Physics students to test knowledge at Six Flags

Joey Schneider

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To many students, field trips may not mean much more than an excuse to miss classes for a partial day. But for over 70 Pattonville students, tomorrow marks the date of an extraordinary field trip.

Senior Tom Sarsfield tests an acceleration principle on a chair in a Six Flags pre-lab on April 22, 2014. Photo by Joey Schneider.

Senior Tom Sarsfield tests an acceleration principle on a chair in a Six Flags pre-lab on April 22, 2014. Photo by Joey Schneider.

Under the guidance of science teachers Amy Schwendemann and Erin Mulunax, nearly half of the students enrolled in Physics 1 and AP Physics will take a field trip to Six Flags St. Louis on April 25, 2014. Pattonville students have participated in Physics Day at Six Flags for over a decade, which allows participants to interpret motion principles and physics equations recreationally.

“I enjoy Physics Day [at Six Flags] because it helps students realize how physics can be related to real life incidents,” said Physics I teacher Amy Schwendemann. “A majority of concepts learned this year will be applied in this lab.”

Students will work in groups no larger than six people to provide both quantitative and qualitative analysis for at least five different rollercoaster scenarios. In preparation for the trip, Physics I classes recently engaged in a pre-lab that reviewed basic physics problem-solving strategies.

“It’s extremely important for students to have prior knowledge of physics otherwise they may not know how to calculate problems or understand information,” said Schwendemann. “Students will use their knowledge to observe how particular forces work on them, such as acceleration, friction, energy and power.

This field trip will also allow students to clarify their own theories on some of Six Flags’ most popular rides, such as The Batman and Mr. Freeze. Although several other St. Louis County public schools will be attending, students will be able to test out almost any rollercoasters not located in Hurricane Harbor.

“I remember using calculations for the Log Flume and Mr. Freeze last year,” said senior Harley Hughes. “Now I’ll have a slightly different set of problems [to solve] for AP Physics.”

In order to properly test out physics principles, students will be responsible for bringing several materials such as stopwatches, calculators, and accelerometers for vertical and horizontal measurements. The park will be open exclusively to Physics students on Friday, allowing students to patiently and accurately track observations.

“Many people think you go and do nothing [intellectual] on this field trip,” Schwendemann said. “Students go to have fun, but we also want them to notice the relationship between physics [taught] in class and amusement park rides.”

This field trip offers many unique incentives for students. Students without a season pass paid only $24 for a discounted admission ticket and will be allowed to ride any rollercoaster after completing five lab questions. Meanwhile, Physics students not attending the trip will instead work on a packet covering similar physics applications to rollercoasters in class.

“I’m not looking forward much to the academic part of the field trip, but I’m excited to ride rollercoasters,” said Hughes. “It’s far better than learning physics at school the whole day.”

Buses will transport two groups of Pattonville students around 8 a.m. The first bus will have students back at the school by 2:30 p.m. to accommodate for extra-curricular activities, while the later bus will arrive back around 4:30 p.m.

Six Flags St. Louis opens on a daily basis starting Sunday May 18, 2014. To plan a visit or for more information about the amusement park, visit the official Six Flags website.

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