Poetry plus aviation equaled mathematical fun on Thursday, as students from Niskayuna’s Glencliff Elementary School celebrated Pi Day at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.
Pi has earned its own unofficial holiday, as number lovers celebrate the mathematical constant commonly approximated as 3.14159 and often represented by the Greek symbol π.
People who know their math know the long Pi number is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. People who know their holidays know Pi Day is always observed on March 14 because the date reflects the ratio — 3/14 or 3.14.
“Pi itself is any circle, any size,” said Elaine Garrett, public education coordinator for SUNY Polytechnic. “Any numbers you could come up with, it’s always going to divide to Pi, 3.14 and on and on and on. It’s really cool for them to test that out and to see why that is.”
Sixty-five Glencliff fourth-graders made the trip. They learned about microscopes and other science from 45 students from Tech Valley High School, located on the SUNY Polytechnic campus.
“They are making circle airplanes to see if they fly and why they fly,” Garrett said. “What’s cool is when you let go, they kind of follow a perfect curve down to the ground, depending on how the air goes through the shapes. They’re going on the second floor and dropping them into the rotunda.”
Students also made Pi bracelets, picking colors that corresponded to digits. They created Pi poems — nicknamed “Pi-ku poems” — using syllables on five lines to follow the Pi numerical formula. “Pi Day now?” read one first line, with three syllables. “Spring” was the second line, with one syllable, followed by “Arrives here soon” with four syllables. “But” became the fourth line, with one syllable, followed by the five-syllable line “Math is eternal” to close the poem.
Nicole Melfe, who teaches fourth grade at Glencliff, said her students fared well during their day with Pi.
“They’re learning a lot about cells, plant and animal cells; they’ve learned about how the chips are made for the cellphones,” Melfe said. “They gave them a tour of the building and showed them about how the air filtration system is so important and all the different jobs that are out that for this.”
Kids seemed to love the tech.
“It’s been really fun and interesting,” said Eva Meshkov, 9, of Niskayuna. “There are like robots on the ceiling bringing stuff. It was really interesting looking around.”
Maddie Hanna, 10, of Rexford, also appreciated the Polytechnic Institute’s hospitality.
“It’s special because it’s not your every day field trip, you don’t get to do this a lot,” Hanna said. “It’s like a once in a lifetime thing.”
Steve Ference, communication director for the institute, said Pi Day was designed to get kids excited about science and keep them excited during their school years.
“We need engineers, we need the scientists,” Ference said. “Just by immersing them in this, that’s the key.”
The Glencliff visitors ended their Pi education with large circles they often see at home and in school, circles that are often divided and then subtracted from kitchen tables and stove tops — pizza “pies” were on the menu for lunch.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]