Nov 13, 2013
02:35 PM
Education

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

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.

 

After Lehigh University and receiving his MBA from Wharton Business School in 15 months at age 22, he became Citibank’s youngest officer, and then its youngest vice president at age 25. He was appointed a professor at New York University at age 24, where he taught for 21 years and was five times voted “best teacher,” the bio says, explaining that he has started, and/or taken public, six companies in healthcare and K-12 education.

One of those ventures was Zane Prep, founded in 2011, which spawned Zaniac—and Zaniac is arriving in Greenwich through a serendipitous meeting between Naslausky and Pilzer during a skiing holiday last winter in Utah.

In the interview at the Greenwich Zaniac location, Naslausky and Gazal explained their journey to launching a STEM enrichment venture that they hope to bring to other places in the Connecticut/metro New York area once the flagship effort is established.

Both have strong backgrounds in the financial services industry, are fluent in several languages and are mothers with a natural and intense focus on education—Naslausky has two sons, 9 and 6, and Gazal has a son, 11, and two daughters, 8 and 6.

Naslausky, who has bachelor’s degrees economics and political science from New York University, currently works as Director of Latin American Currency Strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland in Stamford, and before that she worked at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.

With a Master’s Degree in hospitality industry studies from New York University, Gazal has served in senior management positions with several major financial service firms in New York City, including Santander Investments Securities and BBVA Securities Inc.

For some time, they have wanted to own a business together, and were inclined toward something tied to education. They had talked about a venture as long ago as 2008, but “then the [financial] crisis hit and we said, ‘Let’s keep our jobs in finance,’” Gazal recalled.

Meanwhile, with their own children they were pursuing the principles of STEM and things like Singapore math. “We saw a market no one was talking about,” Naslausky said.

Then she was in Utah skiing over winter break and met Pilzer, and “we started talking about economics,” Naslausky said. Zaniac naturally came up, and the path of the new venture for the STEM-focused moms from Brazil became clear.

“We absolutely loved the program that Zaniac has,” Gazal said.

“Kids will only excel when they master the concept,” Naslausky added, stressing that Zaniac is unique and customized for every child, as part of its mission to find and achieve every child’s potential. That happens, in part, through focused and constant interaction with parents.

One way Zaniac Greenwich will be unique is that Naslausky and Gazal have handpicked six “rising” high school seniors—taking AP STEM-related courses—to work with the Zaniac students.

Even the building itself was chosen with a purpose. “We saw these [sweeping, floor-to-ceiling] windows and said, ‘This looks so STEM,’” Naslausky recalled.

Once the operation is up and running, the hours will be Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to around 7, and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The courses will rollover, and students can take more than one at a time. According to Zaniac’s descriptions of the courses:

Zane Math lets children experience a world-class curriculum that is coordinated with what they are studying in school. Using a custom software program tailored to fit each individual's needs, Zane Math engages kids in conceptual problem solving, rather than drills and repetition.

Minecraft Exploration builds science and engineering skills through fun and engaging games and lessons taught by trained tutors. Children work in teams to plan and design civilizations as a way to explore scientific and engineering concepts.

LEGO Robotics is a fun way for children to learn about principles of physics and mechanics by building and programming robots. The program helps children develop critical thinking skills for problem solving.

Chess Instruction helps children develop strategic thinking skills while enhancing creativity and improving memory.

“Zaniac will help us as individuals, parents and a community to get our kids more engaged in STEM subjects, and to make sure that our kids have the opportunity to grow with STEM. Zaniac is designed so that kids can have fun in the process of learning, while at the same time gaining confidence by teaching each other and sharing the experience. It is a wonderful package," Gazal said in the release announcing Zaniac’s arrival in Greenwich.

“It doesn't matter if you are in the private or public school system. We should all be involved in promoting STEM within our community and making sure our children are exposed to it,” Naslausky said in the release. “Zaniac provides a fun, safe and highly motivational environment for children. Zaniac provides feedback on every child after each session to parents, providing them the opportunity to more closely participate in and follow their child's development.”

The Zaniac Greenwich campus is located at 644 West Putnam Avenue, Suite 201, and the phone number is 203-918-9264. Details and more information are online at the Zaniac Greenwich website.

Zaniac is a part of Zane Prep, a privately held company headquartered in Park City, Utah. To learn more about Zaniac, see the parent website.

 

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

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