Geometry student builds his own course
Westborough – Evan Thayer, 13, took the lessons from one of his electives at Gibbons Middle School to design and build a backyard miniature golf course.
Evan took a geometry elective from mathematics teacher and department head Lynn Sullivan, in which he learned some practical applications for mathematics.
He took the course because of the description, he said.
"I like building stuff , and it had some stuff about building in [the description]," he said.
The course, Geometry by Design, was one of several electives off ered at Gibbons for the first time in the 2007- 2008 school year, Sullivan said.
"It [was] basically off ered three days a week, mainly for kids that aren't in the music program," she said. "Honestly, I don't think the kids get enough time in geometry and it's one of my favorites subjects to include real life applications."
Students get very little geometry until high school, Sullivan said, and this course gave her a chance to let students spend more time on it and understand practical applications. Using computer programs, the students did some geometry-based art projects and did their own scale calculations involving cars, she said.
"Usually you don't have time to work on fun things," Sullivan said. "I was trying to combine a geometry project with a fun project."
She had her students design a tabletop miniature golf course, scaling it for a golf ball the size of a gumball. The class included a field trip, as well.
"We went to a golf course on Route 9 and we played around," Evan said. "Then we had a couple of weeks to design our own golf course on a piece of cardboard and the last class we played on them. We were using pencilsized golf clubs with ball bearings."
The lessons of that fall elective stayed with Evan through the spring.
Evan's mother, Mary-Lynne Thayer, said they had a deteriorating patio in the back yard, and they were trying to decide what to do with it.
"We went to pick up a golf present for my sister-in-law, and they had a putting green outside," she explained. "Evan said, 'Why don't we have a putting green?' and a couple of hours later we were at Lowe's buying Astro turf."
The course is laid around the back of the house; the four holes are laid out to make use of a bank Evan made with Quikcrete at the corner of the L-shaped course. Each hole starts at the same spot, at the top of the L.
He turned to geometry to plan out the holes, he said.
"We really just looked at it and placed the holes where we thought [they] should go, then did a little geometry," Evan said, to figure the angles of the holes in relation to the bank and the starting point.
Then they moved the holes as indicated by the mathematics, he explained.
Scattered through the course are a few elements that you might find on a miniature course: a solar-powered lighthouse that blinks at night, a pudgy green frog the size of a small cat, a multicolored pinwheel and a small bear perched on a log with a fish dangling from its fishing line. The elements are moveable, adding variety to the course, Mary-Lynne said.
The course elements were a point of discussion, she said.
"I said, "Let's get some flamingos.' He said, 'I want it to be tasteful,'" she said.
The work stretched over two weekends at their Robin Street home, Mary-Lynne said. They made the holes in the green using small, plastic flower pots with drainage, a lesson learned after a solidbottomed container collected rain water, she said.
She purchased some clubs, and Evan bought his own left-handed putter on eBay, she said.
Evan said he plays the course every couple of days, and neighborhood children often use it, as well.
Sullivan said she was proud of Evan's ingenuity and dedication.
"He had to measure everything, make a cost sheet, go to the store, see how much carpet he needed, line it up and scale the items," she said. "I'm very proud of him."
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