‘Grease’ the way to learning

More than 300 high school students from across western New York flocked into the Steele Hall fieldhouse/ice rink in order to complete this year’s math/science challenge at SUNY Fredonia.

There were 17 different schools that came to the challenge, and of them, 10 went home with trophies.

Jasper-Troupsburg Central School Math Teacher Diana Seeley came the farthest to participate in the fun. She said her class has come for the past 11 years (winning two trophies, one in 2012 and one in 2013), but she has only been here for 10 of them.

“It is a lot of fun having the students really use their math skills and having fun with it, too,” she said. “The students only had 30 minutes to make a little grease lightning car using their physics skills.”

Seeley added this is the highlight of her whole year.

“I really look forward to this every time,” she said. “It is friendly competition, and everyone is supportive and cheers for everyone else.”

Since the theme this year is the classic film “Grease,” Seeley sent her students home with the film to watch in readiness for the challenge.

“Some (students) were really excited, because they love the movie,” she said. “One foreign exchange student had never heard of it, so it really was homework for her.”

Mathematics Education Associate Professor Keary Howard gets pumped up about this competition every year.

“It has been very impressive in many ways,” he said. “The skills development on Smadness is very good. There is a twist involved. It is based on the song ‘ You’re the One That I Want’ from the film and it is called ‘The Ones That I Want’.”

Mathematical Sciences Department Chairman Joseph Straight enjoys this every year.

“We can’t do this without (Keary) Howard. We have about a dozen graduate students who come up with all the ideas and themes.”

Mathematic Education major Jake Brostrom remembers being on the other side of this event a few years back when he was a high school student at Panama.

“It was a good time,” he said. “I had a lot of fun.”

Straight added it is nice when the college students who help out every year also participated in the event when they were in high school.

Mathematics Education Lecturer Becky Conti stood by the trophy table and directed the winners after congratulating them.

“Dr. Howard is the key,” she said. “It is so nice to have kids participate in this friendly competition and have it be academic. It is a good community activity. They are so excited; it is so cute to watch.”

During the announcement of winners, Howard mentioned the character Danny Zuko’s (played by John Travolta) walk.

“You had to have the presence of mind to walk the line,” he said to a crowd of young minds. After everyone filtered out to their various school buses and headed back to their classes, Howard concluded with his thoughts on the event.

“It is great every year; the customs get better; the math teams get better; we all anticipate it a little more,” he said. “It is an interesting pipeline, because some of these high school students experience SUNY Fredonia for the first time at this challenge, and some of them come back as college students.”

The high school winners are: Eden – 1st place for Smadness; Panama – 1st place for second Smadness; Fredonia – 1st place for Dance Off competition; Orchard Park – 1st place for Hopelessly Devoted to Units!; Randolph – 1st place for Pea Shooting contest; Gowanda – 1st place for Beauty School Drop Out; Panama – 1st place for You’re the One That I Want; Pioneer – 1st place for Principal Mcbee Best Guess; Chautauqua Lake – 1st place for Geometric Blast!; Falconer- 1st place for Walk Like Danny Zuko; Pine Valley – 1st place for best custom.

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com