Math is the language of the universe, and speaking that language effectively is the only way to put two gears together and link them with the right kind of motor to get a desired effect. Use the wrong components, and either your gears won't turn at all, or they won't stop turning.
Getting a grasp of your universe means knowing the mechanics behind it, and absolutely nothing embodies mechanics like robotics. Provine High School knows this: The school's Team 462 has been building robotic contraptions to compete in national robotics competitions for more than 10 years. Comprised of students from the school's 9th through 12th grades, the team got its first $5,000 grant from the NASA Stennis Space Center in 1999. Since that time, it's been nabbing grants from Entergy, Jackson State University and other benefactors and grabbing trophies from all over the country.
"We won the regional in 2007, and we were the first team to win the chairman's award in 2007," said robotics team sponsor Redmond Malone. "In 2008, we won the Chrysler Team Spirit Award. In 2007, we won the Daimler Chrysler Spirit Award. In 2005, we won the Delphi Award at the Peachtree regional in Georgia."
Malone, whose classroom looks more like a junkyard, said his team members tend to go on to become doctors and engineers. So far, not one of them has tried to take over the world with a mechanical doomsday device.
Jackson Public Schools is on a roll when it comes its robotics program. On Dec. 4, Walton Elementary School's Fusion Robotics Team won First Place in Research in the First Lego League Mississippi Championship Tournament in Hattiesburg.