Posts Tagged ‘projectile motion’

The Art of Making a College Physics Class Fun

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013


So if one object is moving and it hits another object that is stationary, what happens? How can you know in advance what the outcome will be? The answer involves lots of ‘Xs’ and ‘Ys’ and ‘As’ and ‘Bs’ along the horizontal and vertical axis mixed in with a healthy dose of computational analysis.

Students in Cogswell’s “College Physics” class recently spent a lively afternoon loading metal balls into pendulums and launching them into space – or at least as far as the momentum would take them – which was generally over the edge of the counter.

So what does all of this have to do with creating games and animations? One of the glories of these art forms is that things move and are influenced by the world around them. If artists don’t understand the theory of motion and other laws of physics, they are less likely to create realistic scenes in their games and films.

In this exercise students are studying projectile motion and collisions using a ballistic pendulum. First they put the ball inside the bucket and then pull the trigger. This sets the pendulum in motion and sends the ball flying. Next students calculate the results by using measurements that include the height the pendulum swings, the speed of the ball’s trajectory and the speed and arc of the pendulum.

Cogswell specializes in doing hands-on work and this experiment is just one example of the illustrative laboratory work the College uses to cement theory in the minds of its students.

During the semester students learn the fundamentals of mechanics, fluids and heat with a focus on vectors, translation and equilibrium, acceleration, projectile motion, momentum, uniform circular notion, rotation of rigid bodies, simple harmonic motion, thermal expansion and the thermal properties of matter and wave motion.

Not only to students gain valuable knowledge about how objects move and react to stimuli, they have fun in the process.