Physics in the Field

Larry Li
With all the hustle and bustle during the start of this school year, it's been hard to find a time to sit down and blog about my experiences.

But perhaps one of the most unique things that happened in these first few weeks was when my physics class went out to shoot air-powered rockets in order to model 2-D projectile motion.
It was one thing to have the concepts explained in class, but another to actually physically measure and see the results in real life. Using bicycle pumps and a pressure chamber fitted with a plastic cap, we were able to replicate the problems we did in class. It was an interesting mix of reality and conceptual as we ran multiple launches on the football field. We calculated the average initial velocity by measuring the time of a vertical flight and used that information to predict other properties of flight paths at varying angles. Even with imperfect variables (ie., our reaction times), we were able to accurately predict the landing zone with an error of about 7 percent.

As we returned to class as the block was almost over, I think we all had a better understanding of the size and scope of projectile motion grounded in real life experience.