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Honors Physics students take learning to the trees

November 14, 2018

Students experience the physics of ziplining at the  GO APE Zipline.

Photo courtesy of RMHS STE

Students experience the physics of ziplining at the GO APE Zipline.

In the forest canopy many feet above the ground, dozens of RM students flew across zipline cables and tackled obstacles while suspended in the air. On October 22, Honors Physics students were able to experience physics concepts in real life while ziplining in the treetops. This was the first year of the field trip, which was coordinated by teacher Katherine Lin, who introduced the idea to her students early on in the school year.

The field trip was meant to relate to the zipline project students worked on. This project explored concepts such as velocity, momentum and acceleration, and how they work together to produce various effect. In class, students built prototypes of baskets to carry objects across a suspended cable and presented their findings to their peers.

On the day of the trip, around a hundred physics students traveled to GO APE Zipline and Treetop Adventure in Rock Creek Regional Park and were divided into five groups. Each group had to spend around thirty minutes learning the procedure of how how to wear a harness and use the clips attached to the cable. After the instruction, students experienced six different courses, each with varying difficulty, through the scenic forest.

One of the courses included the Tarzan Swing, where after jumping from a platform, students zipped down onto a net that they had to quickly scale in order to reach the next platform. The heights and obstacles could be nerve wracking, but along with the nerves came a sense of camaraderie. “There were a lot of people I didn’t know too well at first, but when we were all going, everybody was cheering each other on and just being really supportive,” junior Briana Epley said.

However, the wait time in between ziplining posed an issue for students and chaperones. “I think with anything like this there’s always a bottleneck effect,” said Ms. Lin, who coordinated the field trip. “Everyone wants to get started right away, but we all had to do the safety demonstrations, and every individual person had to make sure they were trained in it.”

Students gave feedback on how the problem could be improved. “I think if there was a way if we could go in a smaller group over a few days, it would be better, because we wouldn’t have to wait as long there to actually zipline,” sophomore Calie Dunn suggested.

The trip offered students a chance to relax from the stress that comes with the class. “It was a nice break because we worked on the project the whole quarter,” Dunn said. At the same time, students were able to use their physics knowledge to make the trip an academic experience. “In the classroom you’re told about these concepts and then when you’re actually the object in motion and experiencing those things, it’s pretty cool,” Epley said.

Despite some of its limitations, the ziplining field was very successful for its first year, and it is an experience that future honors physics students should look forward too.

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