CSM Students Volunteer for Physics Day at Six Flags

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Physics, Engineering Majors Led Demonstrations for Thousands of School Children

Physics and engineering students from the College of Southern Maryland’s Leonardtown and Prince Frederick campuses joined college students from around the region to participate in “Physics Day” at Six Flags Amusement Park in Largo on April 20. The field-trip event drew an estimated 2,000 middle and high school students from throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area to experience acceleration, circular motion, free-fall and Newtonian mechanics first-hand, and to showcase how physics relates to everyday experiences. 

“Teaching other people principles of physics is the test of whether or not you truly know the principles of physics—especially when you are teaching it to a group of strangers in an amusement park,” said CSM sophomore Jack Kenney, of Dameron, a mechanical engineering major. “It was a great feeling to watch someone learn something new, call their friends over and begin teaching them what they learned. It was like watching tangible knowledge spread from one person to 10 people in a matter of minutes.”

CSM students provided science and engineering demonstrations related to rides at the park, including attaching accelerometers to riders and providing computer printouts of acceleration and velocity for drop and rollercoaster rides. CSM students also provided demonstrations on general physics phenomena, and encouraged younger students in the pursuit of degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

CSM adjunct faculty members Dr. Ann Reagan and Rose Haft coordinated CSM’s participation, which provided a community service opportunity for students to share what they have learned in class by teaching and interacting with younger students. “This was the first year that CSM has been involved in the Physics Day activities at Six Flags, but we will definitely be back,” said Reagan. 

 “Too many students, especially women and minorities, stop pursuing science and engineering fields in the upper high school grades. The encouragement to stay in school and continue in science-related fields was a great benefit to these younger students, and my students benefitted from seeing that they knew enough about physics to be able to share with someone else,” Reagan said.

Physics demonstrations were provided by students from 11 colleges and universities, with CSM providing the largest contingent of volunteers.

            “Having several CSM students from one class in demonstration groups was a great way to relax and just have fun with physics with familiar faces,” said CSM sophomore Justin Bell, of California, who added that working with peers from other colleges to teach middle and high school students was an amazing experience. “Watching Chapstick float in front of me while falling 140 feet on the Tower of Doom and being slung from repulsive magnets on Joker’s Jinx with the quickest acceleration I’ve ever felt,” were highlights of Physics Day, said Bell.

“For me, the high point of the day was when I saw two of my students demonstrating inertia and Bernoulli's Principle to a crowd of 15 to 20 total strangers, with the entire crowd applauding and cheering them on,” said Reagan.

Physics Day is co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Physical Society and the Society of Physics Students, in conjunction with Six Flags America Amusement Park.

            For information on CSM physics and engineering programs, visit www.csmd.edu.

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