Fair at Lagoon proves to students: Physics is amusing

May 18 2013 - 12:38am

Images

Austin Campbell (left) and Joseph DeTemple discuss the homemade accelerometer on Cole Orban’s arm during Physics Day at Lagoon on Friday. Students created the devices to measure gravitational forces while they rode the roller coaster. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
BELOW: Braedon Butterfield sets up his robot for a sumo match during Physics Day at Lagoon. Sixth-grade students made devices designed to flip and shove opponents. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Students wait to compete with their robots during Physics Day at Lagoon on Friday. Students sent their robots through mazes and onto the mat for sumo wrestling. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Madeline Peterson (left) attaches a homemade accelerometer to McKayla Graham’s arm. Students created the devices to measure the gravitational forces while riding a roller coaster.(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Austin Campbell (left) and Joseph DeTemple discuss the homemade accelerometer on Cole Orban’s arm during Physics Day at Lagoon on Friday. Students created the devices to measure gravitational forces while they rode the roller coaster. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
BELOW: Braedon Butterfield sets up his robot for a sumo match during Physics Day at Lagoon. Sixth-grade students made devices designed to flip and shove opponents. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Students wait to compete with their robots during Physics Day at Lagoon on Friday. Students sent their robots through mazes and onto the mat for sumo wrestling. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Madeline Peterson (left) attaches a homemade accelerometer to McKayla Graham’s arm. Students created the devices to measure the gravitational forces while riding a roller coaster.(BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

FARMINGTON -- Josh Farah dipped his finger deep into the plastic jar of marshmallow cream and cleared room for his raw egg.

The 17-year-old from Alta High encouraged his friends to also have a taste even though he was in a hurry. In addition to having an entry in the egg-drop contest, his group also had an entry in a logo design competition for a future physics fair day held at Lagoon.

The 24th annual Utah State University Physics Day at Lagoon was held Friday.

There, 6,000 students from Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho competed in a variety of events, including a 40-foot egg drop from the park's Sky Ride.

"It worked when we tested it," Josh said of shoving his egg deep into the jar of marshmallow cream to keep it safe.

Should the egg break from the fall, he said, he and his friends were also entered in the logo design competition. "If that doesn't work, we'll just have fun on the rides."

"Every ride, every activity is chocked-full of physics," said USU Physics Professor JR Dennison.

Having the amusement park as a backdrop attracts students from across the Intermountain West, getting them excited about physics, Dennison said.

The three objectives behind the fair are to demonstrate to students there are others out there fired up about physics, to allow student to apply real physics and to motivate teachers, Dennison said.

Some of the events at this year's fair -- in addition to the egg drop, which drew about 400 contestants who packed eggs in Nerf footballs, Tupperware, and a plastic jar of peanut butter with a small plastic parachute hooked to it -- included a robotics competition, the logo design competition and a ride design contest.

Bountiful Junior High students Brianna Hall and Mikayla Kemeny built a ride design using vinyl tubing and balsa wood. Their project, which they called "Clear Fear," is one of many that filled the tables in the Davis Pavilion and took the two girls about five weeks to construct.

"It is a working model," Mikayla said of the ride design that includes a 100-foot coaster drop and a trip-switch in the track.

Mikayla said she would not be surprised to see their ride someday built at Lagoon.

Another activity included instructions for making a spectroscope that takes light filtered through a diffraction grating and puts it onto a spectrum on a smartphone or tablet.

USU Physics Day at Lagoon is the brainchild of a core of people who had heard about amusement park physics and worked to make it happen for Intermountain youths, said Mary-Ann Muffoletto, an event spokeswoman.

More than 100,000 teens have participated in the yearly event since its inception, she said.

"It is very well organized," Dick Andrew, Lagoon's vice president of marketing, said of the annual fair. "From Lagoon's standpoint, this is just a great program to be associated with."

He said the event exposes the public to the physics associated with the park.

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