Most kids aren’t comfortable discussing Euclidean geometry, fractals, worldwide resource shortages or even proper parliamentary procedure. Most adults aren’t either.
But former Morris residents and Nettle Creek School students Jacob and Jonathon Gonsalves, 14 and 13, respectively, definitely are.
The brothers moved to Chandler, Ariz., two years ago and are making a name for themselves in the world of student science, math and engineering.
Among Jacob’s many honors is a second-place finish in the mathematical sciences category in the 2012 Hamilton Invitational Science and Engineering Fair, and third place in the 2012 Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair, including a special award through the Society of Technical Communications.
The siblings earned second place together in the 2013 Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair. They also, as part of a five-member team, received first place in the 2013 Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge and will make special appearances at the 2014 Fiesta Bowl in January. For that award, they also were special VIP guests at NASA in Houston.
The two said they have fun doing the science and math competitions.
“Competitions are way more fun than sports. We like to win. We’re very competitive, and we’re just so interested in science,” Jonathon said.
“To us, they’re just another excuse to do science,” Jacob added.
The brothers were raised in Morris and returned for a week during Corn Fest to visit family. They credited their interest in science and math to teachers they had at Nettle Creek.
Their father, Mark Gonsalves, said the teachers at the school were exceptional. One of them in particular, Colleen Callahan, was especially important to the boys’ education.
“It was very important during that time in their lives to be pushed by a teacher who really loves to teach,” Mark Gonsalves said of Callahan.
Jacob developed his love of math by participating in the school’s accelerated math competition. He won the competition every year save one – the year his younger brother beat him out. Jacob was also honored by Northwestern University when he lived in Morris for achieving a perfect score on the Explorer Test in sixth grade.
The move to Arizona was job-related for their software engineer father. Jacob is a freshman in high school this year and taking AP calculus, AP biology, Spanish 3 and an engineering class with a teacher who was a chemical engineer. He will receive college credit for that one. He also scored a 32 on the math section on the ACT test this year.
Jonathon is in eighth grade in a school where some of the classes are shared with high school students, and is taking geometry, Spanish 2, honors biology, 11th-grade world history, ninth-grade English and an engineering class.
The brothers have teamed up for some prestigious competitions in the past couple of years, but this year they are competing separately since Jacob is at the high school level and Jonathon the junior high level.
They’ve loved the teamwork in the past, though.
“We understand how we both work,” Jonathon said. “Because we like working together. We work to win.”
“We have the same work ethic,” Jacob said. “We try to work hard.”
This year, Jacob is working on the 2014 AZSEF competition with a project that makes a model system to monitor air flow in heating ventilation systems. He’s looking at a system that would increase efficiency by notifying the homeowner exactly when the air filter should be changed.
Jonathon is working on a nationwide Future City Competition where he will design a virtual city of the future using software, make a model of that city, write a paper on it, then give a speech about it. The competition is designed to teach students how to apply math and science concepts to the real world.
The brothers also are excited about future careers. Jacob, who is more interested in math and engineering, wants to go into either software engineering or neurosurgery. Jonathon, who steers toward the biological sciences, is also considering a career in neurosurgery.