BELLWOOD - The laws of motion came to life Thursday at Bellwood-Antis Middle School.
Students in fifth- and sixth-grade built "rocket cars" out of construction paper and plastic tubing in a STEM Connections for Kids exercise.
The program, created by a group of educators and business people, is being piloted in the school district this year. Its purpose is to promote, develop and facilitate instruction, programs and services related to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
During Richard Flarend’s rocket car lesson to fifth-graders Thursday afternoon, Bellwood-Antis student Brayden Hornberger celebrates after the rocket car he made won a race against another classmate’s car.
In the exercise, Richard Flarend, associate professor of physics at Penn State Altoona, worked with the students on an experiment dealing with Newton's laws of motion. He showed them how to build a "rocket car" out of construction paper, plastic tubing and plastic wheels to test which would go faster and further.
There were four basic designs of cars: long bodies with long wheel bases, long bodies with short wheel bases, short bodies with long wheel bases and short bodies with short wheel bases.
After the wheels were added, the cars were tested to see which would go faster and further.
"In general terms, the long cars with long wheel bases should be faster and the short cars with short wheel bases should be slower depending on the construction of the car," Flarend said.
But the long cars did not win every race.
"We intended to make the only differences the length and wheel bases, but there are more variables. There are other variables besides the ones you want to control. That is why some of the short cars won," Flarend said.
He said how the students put on the paper clips or how tightly the paper was rolled when they created their cars affected the speed of the car.
Fifth-graders participating in the morning experiment said they enjoyed the experience.
"I think it is fun and crafty. It teaches you how to build stuff and about science and energy," said Brittany Yingling.
"I think it is nice how they are letting us do this. We are learning about energy and things like that," said Alex Suiters.
Mary Beth Banks, a fifth-grade teacher, said the event was beneficial to the students.
"Everyone did the same activity and some will come away with more than some of the others, but they all had fun and enjoyed it," Banks said. "We like to see them enjoy what we are trying to teach."
Flarend said it was refreshing to work with middle-school students.
"I do a lot of similar projects with kids at college campuses. A fifth- or sixth-grader sometimes has an easier time doing it than a 20-year-old," Flarend said. "We know that as adults, we fear failure more. The little kids don't have the same fear of failure and will learn from their mistakes. Kids have an easier time learning these things than the adults do."