Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kids' Tech University launches new program in Abingdon, Va.

ABINGDON, Va., Sept. 26, 2012 – With so many recent successes under its belt, Kids’ Tech University is set to add yet another this October with the founding of a Kids’ Tech University program at the Virginia Tech Southwest Center in Abingdon, Va. 
Designed for children ages 9 to 12, Kids’ Tech University teaches children about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects while providing them with valuable experience in a university setting.
The inaugural program will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27, and again on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
Center director Penny McCallum said “The Virginia Tech Southwest Center serves 18 school divisions in the far southwest region of Virginia. Kids' Tech University has been a huge success, and we are very excited to provide an opportunity for children in the Abingdon area to have exposure and experience in STEM subjects through the rich resources of Virginia Tech. This year, we plan to serve 100 boys and girls, ages 9 to 12. The plan is to expand this number in subsequent years.”
The program expands the center's offerings, which are currently focused on graduate programming and professional certificate programs.  The Kids' Tech University program will be the first of its kind in the Abingdon area.
"Our long-term goal is to make this program easily accessible to all children in the commonwealth, and offer it as a resource for teachers and science educators. Facilities such as the Virginia Tech Southwest Center help us in achieving this goal, and we are very excited about this new endeavor,” said Reinhard Laubenbacher, director of education and outreach for Kids' Tech University.
The Oct. 27, program will focus on pattern recognition, with an interactive session led by Laubenbacher.  In April, the session will introduce children to the exciting landscape of Antarctica with Cristina Millan. See the Kids' Tech University Abingdon website for more information and registration info.
Online registration begins Monday, Oct. 1, at 6 p.m.
Kids’ Tech University is a groundbreaking program for kids between the ages of 9 and 12 that gives children the opportunity to enroll in university courses taught by established scientific researchers who also have a strong track record in the communication of science. The goal is to expose kids early to science, math, engineering, and technology subjects in a setting that children find both exciting and fun. The program serves as a new model for science education in the United States. A European educational program, Die Kinder-Uni, which was started a few years ago in Germany, is part of the inspiration for Kids’ Tech University. Kids’ Tech University offers real lectures by real professors in a real university setting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012-2013 VT Southwest Center Kids' Tech University in Abingdon, VA program announced!

KTU is a semester-long educational research program developed by the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech in partnership with the Virginia 4-H, that puts scientists and engineers in front of children to encourage the exploration of intriguing topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

After the success of KTU in 2009-2012, we are excited to announce the 2012-13 program happening at the Virginia Southwest Center, located in the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abington, VA for kids between the ages of 9 and 12 (on September 30, 2012). Hands-on activities follow each interactive session and an online component continues the interest and excitement after the campus activities have been completed.

Registration Procedure
 Online enrollment begins at 6 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2012
•100 children will be accepted into the program
•Those accepted will represent a geographically diverse area.
•For enrollment information, please visit
•Registration is on a “first-come, first-served” basis that is open to children satisfying the age restriction, regardless of place of residence or academic achievements. A waiting list will be available after registration is full for a county or for the program.

Registration Fee- In order to keep up with the costs of providing a quality program, there will be a registration fee of $100.00 per child, payable upon registration (no refunds). The registration fee must be paid for by check; further directions will be given at the time of enrollment. Scholarships are available. Lunch cards and a KTU t-shirt will be given to all children who attend KTU.

2012/13 VT Southwest Center KTU Schedule (in Abingdon, VA)

Oct. 27, 2012 - “Patterns are Everywhere! How and Why?” An interactive session led by Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher, Professor at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and of the Department of Mathematics, Virginia Tech

Did you know that we are surrounded by patterns--everywhere? For example, farmers need to understand weather patterns to plan their harvests. Your parents need to understand traffic patterns to drive you to school safely. Music and dance excite us through patterns of sounds and movement. Some patterns are pretty easy to spot, like the pattern on a seashell, or the pattern on a snowflake. However, other patterns around us aren’t so easy to see, like the patterns on a pine cone, or the patterns of ocean waves. I’ll bet you wouldn’t guess patterns exist in clouds! To discover some of these patterns, we need to be very, very observant. So join me and together we’ll hunt down some patterns in the world around us--and as we investigate how these patterns form and why they’re there, the answers may surprise you!

