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Math, science students try to defy gravity

Event celebrates Newton’s birthday

Recorder/Paul Franz
Ilaria Roma and Alexander Houghton-Miles experiment with their center of gravity at the Academy of Math and Science in Greenfield on Tuesday.  The students were trying to stand up with out leaning forward to move their center of gravity over their feet.

Recorder/Paul Franz Ilaria Roma and Alexander Houghton-Miles experiment with their center of gravity at the Academy of Math and Science in Greenfield on Tuesday. The students were trying to stand up with out leaning forward to move their center of gravity over their feet.

GREENFIELD — Math and Science Academy students learned some lessons from Isaac Newton Tuesday, as the school participated together in a series of gravity experiments.

To celebrate the English physicist’s 370th birthday this December, students used their bodies to test out his theory of gravity. The experiments focused on finding the center of gravity: a point where weight is evenly dispersed and all sides are perfectly balanced.

Heather Evans, coordinator and teacher at the Math and Science Academy, explained the center of gravity as an invisible line that runs vertically through a person, or object, to the base.

When a person is standing straight up, it runs straight down through their body to their base: in this case, between the two legs.

But then if that person leans to the side and lifts one leg off the ground, the base changes from two legs to one. The center of gravity will therefore shift — it will still run vertical to the ground, but only through the one leg.

Some seemingly feasible actions of the human body are impossible if they work against the person’s center of gravity, said Evans.

One experiment was called the “Super Glue Chair.” In this challenge, students sat upright and all the way back in armless chairs. With feet flat on the ground, arms crossed and back straight, they tried to stand up — only to find, to their surprise, that it was impossible.

In another, students stood straight next to a wall, so that the side of their knee, hip and arm were pushed up against it. They were asked to try to move their outer leg away from the wall, but found again that it was impossible.

The event was the latest in a monthly series designed to allow students across grades to meet and interact.

The school’s fourth- and fifth-graders take classes together, as do the sixth- and seventh-graders. But these schoolwide events are the only time the two programs work together, said Evans.

Students in the upper program helped teach the younger students how to perform the experiments.

“It was really nice for all of us to get together,” said sixth-grader Alexander Houghton-Miles. He partnered with fourth-grader Ilaria Roma on the experiments, and enjoyed the “super glue chair” one the most.

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