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Physics Classes Make Punkin Chunkers for Finals

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Physics Classes Make Punkin Chunkers for Finals

Written by: Jeda French, Head of Graphic Design

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The physics students are making a type of catapult, called a projectile launcher, that can launch a five pound object for part of their final for the class. They were originally going to use pumpkins, however, they are out of season.

“The current project in Physics is the ‘Pumpkin Chunker’. This is an extension to the smaller project in which they used catapults to launch marshmallows,” said physics teacher Peter Diehl. “They are measuring, calculating and applying concepts of force, work, power, conservation of energy and Newton’s laws of motion. This larger project involves a large group [13-16 students] to work as a team, in assigned roles, to launch an object the size and mass of a pumpkin as far as possible.”

There are two separate physics classes. Molly Bovos teaches one of the classes, and Diehl teaches the rest. But, the students are working on the same project in both classes.

“Students have been learning about kinematics, which is the study of motion. Students are applying their knowledge of constant velocity, constant acceleration, gravity and conservation of energy to design, build and test their catapults. This project is partly to reinforce concepts of two-dimensional kinematics, but mainly the students are learning how to work in large groups,” said Bovos.

Senior Tony Malleck is one of the project managers in Bovos’ class. His team is building a trebuchet, which uses a swinging arm.

“There has been a big learning curve with teamwork. We are now on the ‘pray’ step. We started with research and design. Then we moved onto building. Now, we are praying we get it done on time and that it works,” said Malleck.

The main goal of the project was to take concepts the students have learned throughout the semester and use them in real life to better understand the concepts. But, it was also the goal to gain communication skills by working with a large group.

“I hope they gain a better understanding of how these individual physics concepts – motion, gravity, energy – are all connected. More importantly, I hope they develop their teamwork and communication skills. Not all of these students will need to understand projectile motion in their lives after high school, but every single one of them will need to work in teams throughout their lives,” said Bovos.

The groups will be launching their objects next week during finals.

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Physics Classes Make Punkin Chunkers for Finals