May 24, 2011
Writer: Writer: Colleen Johnson

The Department of Psychology will be hosting its annual Rat Olympics June 2, at 11:30 a.m., in the Thomas E. Ricks Building. After being trained for only five weeks, the Olympics will highlight tricks the rats can now perform.

About 20 psychology students have trained their rats to jump, navigate through various obstacle courses and perform other novel tricks. This capstone experience has been a tradition for psychology instructor Kimberly Andersen and her students for the past 15 years.

"The behavior and learning skills used to teach these rats various tricks are learned best in a hands-on experience. This is a great opportunity for the students to actually apply these principles, instead of just reading them from a textbook," said Andersen.

The skills developed in this class will also help students in their personal lives after college. Andersen said there are similarities between teaching rats and teaching children. "If you're going to be a parent, you should raise a rat first. Whether you are educating a rat or a child, the same principles apply. The students are really pushed to apply those principles to this situation."

Not unlike children, Andersen says the rats can also be camera shy. "The Olympics are always an adventure. It's fun seeing what the rats will do in front of an audience."