosity to a different level.

Robertson, a third-grader at Pine Crest School and an avid golfer, kept noticing that his tee shots went farther on warm days than on cold ones. And that led to his idea for a device that golfers could use to keep their golf balls warm in cold weather.

For his creative concept, Robertson was recently named one of three winners in the 3rd annual Kids’ Science Challenge. Part of his prize package includes an opportunity to collaborate with University of Southern Mississippi polymer science professor Daniel Savin on a prototype for the golf ball warmer.

“I’ve read about Dr. Savin’s research group online and watched him on the videos that he has made for the Kids’ Science Challenge Web site. He seems not only incredibly smart, but also fun to work with, too,” said Robertson. “I have so many questions to ask him about my idea for a golf ball warmer and about kinetic energy in general. It will be amazing to work in a real lab where we can test some of my ideas.”

Savin said he became involved in the annual challenge when officials with the competition reached out to faculty at Southern Miss.

“For the Super Stuff for Sports category in the challenge this year, their intention was to have a project that relates materials science to the development of sporting equipment,” said Savin. “Southern Miss is an ideal venue because of our Sports and High Performance Materials program. Since I have elementary-age children, I thought it would be fun to participate.”

Robertson, his parents and Kids’ Science Challenge creator Jim Metzner are scheduled to visit Savin and tour the Southern Miss campus May 19-20.

“What struck me was how much these kids were thinking outside the box,” said Savin. “Peyton’s project relates to how the elasticity of a golf ball depends on temperature. When he visits next week, I want to show him some different ways we measure bounciness, and how we can make plastics with different elasticities.”

Robertson's prize package includes: accommodations at the River Ranch Log Cabin Bed & Breakfast in Hattiesburg; a steamboat cruise, city tour and Haunted House Ghost Tour in New Orleans; a microscope courtesy of Boreal Laboratories; polymers kit courtesy of Academy of Science for Kids; K2 helmet, OUuerspace Explorer Kit, Super Snow and Space Sand all courtesy of DuneCraft Inc.

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

For more information about the annual contest, visit www.kidssciencechallenge.com