Nov 13, 2013
02:35 PM

Brazilian 'Supermoms' Launching STEM Enrichment Venture in Greenwich, Zaniac

Brazilian 'Supermoms' Launching STEM Enrichment Venture in Greenwich, Zaniac

Views of the new Zaniac location in a montage on the venture's website.

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Try helping your teen learn about the Magnus effect—the phenomenon that forces a spinning sphere or cylinder to curve away from its expected flight path. It has military and engineering applications, but it may be most commonly understood through its use in sports like tennis, baseball and soccer.

How to begin?

Keep it simple, and straightforward: When a baseball is thrown, a tennis ball hit or a soccer ball kicked into the air, the air is pushing back against the ball in the direction of the force that put the ball in motion.

Simple, right?

If the ball is given a spin—forward, backward or to one side—then part of the ball is moving against the airflow at the same time another part is moving with it, creating an imbalance in pressure on the ball. The details of the imbalance result in the ball moving in certain directions other than along the principal path—moving downward through a forward spin, for example. If the ball is subjected to a combination of spins—say forward and to the left—then the effect named for the German physicist who investigated it will make it do most unexpected things.

Eyes glazed over yet?

Maybe there’s a better way to begin to connect with young people—especially those who are obsessed with soccer, baseball and other sports.

Instead, perhaps, describe why the "cutter" of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera was so lethal, how a drop shot in tennis works—and how Brazilian soccer stars like Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho have scored goals directly from corner kicks. (That latter feat means starting with the ball on the ground at a point that’s directly in line with the side of the goal, kicking the ball up into the air, out over the field, and then, somehow, bending it down and sideways into the goal.)

The “cutter” and the corner-kick goal signal amazing talent—and they also signal the role of physics, specifically the Magnus effect, in action.

Talent and science—as well as the difficulty of serving young minds the hard science behind something like the Magnus effect through technical terms and equations—are qualities appreciated by Camilla Gazal and Flavia Naslausky. (Above, Gazal, left, and Naslausky.)

The two high-achieving Brazilian moms who live in Greenwich are about to launch a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) enrichment venture called Zaniac in their hometown.

Zaniac is on a mission to get kids worldwide engaged in math and technology, giving them the skills and motivation to create a better future,” says the website for the new venture—whose location is now being created in an open, airy space in a contemporary building on West Putnam Avenue.

“Zaniac is like school at its best—an active, inspiring place that is filled with friends and friends to be, where real math and technology learning is fun. … We are the go-to after-school activity for parents who want their children to develop a passion for exploring and innovating.”

When the first location of Zaniac in the Northeast opens, it will offer families along Connecticut’s Gold Coast, and in Westchester County, N.Y., an advantage-creating enhancement to the curriculums of public or private schools.

“We want kids to enjoy coming here,” Gazal said in an interview recently at Zaniac’s work-in-progress Greenwich headquarters.

“We want to create thinkers,” Naslausky said, “and innovators,” Gazal added.

“We want to make a difference in kids’ lives and their communities,” they added as one voice.

“We know that kids learn very effectively through play,” said Paul Reddy, Zaniac’s CEO. “Zaniac is like school at its very best—nurturing, stimulating, safe and energetic, but with a real math and technology learning focus … . Our job is to help educators inspire kids to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to create our future.”

Zaniac Greenwich will offer four programs: Zane Math, Minecraft Exploration, LEGO Robotics and Chess Instruction (more on the details of those later).

Each program is nine hours over the course of six weeks in space designed to inspire imagination and exploration, a release on the new venture explains. Programs, which will meet after school on weekdays and on Saturday, will be taught in small groups of no more than five children per instructor.

Parents will receive regular feedback from Zaniac’s instructors through emails, as well as written materials produced by their child. The cost for the programs ranges from $150 to $350.

The first Zaniac location opened in Park City, Utah, in early 2013 under the name Zane Prep. “Our founder, Paul Zane Pilzer, envisioned a physical location where kids could come and learn using Zane Math, a breakthrough approach to math tutoring that incorporated assessment, customized curriculum, and regular parent feedback,” says an “about us” page on the Park City program’s website.

“As parents brought their children in for math tutoring, they often stayed a few minutes to talk with us about their hopes for their children, and the resources available to them,” it continues.

“Every one of the parents we met wanted their children to catch up, or get ahead, in math. That wasn’t surprising.

“What surprised us was the equal conviction with which they believed that mastery of science, technology and engineering was really what their kids were going to need to achieve their potential and control their future. Furthermore, they told us over and over again that it wasn’t about content—it was about engagement. They wanted their children to love math and science, and particularly technology. Parents wanted their children to become self-directed, curious scientists with a love of ‘figuring out how the world works.’”

Pilzer, according to his website, is an economist, social entrepreneur, professor, public servant, and author of nine best-selling books and dozens of scholarly publications.

Brazilian 'Supermoms' Launching STEM Enrichment Venture in Greenwich, Zaniac

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