It was all work and just a little play for Byram Hills High School physics students when they visited Lake Compounce Amusement Park in Connecticut last month. That’s because, as they rode the roller coasters and drop towers, they were busy recording volumes of data about the mechanics of the rides for analysis about various principals of physics.
Students looked at centrifugal force, velocity, energy, pneumatic force and various other mechanics of physics that are the behind-the-scenes essentials of every theme-park ride, according to a press release from the school district.
“A lot of force and physics goes into even a very simple machine,” observed junior Perry Bakas, who, with Lucas Anfang and Michael Gagliardi gave a presentation to classmates on the pneumatics of the ride Downtime, which drops riders 185 feet at 60 mph.
The students each used apps downloaded onto their smartphones to gather the various statistics.
“Cell phones have a remarkable array of sensors,” said physics teacher Paul Beeker, who accompanied the students to the park. “Before, we used to have to carry bulky measuring devices, but now they just put their phones in their pockets and can gather thousands of data points, which they then download for analysis.” He noted that the volume of information gathered was quite a challenge in itself. “It’s amazing how much material they accumulate.”
Alex Feldman rode the Wave Swinger, taking measurements of the angle of the ride and the force felt by riders. Using the app Sensor Kinetics Pro he was able to record the acceleration on the x, y, and z axis with his phone.
“It was pretty fun,” he said of the field trip. “It’s definitely a good way to learn. We should do more trips like this.”
Byram Hills High School juniors, Connor Morley (left) and Robert Grande, present an analysis of the physics behind the Lake Compounce Amusement Park ride The Enterprise.