Physics team places second at state competition

By: Jason Rathjen

The physics team members put their knowledge and ingenuity to the test last Tuesday, April 12 in the McLeod Center and emerged with a second place overall finish, with three of the events coming home with some hardware.

The mousetrap car and challenge problem both took home the first place prize, while the soda straw arm team came out with a third place finish.

The mousetrap car team consisted of Spencer Williams and Nate Llewellyn, and they finished first; Emma Gerdes and Jacob Leisinger tackled the challenge problem, and also finished first; and Gus Marty and James Kingsley conquered the soda straw arm with a third place finish.

The competition consists of five different events: catapult, mousetrap car, toothpick bridge, soda straw arm and the challenge problem. Each event has its own rules and teams of two students compete in each event.

For the mousetrap car, Llewelyn and Williams built a car powered by a mousetrap that traveled as close to 550 cm as possible. Their car landed  within 0.1 cm of the target. “The hardest part of the event, for us, was keeping the car from stopping early. There was a string that we would wind around the back axle while it was rolling, and it would sometimes stop early because it would tangle,” Williams said. “We just did a lot of test runs, made as many good adjustments as possible and hoped for the best.”

For the soda straw arm, Marty and Kinsley built the longest arm they could out of 12 straws and 10 pins that would support 50 grams of mass. “I had never done the soda straw arm before, so when I got to go, I was pretty nervous, but once we got going, it was easy to figure out,” Marty said.

In the challenge problem, Gerdes and Leisinger had to find the duration of a video clip without using a stopwatch. To do this, they used a pendulum and were within 0.05 seconds of the video length. “A lot of kids were pretty excited and nervous, but Emma and I weren’t nervous at all. We went in knowing that we would dominate, and we just happened to be the best challenge problem team in the state,” Leisinger said.

The competition was an experience for the students to learn more about the world of physics. “I learned how to figure out the length of a short video without timing it,” Gerdes said. “I also learned there is a lot more to  physics than we think.”

The students also got to enjoy the day off, and they made the most of it. “My favorite part of the competition was the school spirit our team had. We took a lot of pride in competing and doing well as representatives of Cedar Falls High School. Also, the turkey sandwiches we had for lunch were delicious,” Leisinger said. “Being able to compete with my friends and classmates and also getting third at State was pretty cool,” Marty said.

Physics teacher Meghan Reynolds had a great time watching the students grow in their physics knowledge while getting to have a little bit of fun. “My favorite part of the competition is watching students have fun with physics. It’s also nice seeing the students take pride in their projects and work hard to get sometimes very impressive results,” Reynolds said.

Though this is the end of the road for the physics team, the students who participated in the state competition said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and encourage others to get involved. “I would definitely recommend other students to participate because it is a lot of fun. I was not expecting to have as much fun as I did. You also get to miss a few days of school, so why not try it out?” Gerdes asked. “You don’t need to be great at physics to participate. I am not great at physics, and I ended up winning the state competition in my event.”

Marty agreed. “It is a really great experience and a fun way to compete. It looks good on a resume as well,” he said. Reynolds echoed their remarks. “I thought CF did exceptionally well! There was some tough competition, so we should be very proud of winning 2nd place. Aside from trophies and medals, I was extremely pleased with the teamwork and dedication to doing their best that all the students demonstrated,” she said.

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