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Students Are 'Racing' Ahead With Physics Lessons



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Students Are ‘Racing’ Ahead With Physics Lessons

By Kendra Bobowick

Promises of speed, the sounds of rumbling engines, horse power and fast tires had Ms B.J. Liberty’s Grade 8 students demanding more information from head custodian Kevin Anzellotti, also of Anzellotti Bro’s Racing.

“After a burnout you can press your finger right into the tire, it’s like bubble gum,” he said during a recent presentation. “You want the tires to stick to the ground when you take off.” As students grew quiet and waited to hear more about the race car and others like it in a picture circulating the room, Mr Anzellotti explained the purpose of the fat, wide tires and a hood scoop. He also offered details about the wheelie bars at the back end of the car, which catch it as the front end lifts off the ground at a green light.

Students listened to explanations of weight and horsepower and how the variables translated into speed. Mr Anzellotti said he and his brother race 1/8th-mile runs and by the end the car is traveling at about 109 miles per hour.

“All our horsepower and torque are at the beginning…it’s fun to sit in there and press the gas…there’s a lot of G-force.” He said that stomping on the car’s gas pedal “snaps your neck back.” The next comments confirmed the need for wheelie bars jutting toward the ground from beneath the car’s rear bumper.

“When you [hit the gas] the car comes off the ground and when you look out the window you see the sky, like a carnival ride,” he said.

Aside from entertaining students with his hot-rods, big motors, and fast muscle cars, Mr Anzellotti’s descriptions of acceleration, speed, and engine size were an example of physics in action, lifting the lessons from the page and dropping them at the finish line. Eighth-grade students involved in My First Real Car Project face the objective of identifying concepts of motion and force as they are applied to car design, concentrating on features that enhance car safety and performance. One assignment sheet prompts students to focus on one aspect of a car’s operation and explain how the feature works.

Another aspect of the assignment directs students to the concepts of friction, velocity, acceleration, power, and momentum. Each student also selected a favorite car and calculated certain values, such as gas mileage, based on a 30-minute commute five days per week, for 52 weeks in the years. Class assignments also include essays, presentations, and one activity that puts their knowledge to use.

Resident and Microsoft employee Kevin Suckow, who is scheduled to speak to students soon at an assembly, turned educators’ attention to a videogame produced by a division of his company. The game and the physics lessons have something in common, which he first noted while speaking with Assistant Superintendent Alice Jackson, he explained. From there the idea sprang to incorporate his videogame with physics lessons.

“We do a lot of physics in videogaming,” he said, which he had also told Ms Jackson. “[Videogaming] is a crazy phenomena right now and there are ways we can teach the kids through gaming.” He said students could test-drive the cars (in the game) with the knowledge that the cars’ performance is based on physics variables — weight, torque, amount of air in the tires, horse power, acceleration, and deceleration.

Although the videogame’s principals applied to the school’s project, Mr Suckow said the game had never before been used for a classroom lesson.

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