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Summer Science with Sauce at TC's Hollingworth Center

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Shree Nayar

Shree Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering

Shree Nayar

Shree Nayar, T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering

By Patricia Lamiell

The children sitting on the carpeted floor of TC’s Gottesman Libraries needed about five seconds to identify the curved, orange-capped vessel projected on the screen in front of them: the Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottle, developed in 1961 by the Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan.

The bottle sits on shelves and dining tables in millions of homes and restaurants around the world.

“Good design works well and looks great,” said Shree Nayar, the T.C. Chang Professor of Computer Science at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, who was talking about design with children ages five through eight in TC’s Hollingworth Center “Science in the City” summer camp. He called the Kikkoman bottle “a design icon,” not just for its beauty, but for its highly functional “tear drop” lip.

Nayar, is a computer scientist and inventor, but he knows a thing or two about good design, too. He created the Bigshot, a digital camera for children that boasts features for serious photographers as well, including a flash and what Nayar calls a multi-purpose “Swiss army” lens that can be adjusted to take standard, 3-D or panoramic pictures.

To boost its learning quotient, the Bigshot comes as a kit that kids as young as eight can assemble, learning a different science concept with each step. It was designed to be a perfect hybrid of functionality, beauty, and educational tool, Nayar said. The hard, plastic case is transparent in back, revealing the camera’s inner workings.   The front, which is the bright color of red M&Ms, shouts “fun” -- although the Bigshot isn’t a toy, Nayar says. “It’s something that makes you smart.”

He made the Bigshot so kids could build and learn, use and create art, and express and share culture.

Nayar addressed all 200 campers at the Hollingworth Science Camp in two sessions. His presentations fit into the “Marvelous Maker” theme of this year camp. Good “makers,” Nayar told the children, are both creative and curious:  they consider a problem or need, and they try to design the simplest, most efficient, most beautiful tool to solve it.

TC’s Hollingworth Center hosts a “Summer in the City” science day camp for children each July. More than 35 TC graduate students design curricula and teach science each year, and the camp also hosts student teaching and field placements for students in TC’s Curriculum and Teaching and Science Education programs.   


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