April 20th, 2013- "Why Is Antarctica So "Cool" To Geologists?" An interactive session led by Cristina Millan, Ph.D. student in the School of Earth Sciences at the Ohio State University

Geologists are scientists that study the Earth in order to understand what our planet looked like in the past, how it changed to its present form and what it will look like in the future. These are important issues for all of us so we can better predict and prepare for any changes that may occur and can affect our way of life. Antarctica is a great place for geologists to work, because it is a very old continent that has experienced a lot of changes and can help answer some of these questions. Scientists have drilled for rocks in Antarctica to learn how mountains and volcanoes formed and how they might be related to earthquakes or what kind of plants and animals lived there in the past and why and when they disappeared. Rocks can also tell us why there is so much ice in Antarctica, when it all formed and, ultimately, how its melting will affect the rest of the world.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kids’ Tech University celebrates new sponsorships

BLACKSBURG, Va., September 3, 2012 – The award-winning educational program Kids’ Tech University celebrated a new milestone in achievement recently for its first corporate sponsorship from Rackspace, as part of the Rack Gives Back program.  Designed for children ages 9-12, KTU excites children about science while providing them with valuable experience in a university setting.
 Through its Rack Gives Back program, Rackspace identifies local avenues for giving or volunteerism. One of their preferred areas is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Robert McAden, business operations manager for Blacksburg’s Rackspace office, had enrolled his daughter in a KTU course and saw the great benefit and need to continue the program.
“As an employer, Rackspace is reliant on a STEM-educated workforce and strives to support programs that reach kids and foster an early interest in technology. We participated in the hands-on activities at KTU last year and were able to observe the value of the program first-hand. That is why we decided to help fund this valuable program,” said McAden.
 The corporate sponsorship is a great boon to KTU, since registration fees generally don’t cover the cost of registration.  KTU strives to provide scholarships for students in need of assistance and build future economic stability through nurturing the upcoming workforce. 
In addition to the sponsorship from Rackspace, KTU has also formed an alliance with the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council  to continue to spread the word about its exciting educational opportunities for students.
"For the program to be sustainable in the long run all the stakeholders will need to contribute. One of these is the business community, since KTU is fundamentally a program to build the future workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our partnerships with Rackspace and RBTC represent a great step in engaging regional businesses,” said Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher, director of education and outreach at VBI.
Executive director Derick Maggard noted: “The Partnership between KTU and RBTC is important because it allows our local Technology Communities to showcase real world applications of STEM studies, inspire kids to pursue a career in a STEM related industry and allows for a fun education related experience outside the classroom. By partnering with KTU, the RBTC hopes to continue its mission of community outreach, raising the profile of our regional technology assets and most importantly, inspiring our young people to become Scientists, Techies, Engineers, Mathematicians, and Entrepreneurs.”
Kids’ Tech University has just updated its website at with the program schedule for 2013, which includes interactive sessions with topics ranging from fossilization processes to DNA to ships controlled by cell phones to how math influences diabetes research. KTU registration will open on the above website at 6 pm on December 4, 2012.
About Kids’ Tech University 
Kids' Tech University (KTU) is a pioneering educational initiative designed to excite children about science and provide them with a real university experience. Kids' Tech University was spearheaded by VBI in collaboration with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program. The goal is to expose K-12 students early to cutting-edge research in science, math, engineering, and technology to hopefully encourage them to pursue science careers. The Virginia Tech Kids' Tech University activities includes a spring event series for 9-12 year olds, a high school program, a VBI interactive booth at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, and hosting K-12 visits at VBI.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

4-H focuses on Washington

PETERSBURG - Two of Petersburg 4-H Teen Leaders, Breanna Vinson and Kandace Kimber, were part of the Virginia State University Delegation that learned about government processes in the vibrant, living classroom of the nation's capital as part of Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF), an intensive 4-H civic engagement program for high-school youth held at the National

4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD from Sunday, June 17 thru Saturday, June 23, 2012.
"What an experience this was for our teens," stated Petersburg's 4-H Agent, Sharon F. Mallory, who served as a chaperone. "There was so much for the teens and adults to do and learn. We visited basically all of the monuments and memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral, and the Shakespeare Theatre of George Washington University. We were able to visit and speak with Senator Jim Webb and Congressman Randy Forbes on that Wednesday, which was designated as Capitol Hill Day. We also sat in both the House of Representative and United States Senate Galleries to witness first-hand the political process of the House and Senate. The educational pieces on healthy living, communication, government, open-mindedness, talent and responsibility were established as committee, in which each committee had to come up with an action plan to develop steps to carry back to their communities."

For more than 50 years, National 4-H Youth Conference Center has invited 4-H members from across the country to travel to Washington, DC and participate in civic workshops, committees, and field trips before returning home to make positive changes in their own communities. CWF not only strengthens young people's understanding of the government's civic process, but it also boosts their leadership skills, communication skills, and overall confidence.

"CWF is a great opportunity for young people to come together, talk about the problems they see in their communities, and identify solutions to make their communities stronger," said Donald T. Floyd, Jr., National 4-H Council President and CEO. "The experiences these young people gain during CWF gives them the proper tools and confidence to become successful, articulate leaders in the future."

