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October 30, 2012 > Mr. Science visits Mattos Elementary

Mr. Science visits Mattos Elementary

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Teacher Shelby Aldinger's class of kindergarten students' eyes open wide as they see the vast array of scientific paraphernalia arranged throughout the multi-use room at Mattos Elementary. Fremont's only Science magnet school, Mattos, is hosting a visit from Bob Boschert, aka "Mr. Science," who will be spending two full days with all classes to excite students about electricity and magnetism.

Boschert's display includes inventions and projects he has personally constructed. "I have been doing this for 15 years or so and I don't know how I got started but I really enjoy making these things," he says.

"The school hosts a number of assemblies throughout the year, primarily related to science," explains Mattos parent and PTA Assembly co-chair, Jody Cutaia. "This hands-on assembly is so unique and Bob Boschert is such an amazing person."

Boschert does not charge a fee for his program. "The hands-on experience is very difficult for the teachers to provide and it just may get some kids turned on to science," adds Boschert.

A retired electrical engineer, he started his own company, Boschert Inc., in 1970. A few years later, he developed 3-lb power supplies to replace the 20-lb version, used to convert wall power, to help run computers.

By 1979, his company had grown to 650 employees. Shortly thereafter, he sold it and stepped away to become a full-time stay-at-home dad for his five children.

When his children had grown, Boschert decided to share his wealth of experience to the delight of a multitude of school children over the years. Hopefully, even the youngest students will be able to understand the concepts of electricity and magnetism through hands-on play.

Utilizing fascinating and delightful teaching tools, Boschert teaches to a rapt audience of young minds at Mattos during the afternoon assembly. He points out some historically significant items such as an oscilloscope - a device used to observe wavelengths of electrical signals and a Theremin, an early musical instrument invented in the 1920's. The machine produces strange eerie sounds, evoking peals of laughter from the listening students.

Boschert carefully oversees a static electricity globe generator that he created which carries a charge of 50,000 volts. With supervision, gleeful volunteers come up to touch the globe. The current makes their hair stand on end; it's an electric atmosphere, after all!

At the "magic" paper clip station, students learn about the properties of magnets. "What's the biggest magnet?" asks Boschert. After several helping clues, the students realize that it's the Earth. He then draws a parallel to the magnets, making a comparison to the North and South Pole. "Every magnet has two poles so that when the north end of one, for example, is put near the north end of another magnet it would repel while opposite poles (a north and south) would be drawn (attracted) together," Boschert explains.

In another activity, he demonstrates a lightning-producing coil, then shows that electricity can be generated by a magnet passing through a coil of wire and discusses electrical functions of plus and minus.

The highlight for many of the students is the "robot" which seems to follow their movements. Boschert explains, "The lights are his eyes and there's a light sensor (infrared light) in the nose. It sees reflections and turns as it detects movement."

Afterward, students are let loose to do their own hands-on practice with the scientific activities and equipment, ably assisted by parent volunteers, their teacher and Boschert.

Looking around at the animated faces of young students, all having fun while learning, Boschert says, "This younger group experiments and figures it out. They pretty well get it. Some of the older grade level classes also have their 'ah ha' moments."

Boschert says that he is constantly updating experiments. He thinks up new ideas and is usually able to recreate them and get them working in a month's time.

"I enjoy sharing the information and seeing the kids' reactions. You can't be grumpy listening to all the excited voices. Possibly most importantly, I get to live longer," Boschert adds. "If you are retired and don't do something, you die. This [assembly] is beneficial for me and the kids."

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