Students get ‘physic’al at Stambaugh

Teams compete at YSU in science-related games

YOUNGSTOWN — You could say that two of Amanda French’s carrots are struggling to find their identity — not sure if they are the primary pieces of a makeshift trombone or flute.

“It’s like a trombone,” the Lisbon High School senior said about her science project that entailed drilling a hole through one carrot, then inserting a smaller, thinner one through to simulate a reed, or a slide for a trombone.

French also carved a small oval notch toward the top of the larger carrot for air to escape, and to allow her to blow through it and make pitches similar in tone to those from a flute. Not being able to use a mouthpiece or other device found on a musical instrument was another challenging piece, she explained.

The process of drilling and fitting may have been daunting to French and the other students who assisted her, but in the end it was music to her ears also because she was able to participate in the annual Physics Olympics on Saturday at Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium.

Eleven teams representing several high schools in the region and across the state competed against one another in 12 events. Students and their teachers were from schools in Boardman, Poland, Lisbon, Columbiana, Lowellville, Conneaut and Farrell, Pa. Also in the mix were Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pa., and one near Findlay.

French, who also plays flute in her school’s marching and concert bands, entered her carrot creation in the “Making Music” event, one of the 12 competitions.

Striking a different chord for that event was Lisbon High 12th-grader Cassie Brandt, who used nine knitting needles as musical chimes.

“I wanted to use everyday items to make a musical instrument,” Brandt explained. “It took us forever to find ones that worked. I tried to tune them by ear at first, but they didn’t sound right.”

After the fine-tuning process was finished, though, the result was a wooden stand from which the knitting needles of varying diameters but similar lengths hung from strings fitted through the top. The needles produced a total of a one-octave range, noted Brandt, who’s also in her school’s knitting club.

Jodi McCullough, a Lisbon High physics teacher who brought nine students to the competition, said she hopes the effects of the experience will endure long after the final note is heard.

“I’m hoping they take what they learn in class and apply it to make something,” she said.

How many water molecules are in an Olympic-sized swimming pool? If you guessed 1 followed by 32 zeros, you would be correct.

“It’s a number that will be 10 to the 32nd power,” said Mary Janek, event coordinator.

That was one of the challenges that faced those who participated in the “Fermi Questions” event, which featured other math-related problems.

Another event was the “Physics Phloater,” in which the students built small boats to travel through timed gates. The fastest one won the competition, Janek added.

The one that perhaps generated the greatest interest was the “Egg Drop,” which challenged the participants to construct paper parachutes, cones and other such devices to hold raw eggs, then drop them about 45 feet in an area adjacent to a nearby stairwell to land on a large plastic sheet. The object was to prevent the eggs from breaking or cracking, noted Kevin Crowley, a part-time YSU physics instructor.

An additional challenge the students were dealt was dropping their creations without having them get caught on window ledges along the way. In those cases, the free-fall challenge would pick up at that point, Crowley added.

Taking first- and second-place honors were two Hickory High School teams.

The 11 teams also competed in a quiz show centered around a variety of math- and physics-related problems. The Physics Olympics ended with the three top teams competing in a final round.



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