|Notre Dame students Nolan Weimer (7th grade), left, and his brother Marshall (9th grade) flank Dr. Dean Aslam of Michigan State University at this year's K-Ph.D. Robotics and Nano/Bio-Technology program in E. Lansing.|
Since 2005, when Notre Dame 7th grader Nolan Weimer was four-and-a-half years old and his brother, Marshall, a 9th grader, was six, the two boys have been spending a portion of their summers studying nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics at a camp at Michigan State University. Called the K-Ph.D. Robotics and Nano/Bio-Technology program, it is an innovative ‘from kindergarten to Ph.D.’ education and research program that introduces children from kindergarten through 12th grade to cutting edge technology while allowing them to get a hands-on experience on topics ranging from programmable robots, mind-control technology and nanotechnology.
The camp was conceived and is taught by MSU professor of electrical and computer engineering Dean Aslam, Ph.D., who says he wants the kids to learn such things in nontraditional ways, including mixing the "campers" up age-wise, which provide a defacto mentoring experience for the younger ones.
|Nolan and Marshall Weimer are pictured at their first MSU camp in 2005.|
According to Melissa Weimer, Nolan and Marshall's mom, Aslam's idea is somewhat groundbreaking. "Dr. Aslam's concept of K-PhD is innovative and one that needs more attention within the scientific and educational communities, she said. "The notion of the circle of passing on the knowledge of engineering and science from older to younger generations is unique. This program and the mentorship received have had a great impact on Marshall and Nolan."
While Marshall still has a few years to decide what he will do in college, Melissa says the influence that Dr. Aslam and his MSU students have had on Marshall is significant. "Now, not only does Marshall continue to benefit from learning, he is now sharing what he has learned as a teacher.
"Marshall confidently tells people that he will be getting his PhD in biomedical engineering someday," she adds.
It sounds like he is well on his way. Marshall, now 14, was hired for his first paid job working for Aslam as a camp instructor this summer teaching the younger children what he learned himself. He also has been working with one of Aslam's doctoral students in the MSU engineering lab since last September exploring the development of prosthetic hands.
The program was recently featured in The State News, MSU's main newspaper. Click to read.