[By Monica Song]
Mrs. Walsh’s AP Physics class spent the block period on September 17 doing what we as kids dreamt of doing during hot summer afternoons-- catapulting water balloons far into the distance. Of course, along with all the fun and games was an educational aspect, as evidenced by the assortment of protractors, meter sticks, tape measures, and levelling devices that accompanied the water balloons.
The purpose of the lab was to predict how variables, such as stretch distance, angle, and mass, affected the projectile range of water balloons. Groups of four students each predicted how far their water balloon would be launched, and the group with the most accurate guess would win the chance to aim their water balloon at whatever target they desired (Mrs. Walsh likely being the tribute).
The day before the water balloon launch, affectionately nicknamed “The Best Lab Ever,” students worked together on the calculations. Then, the morning of the lab, students completed the preparations by filling the balloons, accidentally popping one in the process. Water splashed onto the surrounding papers lying on Mrs. Walsh desk, resulting in drenched worksheets and illegible, ink-smeared transparencies.
Mrs. Walsh dismissed the hours of lost work, saying, “Anything’s worth it for the water balloon lab!”
On block day, the class convened in front of the North Gym. Some students stood around with calculators and pens and notebooks, ready to record data, and others helped assemble the orange-slinged catapult, an act that required the coordination of many hands.
Water balloons soared high through the air towards the oak trees, as students followed their trails with hopeful eyes. Once the balloons landed, groups anxiously waited to to hear the measurements and for many, the result was a disappointing two to twenty meters away from the expected outcome. Nevertheless, one group managed to predict within half of a meter of the actual distance.
In the end, the winning group, consisting of Kelly Bae, Ben Blanco, Loren Shin, and Alice Zhai, aimed their water balloon at Mrs. Walsh, who was undeterred by the possibility of getting wet. In her years working here, not one group has managed to hit her. And just as expected, the water balloon missed by 2 or 3 meters.
Most students agreed that the lab was extremely fun, but senior Phillipp Wu offered a different point of view. “I thought that the lab was really cool but because our results were so off, it wasn’t too practical in teaching us concepts.”
Though the margin of error was huge, the lab was a valuable lesson in the faults of human nature and made a great bonding experience as well.
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