April 15, 2004
What are buckyballs? Members of the Florida State soccer and football teams and the fourth-graders from Sealey Elementary School, a math and science magnet school in Tallahassee, found out Friday from the person who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering them. Sir Harold Kroto, a visiting professor at FSU this semester, taught the students about buckminster-fullerenes or buckyballs — molecules consisting of 60 carbon atoms in the shape of a soccer ball — in a fun and interactive workshop on Friday afternoon at Tully Gymnasium on the Florida State campus.
Kroto has conducted similar workshops for schoolchildren all over the world. Using the soccer theme, Kroto enlisted FSU women’s soccer team members Ali Mims, Jez Ratliff, Joy McKenzie, Erin Preston and Teresa Rivera and football players Paul Irons, James Coleman, B.J. Dean, Dominic Robinson and Lorne Sam to help him lead the workshop.
“It’s a good experience to be hands-on because you don’t get to do a lot of that when you go out and talk to the kids at the schools,” Ali Mims said. “You get to interact with the kids and actually learn about their lives. It’s pretty cool to be around people who have so much to offer the world. I think using soccer and football to help kids to understand science is a great idea because the more visuals, the better. We are talking not only about science with these kids, but also about sports.”
Following a power-point presentation, the elementary students worked in small groups with one of the athletes and built models of buckyballs. The experience was beneficial to not only the kids, but the student-athletes as well.
“They know more than I did when I was in the fourth grade,” B.J. Dean said. “Interacting with the kids has been real fun, teaching them how to make these buckyballs. It has been a real good experience. I had no idea what a buckyball was before today. I’ve learned a lot today. It kind of made feel like I was in the fourth grade again.”
Aside from the science lesson, Dean feels college athletes interacting with young people in an academic setting is full of life lessons.
“It’s real important for kids to see athletes in this type of environment because staying in school is how we got here,” he said. “We do what we had to do in the classroom even though we do well on the field but academics in the most important part of it. We’re here to play football at Florida State but we’re also here to get a degree. Them seeing us in school can possibly give them aspirations to stay in school and possibly go to college.”