Saturday, April 26, 2008

Physics In Action at Theme Parks

Summer is almost here (at least here as in the northern hemisphere). With that, many theme parks are gearing for their busiest time of the year. Taking advantage of this are several schools and programs that try to marry the fun of theme park rides with physics lessons.

There are two recent examples to this. The first one is the Physics Day for area students at the Six Flags theme park in Largo.

Barnabas Adekanye, Irving Delco, Frailen Ramirez, Ludwin Romero and Johnny Wilks, all sophomores at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville who study engineering, were somewhere in the middle. They had brought a 28-page workbook of problems to solve. It was complicated stuff with a lot of formulas.

"Compare the change in potential energy to the gain in kinetic energy," went one question about the Mind Eraser. "Within experimental error, was energy conserved? Explain your answer."

Johnny, 15, had an easier explanation for what they were learning: "Like how the gravity and force relates with the loops and stuff."

The second example is a trip to Ceder Point by students from Windsor, Canada. I think it is a valid concern to look at it closely and see if the students are learning something, rather than simply using it as an excuse for a trip to a theme park. There has to be a conscious program to clearly demonstrate the physics principle to the students, and that the students actually got something. I think most of these programs try do that.



Colin M said...

We did this in my high school physics class -- the assignment counted as extra credit. I had an A in the class, so for me it was definitely just an excuse to go to an amusement park. Other people took it seriously though.

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