PHOTO GALLERY: Physics students combine fun and learning at California’s Great America


Karen Feng

On May 18, 280 students from Physics, Physics Honors and AP Physics joined 100,000 other students from all over California to ride roller coasters. On Physics, Science and Math Day, hosted by California’s Great America from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., students participated in one of the biggest lab activities in the world as they filled out worksheets illustrating the real-life applications of physics concepts such as the g-forces on rides like Drop Tower and Vortex.

Physics teacher Jim Birdsong believes that the experience allowed students not only to reflect on what they have learned throughout the year, but also to think about their daily lives in terms of physics.

“Hopefully it lets them internalize or feel the effects of the physics that they’ve been learning,” Birdsong said. “They’ve learned, for instance, that they they feel heaviest at the bottom of a rollercoaster, but it’s one thing to calculate and another thing to feel it.”

Most students agree with Birdsong.

“I had always known that there was physics associated with Great America,” said Physics Honors student senior Ashna Ashok. “But I felt like [after the trip[] I finally saw the applications of certain concepts in physics that I never thought about outside of theoretical stuff, like velocity and acceleration.”

Despite its value as a learning experience, students also viewed the event as a Friday to relax and have fun.

“You appreciate physics a bit more because you understand the workings behind [the rides],” Physics student junior Tarush Sinha said. “But I have to say that going on the rides [was] the most fun.”

[[Karen Feng is a Physics Honors student who attended the Great America field trip and reported for this story.]]