Friday, June 26, 2015

Fun with Physics

This week, morning camp was "Fun with Physics"!

On Monday, campers learned the basics of physics.  Physics is a complex science that applies combines math and the physical forces of the universe. We discovered the science behind the "artificial gravity" on the international space station with some model space stations of our own.  You just have to make sure it keeps spinning (which isn't a problem in the friction-less, vacuum of space.
Making miniature space stations!

Campers also learned about inertia which is a property of all matter, by applying measured force to matchbox cars and observing how far they travel.  Do we know who's first law of physics inertia falls under?  

Inertia challenge, a raceway to physics

Campers also took a look at the force of friction with our salt and marble mystery.  Did you know that if you shake your cereal before you open it, your cereal prize will magically appear at the top?  You guessed it, that's because of relative friction.  The larger toy prize has less surface area for friction to act upon (relatively) so it makes it's way to the top, less impeded than the smaller cereal piece or, in our case, salt.

The theme for Tuesday was the physics of flight.  Campers learned about drag, lift, force, and thrust and all the important ways planes are built to get them off the ground.  We got to make our own paper airplanes and experiment with their design.  The fastest planes might not fly the farthest and vice versa.  Trick planes have a unique shape compared to distance planes.  When it comes to flight shape is everything and making trade offs in design is important part of the physics of engineering.

Making paper airplanes!

In order to better understand flight, we did a few experiments to learn about air pressure.  When you blow over a sheet of paper or between two hanging balloons, the paper rises and the balloons come together.  Why?  Well, we pushed all the air out of those spaces and the paper and balloons are pulled in to fill the new gap.  This same principle is why the shape of a plane's wing is so important.  We also showed how forcing air (or in our experiment, water) through a smaller space will cause it to move more quickly.  This principle is found everywhere from engineering to musical instruments!

Squeezing the stream causes it to increase is speed

Wednesday's camp was all about sound!  Campers made their own musical instruments including a "sound sandwich" and a soda straw "flute".
Sound sandwich

Tuning fork ripples
Did you know sound is made from vibrations?  Campers got a chance to actually see sound waves.  When sound waves travel through the air, they're invisible.  But what about water?  By placing vibrating tuning forks into water we can actually see sound waves as ripples!

Thursday, we learned about light and optics.  Campers learned about different words in physics to describe how objects and light interact including transparent, translucent, opaque, reflect, refract, and absorb.  We went on a museum wide scavenger hunt to try see some of these interactions for ourselves.  Campers also had the opportunity to see a cow eye dissection up close.

Cow eyes are very similar to human eyes so we learned a lot about our own eyes and how we see.  Spinning color wheels helped us learn about how white light is made up of an entire rainbow of colors.  We learned about refraction and reflection by creating our own controlled environment on which we could shine white or colorful light through a glass of water.  Water causes light to travel more slowly, refracting it and causing hings submerged to appeared distorted.

Check out our color wheels!
Refraction in action

That's a lot of potential energy
Our last day of camp was Friday and campers focused their energy on, well, energy.  We started off learning about the potential and kinetic energy with our many energy based toys,  Then campers got a chance to build their own roller coaster.  We learned that the amount of potential energy stored in an our marble car depends on where you put it on the track.  Where should you put your marble if your track has a lot of loops (and a lot of gravity to fight)?  Campers made their own battery out of objects they probably have in their house.  Using a few nails, copper wire, and a dash of vinegar, we were able to generate enough energy to light up an LED bulb.  This helped us learn about circuits.  We made a human circuit with our energy stick, but you have to make sure you keep your circuit closed!

Playing with groan tubes!

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