ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury High School physics students put their learning into action last month during a visit to a nearby ice rink.
During a class trip to Aspen Ice in Randolph, Roxbury High School physics instructor Chris Blough led a lab where students had to calculate the amount of friction between three different surfaces and the ice.
“There’s a lot more friction on the ice than people realize and it was the student’s job to determine to what extent," Blough said. "They did so by sliding across the ice on difference surfaces; shoes, pants, sled, etc. They measured the distance and time, and from that they could calculate the rate of deceleration. With this information, they could solve for the frictional force and the coefficient of friction."
Michael Gottfried’s physics class conducted a separate lab where students had to calculate momentum during different momentum “collisions.” Students sat on sleds and saucer discs and had to push off each other in various scenarios. The first scenario had each student pushing off each other and then measuring how far they moved and how long it took.
“If the masses of the two people are the same, we should see both people going the same distance in the same amount of time, just in opposite directions,” explained Gottfried.
The second scenario had two students on a sled versus one student on a saucer disc. When they pushed off, the two people should have moved half as far, while the person on the saucer disc should have traveled twice as far.
The third scenario had one student moving towards the other and grabbing onto a stationary student on the saucer disc. Students had to calculate the final velocity of the two individuals once they stuck together. They had to go on to calculate how the different masses influence the resulting velocity and explain conceptually what they expected based on the given data.
These labs are great because they let students experience physics in real world scenarios," Gottfried said. "It gives them a chance to learn outside the classroom in a more interactive manner. Like the last part of the momentum lab, it lets them see how their data compares to what it should be in reality. They have a chance to discuss why the results are the way they are and whether they make sense.”
He went on to share that, “the hope is that students can apply the content and mathematics they learned in class to these scenarios to see how manipulating variables will influence the outcomes.”