Physics with a Super Hero Spin

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For area high school students, super hero movies became a science lesson Thursday.

Batman and Spiderman made appearances at an unconventional physics competition at the University of Scranton.

How do you calculate the exact radius for the circle made when balls start to spin at a given velocity?

Your head may be spinning after that question, but it didn’t stump a team of physics students from Scranton High School.

“We just used a lot of equations. We had the blue ribbon which was right next to where the radius is. So, we took first place in that event and we feel really good about that,” said student Zachary Holden.

About 100 students from 13 area high schools completed the complicated physics challenges at the annual Kane Competition at the University of Scranton.

The goal is to show students a creative way to apply what their learning in the classroom.

Each challenge is meant to represent something the students may have seen in a superhero movie.

“Not my typical physics lesson, no. Normally we’re working hard in a classroom with a syllabus, not in a gym screaming at each other,” said University of Scranton professor Dr. Declan Mulhall, who organized the event.

Using Dr. Mulhall’s unconventional teaching methods, college physics majors put together five challenges for the high schoolers.

One was a lesson in magnification disguised as Batman’s telescope.

“For this event we’re making a telescope, and we have to read a sign that’s way over there and it has a riddle on it. Then we have to calculate the magnification for each lens that we use,” said Lackawanna Trail student Louanne Mack.

There was a 25 minute time limit for each challenge, so the students spent most of the day feverishly working around a table with pencils and calculators.

Competition was their motivator.

“I think it’s really cool, you can take some of the monotony of physics and really make it fun!” added Holden.

Turns out the physics students from Wyoming Area High School were the real supers heroes, they took first place!