FARMINGTON -- Physics trumped meteorology Friday at Utah State University's Physics Day at Lagoon.
Students from Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Utah arrived under-dressed for the 50-degree weather, wearing T-shirts and shorts or jeans. But they put on disposable rain ponchos or wrapped up in towels, and were off, ignoring the rain.
Some sought out thrill rides while others fussed over projects they entered into science competitions.
"It looks like they're just soldiering on despite the weather," said Dick Andrew, Lagoon's vice president of marketing. "We've been doing this more than 20 years, and we've never canceled."
Pulling the plug would have been problematic, since 6,000 to 7,000 guests were expected, and many had traveled hundreds of miles in one of the 72 buses parked outside the park gate.
T.J. Benard, 14, and a student at Bountiful Junior High, balanced fun with scientific competition. He rode 10 rides before heading to the park's Davis building to prepare the ride model he designed for judging.
Crafted from foam pipe insulation, dowels and a lot of electrical tape, T.J.'s "Rolling Thunder" was designed as a water slide through a long, twisted dark tube.
"Having it dark adds to the suspense," T.J. explained.
The project taught him the potential of kinetic energy, T.J. said.
Paige Hammer, 14, and also from Bountiful Junior High, designed a model water ride. "Splash Through Time" encased its riders in large plastic orbs, a larger version of hamster exercise balls, and send them floating down a twisted river surrounded by life-sized models of dinosaurs, then astronauts.
"It's like time travel," Paige said. "I would love to ride something like this. And I learned that G- forces increase when you turn a corner, and I learned about centrifugal force and gravity."
Kenneth Bennion, USU event coordinator, said the students deeply committed to the sciences tend to sign up for the Physics Bowl, an academic competition that rewards the winning team with six full, four-year scholarships to attend USU.
"But the event is really a chance for all the students to be a scientist for a day," Bennion said. "They can ride a roller coaster and measure the G- force with accelerometers they made and strap to their wrist."
Other activities included an efficiency challenge for student-designed windmills; a time trial for sending student-built robot vehicles through a maze; and battles between robot vehicles.
"I thought it would be fun to see what I could build," said Sarah Lamb, 12, of Bluff Ridge Elementary School in Syracuse. "I've learned you have to be very patient to make a robot work."
"We got knocked out of the circle," said Sarah's project partner, 12-year-old Kalena Ericksen. "But we won two rounds earlier, and we're having fun. The only problem is my hands are freezing and it's hard to push the buttons."
The rain cleared in the early afternoon, but Eric Held, USU physics associate professor, still had to worry about egg missiles plunging from above.
"One almost got me one year," said Held, who runs the egg drop event.
Students wrap raw eggs in materials intended to cushion their fall, then drop them from the Sky Ride down to a bull's eye target on the ground.
"It's when things slow down that you start wandering a little," Held said. "That can put you near the target."
About 40 percent of eggs survive intact, Held said, as he stood near a roll of white toilet paper tinged with yolk-yellow on its inner layers.
Held said the egg drop teaches Newton's Laws: The law of inertia; force equals mass times acceleration; and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Held offered one tip for egg droppers of the future.
"Students always think they are moving faster than they are," he said of the Sky Ride. "Notice most of the carnage is in front of the target."