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Math, science whiz traces talent back to Dad and Legos

Date: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ryan Cazin of Burlington seems like your typical college freshman. He hangs out with friends and plays football, basketball, and the trombone. Unlike many of his classmates, however, he has developed a love for science and math. It paid off for the Iowa State University freshman this summer with a first-place win in the Technology Student Association National Competition. Here, Cazin reflects on his pursuit of math and the sciences.

What got you interested in science?
It wasn’t so much being interested in science as it was the engineering side of science. Engineering requires an incredible amount of physics and math, which are both subjects that I have enjoyed as long as I can remember, simply because they can describe and give meaning to everyday occurrences that happen all around us.

Between my father showing me various things that intrigued me in the scientific field, and Legos, engineering was a pretty good fit for me.

You won first place in the Technology Student Association National Competition for CAD design. What is CAD, and what did you design?
CAD is an acronym for Computer-Aided-Design/Drafting.

The competition that I won was a CAD design competition for 3D purposes. In Technology Student Association (TSA), there are both 3D and 2D architecture competitions. I compete in the 3D competition. In the competition, the competitors are given drawing sheets (blueprints) of an object that the judging staff has decided to use. The object is not disclosed until the beginning of the competition. We are given four hours of work time, and whoever can replicate the object, drawing sheets, and also create animations, assembly instructions, or renderings the best will win after being judged according to a pre-determined grading rubric. At nationals, we were given blueprints for a two-arm-parallel-puller. It was a fairly complicated design of this tool adding to the difficulty. It consisted of about 20 parts. It is used to pull gears and pulleys off of a central shaft.

We need more people pursuing math and the sciences. What would you do to convince other students to give it a try?
I am a very strong supporter of labs in the classroom. A very distinct memory of mine was a lab in my honors physics class in which we were simply calculating trajectories and velocities. With this information, we were able to calculate angles and launch force of marble launchers that my school had and launch marbles across the classroom into a pit of sand on the first try if you got the math right. This then, of course, became a competition within the class of who could set up and make the shot the fastest, and the whole lab didn’t even seem like school. Just by showing how the ambiguous math and other subjects we study are demonstrated in a physical manner really makes a difference.

Why do you think math and the sciences are not as popular as they should be?
Work ethic through and through. It’s sad to say, but I know an incredible amount of people that either don't want to challenge themselves or simply don’t have the confidence to do so. Math and science have always been touted as the difficult subjects, and that can scare people, even if they never even experienced the challenge first-hand.

Why are math and the sciences important in our studies? In our world?
Like I said, with the marble experiment, just seeing how some ambiguous math, physics, and other sciences on paper can be demonstrated in real life ties everything together. Without math and science, there would be no engineering. Period. There is a common mistake made among people who think engineers just make cool-looking strong things. Engineers do make cool things, but they don’t just make things strong, they make them efficient. Engineers study materials, mathematics, and other fields to make the best product possible while making it efficient and even cost effective. Anybody can throw enough rocks in a river to cross, but a little knowledge can go a long way to accomplish a task faster and easier.

Beyond science, what other interests do you have?
I try my best to be an all-around student. I take all honors and Advanced Placement classes, along with being in a few volunteering clubs. I have played four sports while in high school: football, baseball, track and swimming. I am also very active musically. My main instrument is trombone, but I also taught myself how to play piano and am currently learning tenor saxophone. I have participated in many honor bands, such as the Southeast Iowa Honors Jazz band for all four years of high school and also participating in the Iowa All-State Band. This year, I sat as a first trombone at All-State. With all of this said, I still love to hang with friends and have a great time.

What do you intend to major in at Iowa State University and why?
I am majoring in Aerospace Engineering because I have always had a great interest in aircraft and flight itself. However, this major does not just limit me to aircraft since aerospace engineering is the study and design of anything that moves through a fluid, whether that be liquid, the atmosphere, and even past the atmosphere. The large area of study still gives me great flexibility in deciding what I want to have as a career, yet still having influences of what I have enjoyed since being a small child.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 16, 2014 at 10:44am.