June 25, 2001–With the help of Dr. Krisanadej Jaroensutasinee, Thailand is creating a new market of Mathematica users. Jaroensutasinee is a professor of physics at Walailak University, where they train area high school students to represent their country in the International Mathematics and Physics Olympiads. He uses Mathematica extensively in his teaching and research and has recently applied to become a consultant and distributor of Mathematica software.
Jaroensutasinee and his colleagues have introduced Mathematica to their potential Olympians as a useful tool for math and science projects. Walailak University hosts two series of month-long camps where the students are provided with lectures, tutorials, laboratories, science projects, and special classes that focus on thinking skills. The three best students from each subject are then chosen, and they join the students selected from other parts of Thailand at the central camp in Bangkok. There, the process continues until the national representatives for the International Olympiads are selected.
Wolfram Research is a title sponsor of the 2001 International Mathematics Olympiad, which will be held July 1-14 in Washington, D.C. Says Jaroensutasinee, “In Thailand, the national committees see this competition as a way of uplifting our mathematics and science education throughout the country. The committees designate top universities all over the country to search for the ‘hidden elephants’ (potential students) and then train them to the national standard because teaching in each area is not yet up to the standard.”
Although the main committees set up guidelines for the programs, Jaroensutasinee says, “We did add some things that were not put in the guidelines, and Mathematica is one of them. We believe that students learn better when presented with science projects. Therefore, we added them in our training.”
During the second camp, Jaroensutasinee supervised projects on “Proving That Planets Orbit in Ellipse” and “Applying Newton’s Law of Gravitation to Study Motion of a Satellite.” He says, “Mathematica played important roles in terms of analysis tools for the students. I plan to add more Mathematica for these students next year.”
Jaroensutasinee himself first used Mathematica as a senior undergraduate student in 1990 and has been “impressed with Mathematica ever since.” He now uses it “to continue my research and do visualization, graphing, and illustration for my own and my colleagues’ publications….I have developed some simple physics animation, like oscillations, to help my [college] students grasp difficult concepts in physics.” Jaroensutasinee also uses Mathematica for grading and statistical analysis of the subjects he teaches. In addition, he plans to deploy parallel computing and Mathematica to solve complex problems such as water flow in ponds used in shrimp farming.
With Jaroensutasinee positioned to provide Thailand with a reliable reseller and consultant, interest in Mathematica is growing. A Mathematica workshop took place June 18-22, 2001, at Walailak’s Asian Institute of Technology with presentations given by Dr. Gautam Dasgupta, Professor of Civil Engineering at Columbia University, New York. Jaroensutasinee has also organized a Mathematica Users Club and created a website that is dedicated to this group and provides additional Mathematica resources, examples, and forums.