BLACKSBURG, Va., November 13, 2009 - Kids' Tech University (KTU), a program developed at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech in partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program to spark children's interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, will return to the Virginia Tech campus for a second semester in January.

A groundbreaking program for kids between the ages of 9 and 12 living within a four-hour drive of Virginia Tech, KTU ( ) is designed to introduce kids to STEM topics, as well as life on a university campus, at an early age. Held four Saturdays over the course of a semester, the events feature lectures from internationally recognized scientific researchers and hands-on activities developed by various Virginia Tech student clubs, Virginia 4-H ( extension agents, Virginia Tech professors, and community organizations to encourage further exploration of the lecture topics. The fun and excitement of KTU continues after the children leave campus through an online lab component featuring activities designed to cultivate continued interest and a forum area to promote discussion and teamwork. KTU held its inaugural semester in the spring of 2009 and will begin enrollment for the spring 2010 semester on Dec. 15, 2009.

Dr. Louis Guillette
Dr. Louis Guillette, University of Florida, presents during inaugural KTU semester

The following is the schedule for the spring 2010 KTU semester:

  • January 30, 2010
    "Why is mathematics like magic?"
    Arthur Benjamin, professor of mathematics for Harvey Mudd College
  • February 27, 2010
    "What is the smallest thing a person can see?"
    Marya Lieberman, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of the NDnano Center at the University of Notre Dame
  • March 20, 2010
    "Why do we need alligators in swamps?"
    Louis Guillette, professor of zoology and director of the Howard Hughes Group Advantaged Training of Research (G.A.T.O.R.) Program at the University of Florida
  • April 10, 2010
    "Why can't humans walk on water and climb walls with their fingertips like spiders?"
    Rafael Davalos, assistant professor for the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES)

New and returning children of KTU will have the opportunity to see Benjamin, who has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, and National Public Radio, demonstrate his mixture of mathematics and magic, which he calls "Mathemagics," and explain how to mentally solve complex math problems faster than a calculator. Returning KTU lecturer Louis Guillette will explain why alligators are important to the swamps and what they can tell us about the world in which we live.

"Following a very successful first semester of KTU, we are pleased to offer a brand new semester of engaging activities, including lectures from world-class scientists who are devoted to sharing their enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with children," says Reinhard Laubenbacher, professor and deputy director of education and outreach at VBI, who spearheaded the development of KTU based on a similar program in Germany. "Our goal is to show kids how exciting, dynamic, and compelling the world of scientific research can be."

For more information and to register for the spring 2010 semester of KTU, please visit


About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions in plants, humans and other animals. By successfully channeling innovation into transdisciplinary approaches that combine information technology and biology, researchers at VBI are addressing some of today's key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and plant sciences.



Susan Bland
(540) 231-7912; please enable JavaScript to view

Published by Susan Bland, November 15, 2009