Race is on: Students take physics lessons to track

Published Saturday, December 15, 2018
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Building Winners

BUILDING WINNERS – Paradise eighth graders Kreece Dearing, Naveah Davis and Will Crawford finished first, second and third in the Dec. 6 Panther Dash. Eighth graders built their own cars for the wooden car derby. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Paradise eighth-graders put their ingenuity and the laws of physics to the test in a battle for bragging rights in the annual Panther Dash last week.

The wooden car derby was part of Jessica Palmer’s eighth-grade science class and gave students a chance to put in practicality the lessons on mass, force and motion they had studied.

Palmer, who is in her first year teaching, said the derby was started a few years ago by Dianne Meadows and she wanted to keep the project going.

“We teach force and motion in eighth grade. She started it for the kids to be able to do a fun activity to apply lessons on mass and how it affects force and acceleration,” Palmer said. “The kids really get into it and love the hands-on aspect of it.”

Students started with a wooden block, four wheels, four axles and four nails. The students then designed the car for Palmer to cut out with a jigsaw.

“I’d cut out the cars after they designed it, and it was up to them to put the wheels on it,” Palmer said. “They were very creative on their design.”

Palmer did not provide weights for them, but the students had the option of adding up to 12 ounces.

“They had to figure out what type of mass would be the best for the winner,” she said. “They were able to apply what we learned in class for the project.”

In the derby, the 96 students raced their cars on each of the four lanes. The car with the top cumulative time was the winner.

Kreece Dearing came up with the winning design.

“My intention was to put all the weight in the very back without it doing a wheelie,” Dearing said. “My weight pushed it farther, and I got the dub.”

Nevaeh Davis took second with her design.

“I looked on the internet for a shape and we added to the back to make it faster,” Davis said.

In taking third, Will Crawford went with an aerodynamic design.

“I tried to make a triangle for aerodynamics. I wanted to see what it would look like shifting from the back to the front,” he said.

All three of the winners enjoyed the project.

“I thought it would be challenging at first. We all learned something,” Davis said.

After the derby, students had to write a report about how they built their car, who helped them and what they learned.

Along with a lesson, Palmer knows her students gained memories they can take with them after school.

“These are memories they will keep for a long time,” she said. “I had a lot of parents come up to me and say how they remember doing this in Scouts or in school. These are the things that kids are going to remember and really stick with them.”

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