Web Exclusive: Texas students use pumpkins to help master physics lesson

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(KXAS) – As the sun rose bright and early, so did the pumpkins.

“We’re hoping to see a 45-degree launch angle and we’re hoping they’ll go about 10 meters,” said physics teacher Brock Hesse.

Hesse developed the “Pumpkin Chucking Challenge” for his AP physics students at New Tech High School in Coppell, Texas.

Hesse may teach physics, but he also expands your vocabulary as he explains the goal of his class.

 New Tech High School students designed and built catapults to see who could throw a pumpkin higher and further than anyone else. 

“They’re looking to create an efficient device that includes projectile and kinematic equations,” he told us.

The definition of kinematic is” a branch of dynamics that deals with aspects of motion apart of considerations of mass and force.”

Basically, the students are trying to figure out the exact formula to get these pumpkins, up, out and moving forward.

Student Charlotte Millman’s big launch didn’t go as she planned, but she says she knows why, and that’s the whole point.

“It was fun working with that and applying physics to how it worked in the real life,” Millman said.

Real life was definitely there for student James Goode, who used an electric motor to increase tension, an idea he got from his engineer father.

“I got a call this morning saying, ‘are you coming in this Friday? Are you ever going to work a Friday again?'” said Jay, Goode’s father.

The duo put a ton of time and energy into their trebuchet, which in case you didn’t know, “is a catapult that uses a swinging arm.”

Weeks of construction, planning and building may seem like a lot for one lesson in one class, but the students say they’ll never forget what they learned, using math and physics to squash the competition.


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