About this Event: On Wednesday, March 13,
Clarkson University hosted its 5th annual Pi Day celebration.
Attended by more than 250 students and staffed by more than
80 student and staff volunteers, the day was designed to expose
participants to the wonder and fun of mathematics.
For thousands of years, mathematicians have been fascinated
by the unending number Pi, which is a ratio of a circle's
circumference to its diameter. In recent years, computer models
have been able to extend Pi out to over a trillion digits!
Clarkson University celebrated Pi Day (one day early) by
inviting hundreds of high-school and middle-school students
to campus for a day of games, prizes and free pizza. Clarkson
students set up tables for various games to teach kids about
Pi and its many applications in mathematics, physics and engineering.
Pi Day was sponsored by the Clarkson University IMPETUS Program
through a STEP grant from New York State. This event was held
in partnership with the SUNY Potsdam STEP program. For more
information, see http://www.clarkson.edu/highschool/step.html
or contact the Clarkson University Office of Educational Partnerships
Full Circle; Local students
celebrate Pi day at Clarkson
POTSDAM (Local Article) — There was a high ratio of
fun to hard work at Clarkson University on Wednesday.
“It is fun to be here,” said Olivia Baker, a
student at Hermon-DeKalb Central School. “I’ve
learned the numbers of pi. That is something I didn’t
To be fair, Ms. Baker didn’t learn all of the infinite
digits of pi at Clarkson’s Pi Day, but she did learn
Day, an informal recognition of pi, the ratio between a circle’s
diameter and its circumference estimated at 3.14, is usually
celebrated on March 14.
“The mathematician in me says 3.14 is an approximation
anyway,” said Peter R. Turner, dean of arts and sciences.
“So we’re making an approximation of approximation.”
Pi Day was first celebrated in 1988. The U.S. House of Representatives
voted to recognize it in 2009.
Mr. Turner said Clarkson has celebrated Pi Day for five years.
“I think this is the biggest one yet,” he said.
Middle and high school students from Potsdam, Norwood-Norfolk,
St. Lawrence Central, Harrisville, Heuvelton, Ogdensburg,
Colton-Pierrepont, Hermon-DeKalb, Edwards-Knox and Carthage
schools attended the event, along with the Akwesasne Boys
& Girls Club.
The students circulated through Snell Hall, snacking on cupcakes
and pizza while engaging in more than 30 different activites,
each illustrating a different component or application of
At one table, students had to estimate how far back a catapult
had to be cocked to accurately launch a ball into a bucket.
Austin Smith, Buffalo, a Clarkson mechanical engineering major,
explained that the arc of the catapult’s arm could be
described as a segment of a circle.
“I am an initiate in the mechanical engineers honors
society,” he said. “We have a community service
requirement, and this is part of it.”
The catapult activity was a favorite of Jack Lennon, a student
at Edwards-Knox Central School.
“I haven’t done everything, but so far it is
the catapult thing,” he said. “I learned that
Pi has a lot to do with circles.”
Nearby, Eric E. Fredette, an engineering student from Berlin,
N.H., was wiping shaving cream from his face.
“The game here is we challenge students to calculate
the area of a circle,” he said. “If they get it
right, they get to throw a shaving cream pie at me. I’m
having a blast, and it seems like the kids like it.”
The activities were thought up by Clarkson students, said
physics professor Michael W. Ramsdell, who helped organize
“Their response is fantastic. they come up with great
ideas,” he said. “The children get to interact
with Clarkson students, and then they interact with each other.
They come together and tell each other about what they’ve
Clarkson mathematics professor Kathleen R. Fowler, another
event organizer, said Pi Day was another tool used by Clarkson
to get young students enthusiastic about math and science.
“There’s educational research showing students
lose interest in math and science by middle school,”
she said. “We want to get students active while they’re
Mr. Turner, the dean, said Pi Day is part of Clarkson’s
science, techology, engineering and math pipeline to funnel
more north country students into in-demand fields.
“Ultimately, it is just another piece,” he said.
“If we end up with some number of these students at
Clarkson, that’s just a bonus. Down the road, maybe
some of these students will become math and science teachers
in our schools here.”
Pi Day is sponsored by the Clarkson University IMPETUS Program
through a $234,000 STEP grant from the State Education Department.
IMPETUS, short for Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to
Undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology Engineering, Mathematics),
is a cooperation among Clarkson, the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board
of Cooperative Educational Services and the STEM Partnership.
The program offers day camps, after-school programs and tutoring
to local public school students. The event is held in partnership
with the SUNY Potsdam STEP program.