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Physics students participate in fourth annual marshmallow launcher competition

Students learn teamwork and physics principles through marshmallow launcher activity

Lauren Ocker, JAG editor-in-chief

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Preparing for his turn to launch his marshmallow on Tuesday, Oct. 10, junior TJ Smith listens to science teacher Chad Brown's instructions.

Students in physics teacher Chad Brown’s class put their knowledge to the test in a project building marshmallow launchers. The launchers were eventually showcased in class-wide competitions taking place Monday, Oct. 9 and Tuesday, Oct. 10.

The project was divided up into three class periods: a build day, trial day and the competition day. Students collected materials of their choice and brought them in for building.

Senior Sydney Ralston feels the project taught her lessons she could use in her day-to-day life.

“I loved it. It was so much fun, and it was a very hands-on way to teach us about speed, distance and acceleration,” Ralston said. “I think projects like this one are important because it shows us real life situations of how we can use physics to our advantage.”

According to Brown, the student’s goal is for their launcher to make the marshmallow go between two and seven meters in distance.

“What I want the students to see is how projectile motion works and the relationship between angle of launch and the horizontal distance that the marshmallow launches,” Brown said.

For Brown, hands-on activities help him teach his students concepts more efficiently.

“I think a lot of times physical activities cement things better in people’s minds,” Brown said. “Being able to do something and discover something for yourself is a lot more of an engaging learning experience.”

Learning to work well in a group is one of the most crucial life skills Brown believes comes from this experience.

“They had to work in their lab groups and assign tasks and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are which is pretty important,” Brown said.

Ralston found that although the element of physics in the activity was difficult, it paid off when her team’s launcher was crowned victorious.

“I learned that it’s a lot harder than it looks to build a launcher, but it is fun to work in groups with other people,” Ralston said. “It felt amazing to win; I love having bragging rights in class.”

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Physics students participate in fourth annual marshmallow launcher competition