For the past five years, Dedham High School Physics teacher, Amanda Bragan, has given her Junior and Senior Honors students the same interesting Term 3 assignment – build a catapult.
Recently, as the term came to a close, their “projects” were due and the gym at the High School was transformed in to a wild scene.
High School Physics is described as the most “basic science” and is crucial to understanding the world around us. The laws of physics tell us how the planets move, where light comes from, how birds can fly, and describes the workings of most basic objects.
We chatted briefly with Ms. Bragan, as the students put the finishing touches on their inventions. The Physics teacher, clipboard in hand, was just as excited herself, as the room full of students around her. “I broke the students up in to 26 teams, with 3 or 4 students on each team” Bragan told us. “As you can see, the designs vary in size, shape, and materials, but the concept for each group remains the same – to launch a tennis ball 15 meters (approx. 50ft) and hit the target.”
The catapult has been around since ancient times and is believed to have been invented by the Greeks.
One by one, each group brought their catapult up to the line. With dozens upon dozens of their classmates looking on, it was the moment of truth. Of the 26 prototypes designed by these Dedham High School boys and girls, some broke down – some fell apart – some launched the tennis ball high in to the rafters – some only a few feet – and some actually came pretty close to their mark.
The results were logged by all of the participants, and you could see that each group really put in a great deal of thought and hard work.
At the end of the experiment, one thing was for certain, students, no matter what age group, learn a great deal more when they are involved in these “hands-on” type of assignments. There were a lot of laughs, high-fives, and pats on the back, to go along with the info, data, and results that came about.
This leaves only one lingering question. Where was Amanda Bragan when we were in High School and how come I never built a catapult???
Story and Photos by: Joe Kilroy