Students bowling for physics at Penn camp
Surrounded by rare antique racing cars, Daniel Sanchez, 18, of Spain, let a 16-pound bowling ball slide out of his hands and roll down an aluminum ramp.
The ball picked up speed as it came off the two-foot-long ramp, but 16-year-old Ismail Khan of Pakistan sprang into action. He began tapping the ball with a broom to move it in a circle and eventually stop it.
Sanchez and Khan were among 34 high school students from around the world conducting physics experiments yesterday at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. The students are attending a month-long physics camp at the University of Pennsylvania.
"You think racing is thrilling, try bringing 34 high school kids and 16 bowling balls into an antiques museum," said Bill Berner, who has run the camp for 11 years. "That is a thrill."
The experiments were designed to teach the students about inertia, an important concept in physics, said Craig Halpern, 38, who has taught at the camp for eight years. During the school year, he teaches physics at Ewing (N.J.) High School.
An example of inertia, Halpern said, is what happens when an individual is driving a car and then stops it suddenly.
"When you lurch forward," he said, "that's inertia."
Berner, who also works with undergraduate students during the year through Penn's physics-demonstration laboratory, is a race-car enthusiast. He contacted the museum a few weeks ago with his idea to run the racing experiments in the showroom.
The museum, near Philadelphia International Airport, is home to a collection of 65 antique race cars built between 1909 and 1975. It opened last summer after the cars were donated by Fred Simeone, a local collector who serves as the foundation's executive director.
Given the success of yesterday's visit, museum spokesman Harry Hurst said, he hoped to invite more high school groups in the future.
Berner and other camp staff - most of whom teach high school physics during the school year - set up the experiments Thursday night. In the middle of the museum, they put down eight pieces of blue tarp, each with two tracks marked with red and black tape, and the two-foot-long aluminum ramp.
The space was ringed by antique cars, but the area where the students did the experiments was fenced in by blown-up old photos from racing-car history.