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Science entertainer is keynote speaker at Jack Kilby Science Day
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Students attending Barton Community College’s seventh annual Jack Kilby Science Day will meet Bret Mahoney, a man who takes science literacy very seriously. As the Academic Networking Coordinator for Science Museum Oklahoma, he works to ignite passion and inquiry in students and teachers.

Mahoney is keynote speaker for Jack Kilby Science Day, set for 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on Barton’s campus. The science day honors the memory of 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physics Jack Kilby by inspiring young people to take an interest in science through a variety of science presentations, demonstrations and experiments.

"Science by nature is a curiosity field," said Barton’s life sciences instructor Dr. John Simmons. "Young people are curious. They want to use their hands, they want to investigate, and they’re hungry for opportunities to do that, and that’s what we’re providing to these students."

Jack Kilby Science Day is free for high school students from throughout central Kansas. This activity also is open to high school science, technical and vocational teachers, counselors and administrators. Attendance is arranged through pre-registration by the high schools or home schools in the area. The college has close to 600 high school students, teachers and staff pre-registered for the day.

In addition, this year for the first time, local fifth and sixth graders and local seventh and eighth graders will come to the campus to attend sessions at 1 and 2 p.m., to witness Mahoney’s keynote presentation. Simmons said more than 500 students are expected for each of those afternoon shows.

Mahoney will present his keynote program for high school students 9 a.m. "He captivates his audience from the very beginning," said Simmons, who attended one of his shows at the Oklahoma Science Museum. "He is able to teach science while entertaining. He gets the students interested in science and that starts the day with a bang." His experiments with fire and explosives, and some well-placed science jokes are bound to get the students’ attention.

In addition to Mahoney’s presentation, participants in Jack Kilby Science Day have opportunities to explore science and technology in numerous sessions.

Led by Barton instructors and other instructors from the area, 26 hands-on sessions promise to be both educational and entertaining. With assignments based on student preference, each student will participate in two hours of activities following the keynote presentation.

The event is sponsored by the college and funded in part by Farmers Bank and Trust NA and Kiwanis Club of Great Bend.

In addition, JKSD will include Barton’s fourth annual Math Bowl led by math instructor Jo Harrington and the Science Bowl led by Simmons. Students will participate in teams of three in these tournament-style events and each member of the math and science winning teams will receive a scientific calculator donated by Texas Instruments.

Breakout sessions will include the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s simulations of forensics investigations for student participation; Disease Scene Investigation, CSI style, in which students will find out certain patient symptoms and spend the hour working together to determine what the disease might be; rocketry led by a Fort Hays faculty member to build a rocket and actually launch it; migration miracles by Curtis Wolf, director of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center; and the case of the hungry owl in which Eric Giesing leads students to solve the mystery of what creatures the Cheyenne Bottoms barn owls are capturing and eating.

Barton’s new biology instructor Colleen Hampton will lead students in isolating DNA from strawberries. "Students will find out that what seems like it might be a very technical process with a lot of technology involved is really a lot simpler than they think," Simmons said. "What they think might be a mystery in a black box really isn’t. Once they take the lid off and look inside, it’s completely doable if they just focus on it."

The sessions will be followed by a pizza lunch in the Kirkman Student Activity Center and an expo event offering information on Barton and its services. Numerous booths will represent Barton’s programs and departments as well as off-campus organizations. With the booths, students will have a chance to participate in some fun, hands-on activities.

The science day bears the name of 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physics Jack Kilby. As a young boy, Kilby moved to Great Bend where he lived until he graduated from Great Bend High School in 1941. His invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 while working for Texas Instruments is the genius behind nearly every electronic product used today. Kilby went on with TI to pioneer military, industrial and commercial applications of microchip technology with his invention. Later, he co-invented both the hand-held calculator and the thermal printer that was used in portable data terminals. Kilby died in June 2005 at the age of 81.

Along with winning the Nobel Prize, Kilby received two of the nation’s most prestigious honors in science and engineering. In 1970, in a White House ceremony, he received the National Medal of Science. And in 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Jack Kilby felt very honored when he was told Barton Community College had started Jack Kilby Science Day in his honor. He wasn’t able to come to the first event because of his health, but he sent a letter thanking the college for honoring him. "The last thing he said in his letter was ‘keep it fun,’" Simmons said. "That’s a good philosophy for education in general, to remember on a daily basis to keep it fun. It doesn’t have to be a drag because it’s science and math; it’s fun."