If you would like more information about this or any other opportunity that the Petersburg 4-H has to offer, please contact Sharon F. Mallory, Extension Agent, specializing in 4-H Youth Development with the Virginia Cooperative Extension-Petersburg Office, at 804-733-1880 or email You may also visit us on the web at

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the Petersburg Extension Office at 804-733-1880 during business hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event. (*TDD number (800) 828-1120)
Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status; an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Online game Foldit adds puzzle to investigate proteins to aid sepsis treatment

If asked how today’s toughest medical problems are being solved, most people would probably envision highly skilled physicians and scientists working countless hours with sophisticated lab equipment, not people sitting in their homes playing computer games. Yet DARPA feels the gamers of the world have something to contribute. By pooling the time of hundreds or even thousands of computer users, DARPA hopes to accelerate new research into better treatments for sepsis—an overwhelming infection of the bloodstream that affects thousands of servicemembers each year and often leads to death.
This research is made possible by Foldit, a game and online community funded by DARPA. It works like this: Experts and nonexperts alike download the game and are presented with a simulated structure of a protein. The user tries to “fold” or to rearrange the shape of the protein. When a stable, unique shape is created, the results are sent to researchers to analyze. When successful, the result is new insight into protein designs and functions which may enable the development of new proteins to prevent and treat diseases. Gamers solving a previous Foldit puzzle remodeled an important reaction in organic synthesis in three weeks—a solution that evaded scientists for years. That puzzle demonstrated that Foldit can be used not only for protein design, but also for protein function prediction, a more complex challenge that cannot currently be solved by automation.   
DARPA now asks the Foldit community, and those who might be interested in solving a challenging new puzzle, to set their cursors over the problem of treating sepsis. In support of DARPA’s Dialysis-Like Therapeutics (DLT) program, a new puzzle was posted to the Foldit website that tasks users with creating proteins that can better bind to pathogens in the blood.
“The DLT program began in fall 2011 with the goal of creating a single device that removes sepsis-causing material from the blood,” said Timothy Broderick, physician and DARPA program manager. “DARPA is currently selecting integrators to bring various technologies developed under DLT into a single device. Hopefully, the players of Foldit will help develop new proteins that make this device more effective at removing pathogens and helping patients recover from sepsis.”
Those who logon to Foldit to take on the DLT puzzle will start with the structure of the Mannose-Binding Lectin and create designs that increase the number and strength of protein-sugar interactions. DARPA hopes to identify better protein-based pathogen capture reagents to be used for the removal of circulating pathogens patients’ blood as part of a larger DLT system. The process is very similar to the body’s natural defense against invading pathogens. DARPA performers at the University of Washington and Wyss Institute at Harvard University will analyze the results. The most promising reagent designs may be manufactured for testing at Wyss.
Do you want to help with this important research? Learn how to get involved and download the game at

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reminder!!- Virginia State University Kids' Tech University Registration Opens today!!

KTU is a semester-long educational research program developed by the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech in partnership with the Virginia 4-H, that puts scientists and engineers in front of children to encourage the exploration of intriguing topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

After the success of KTU in 2009, 2010, & 2011, we are excited to announce the 2012 fall semester event at Virginia State University for kids between the ages of 9 and 12 (on September 30, 2012), living within a four-hour drive of the VSU campus. KTU is held in the same campus lecture halls used by VSU students. Hands-on activities follow each interactive session and an online component continues the interest and excitement after the campus activities have been completed.

Fall 2012 Registration Procedure
• Online enrollment begins at 6 p.m. on Mon. September 5, 2012
• 100 children will be accepted into the program
• Those accepted will represent geographically diverse areas within a four-hour drive from the Virginia State University campus in Petersburg, VA.

Registration Fee
In order to keep up with the costs of providing a quality program, there will be a registration fee of $20.00 for the first child, and $10.00 for additional children in a family, payable upon registration (no refunds). The registration fee must be paid by check and pays for both the 
October & November KTU sessions; further directions will be given at the time of enrollment. The registration fee will cover the lunch for the registered child(ren) and parents and a t-shirt for the registered child(ren).

2012 VSU KTU Schedule

October 13, 2012"Computer Science in the World: From Toy Brains to Keeping Trees Healthy"  An interactive session led by Dr. Caitlin Kelleher

One of the coolest things about computer science is that you can use the tools of computing to help solve just about any problem you can find or imagine. In this talk, we'll look at how people teach computers to solve problems. We'll start by delving into the brains of electronic toys and then see how some computer scientists are approaching some of the biggest problems we face as a society.
Dr. Caitlin Kelleher is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Her computer program, “Storytelling Alice,” has been shown to be influential in the teaching of computer programming to young females.

November 10, 2012- Why Do We Care About Frogs' Health?” An interactive session led by Dr. Tyrone Hayes

We live in a world full of chemicals. They’re used to preserve and flavor food, help plants grow, kill bugs and other pests, dye fabrics and clean our homes. Chemicals help us in many aspects of our everyday lives. While some chemicals are not harmful to us, our pets, or the Earth, some can actually hurt our environment if not used properly. Our program will explore the world of chemical pollution and the many ways chemicals can be both helpful and harmful. We will examine the impacts chemicals can have on people, animals. Where are these chemicals coming from? How have frog populations, other animals, and humans suffered? And what can be done to help the frogs and improve our own health?

Dr. Tyrone Hayes is a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.