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Friday, March 11, 2011

Mansfield High School Students Fall for Physics

iPod touch applications home screen pg 2Image by danieljohnsonjr via FlickrEver wonder what goes on inside your body as it drops 300 feet at 75 miles per hour from the peak of a rollercoaster? With the help of an Apple iPod Touch device and a little bravery, the physics students from Mansfield High School were able to solve this thrilling mystery.

It all began last school year, when Physics teacher Michael Strange received a grant from the Mansfield ISD Education Foundation for his program, “iTouch, iDo, iLearn… Better!”

The grant funds were used to purchase Apple iPod Touch devices as well as an app called Accelplot, which measures G force with a tool called an accelerometer.

The physics students and teachers visited Six Flags Over Texas for Physics Day, where they spent the afternoon measuring motion, acceleration and velocity on various rollercoasters. The students strapped their iPod Touch devices to their arms as they rode each ride, all the while, the accelerometer tool measured motion on a second-by-second scale.

After conducting their experiments at the amusement park, students returned to the classroom to create 3D digital replicas of each roller coaster. By comparing the data collected during their experiments to the 3D images, they were able to determine the maximum and minimum points of kinetic energy. They were also able to determine that the body felt lightest as they were descending from the highest point of the rollercoaster.

This program transformed a classroom lesson into a fun and creative experiment for students. Physics teachers Michael Strange and Byron Barrett had the opportunity to share this program with other educators at the state Science conference through the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

“We hope that this will allow other teachers to imitate what we a doing at Mansfield High to promote and encourage future projects,” said Strange. “Our main goal was to merge Physics learning with today’s technologies.”

Video by: Jacob Pritchard, Sergio Almendariz and Jonathan Harris.