How to Teach at Home
by Christina Yeager
Erik Demaine is named "one of the most brilliant scientists in America" by Popular Science magazine and was handed a prestigious award coined as "the genius grant." Mr. Demaine became the youngest Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the age of twenty after receiving a Master's degree in Mathematics and a Ph.D. He traveled at a youthful age with his father, whose unconventional approach to homeschooling built his interests in computer science and math.
Erik's father, Martin Demaine, was a craftsman and glassblower that decided to travel around the country when Erik was seven years old to attend craft fairs and sell his wares. Erik was taught from homeschooling manuals obtained from an agency. At age nine, he adopted a more active approach to his learning by manning his lessons independently.
“I learned to read early, but it never was as interesting to me as personal experience. I didn’t read textbooks as an undergrad. My father, Martin Demaine, had home-schooled me until I went to university. He was against the whole school thing, [and] wanted to be engaged in my education. Also, my father wanted to travel, so around Grade 2, we started traveling around North America, Canada, and the United States. I got to see a lot of different cultures, meet lots of different kinds of people, different backgrounds, different ages.”
Mr. Demaine's interest in video games lead to a curiosity of computer programming and that led to mathematics. Upon returning to their hometown in Nova Scotia, when Erik was twelve, Martin enrolled the both of them into math and computer classes.
Erik Demaine Started university courses at age twelve! He earned a Bachelor's degree at age fourteen from Dalhousie University, a Master's degree at age sixteen and a Ph.D. at age twenty from the University of Waterloo! Soon after, an accepted position as an Assistant Professor would make Erik the youngest to ever instruct at MIT.
Mr. Demaine, or shall we say Dr. Demaine's interest of study lies within theoretical computer science with an emphasis in geometry, data structures, and algorithms.
Here are some of his achievements:
Erik and his father (who was brought on-board at MIT as well), are currently working self-folding printable robots. They are built out of layered sheets of material, laminated together and cut with a laser. The internal layers frequently consist of electronics and a structural material like paper sandwiched between the same plastic material used in the children's toy Shrinky Dinks.
MIT has helped develop a one-centimeter-long, biodegradable robot that takes on a frog-like form to waddle across surfaces and swim.
"These robots could theoretically be ingested and navigate their way through the body, so they would only release a cancer-killing drug when they reach a tumor, killing the disease without harming other organs."