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USU Physics Day at Lagoon Offers Thrilling Science Fun

Thursday, May. 18, 2017

Teens at amusement park

Homemade wrist accelerometers at the ready, Churchill Junior High 8th graders, from left, Cambri Anderton, Rachel Wagner, Kate Wardrop and Halle Wardrop prepare to measure G-forces on the Colossus rollercoaster at USU Physics Day at Lagoon.

Robotics match

MESA students vie in a robotics match May 12 at USU Physics Day at Lagoon. The popular event drew more than 7,000 youths from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona.

Reading about physics principles in a textbook is, well, okay. But getting on a rollercoaster, climbing 85 feet and flying through hoops while experiencing gravity, acceleration and centrifugal force is the bomb!

Utah State University’s Department of Physics, with partner Idaho National Laboratory and a host of sponsors, welcomed more than 7,000 young scientists to Davis County’s über-playground for its 28th annual USU Physics Day at Lagoon to try out all kinds of gut-churning science fun.

Stepping off the amusement park’s Colossus rollercoaster, Elena Rovira, a student at Salt Lake City’s Churchill Junior High School, excitedly explained using a wrist accelerometer; she had made herself to measure G-forces on the popular park ride.

“I pulled three g’s and, at the top of the loopty-loop, it was two and then, back at the bottom, three,” she told a reporter. “This is the best learning experience ever.”

Participants in the day-long event included high school and middle school students, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program elementary students, along with their teachers, from throughout Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona.

Hundreds of the youths competed in the day’s popular Sky Drop contest, which involved dropping a raw egg in a protective container of the competitor’s own design from the park’s Sky Ride onto an Aggie bull’s eye. (Dozens of eggs plunged to their doom, but a surprising number survived.)

Students also displayed ideas for thrilling rides of the future, vied in a robotics grudge match and used their smartphones to tackle physics brain-teasers.

Along with the day’s amusements, nearly 100 aspiring Aggies in three-person teams engaged in the Physics Bowl competition for scholarship awards. First place in the competition went to Zach Glenn, Devin Rupper and Adam Vogel of Orem, Utah’s Mountain View High School.

“It’s very rewarding to see so many teens getting excited about science,” says USU Physics alum Amberly Evans Jensen ’12, MS’15, who assisted Dennison in coordinating this year’s event. “It takes nearly a year to prepare for the event, but it’s worth it.”

INL and Lagoon partner with USU in coordinating the event, which is supported by USU’s Department of Physics, USU College of Science, USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, USU Admissions, the USU Research Foundation, Space Dynamics Laboratory, Hill Air Force Base STEM Outreach, the U.S. Navy, the Utah NASA Space Grant Consortium and multiple corporate sponsors.

Related Links
“Physics Day Brings Fun, Learning to Lagoon,” Fox 13 News 
“Physics Students from Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho Test Lagoon’s Physics Day,” The Salt Lake Tribune 
USU Physics Day at Lagoon 
USU Department of Physics 
USU College of Science 

Contact: J.R. Dennison, 435-797-2936,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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