That’s a Wrap! (Day 13)

Just like that, SA 2019 is over. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. It’s amazing how quickly a community can develop. So much happens in 13 days!

Today we spent some time discussing hovercrafts, playing with our coasters, reminiscing on our time together, and cleaning up. It was bittersweet, happy and sad.

It was good to look back on all we’ve done over the past three weeks.

Check your email from yesterday for a link to the entire folder of pictures and videos. ENJOY!

We not only tested each other’s coasters, we also tried some different sized marbles!

I want to give a shout out to our amazing teacher assistants. Aiden and Claire went above and beyond every single day to help make this a great experience for your kids. There were terrific role models. Want to know more about the TA program? Follow THIS LINK.

Two of the best TAs around!

Our final experts included Griffin (hockey), Aiden-TA (the French language), and Claire-TA (pogo sticking). Such diversity of interests/knowledge!

Thanks again for all your support. Well done, everyone. Well done.


Abe Hanson (

Launch Day and Open House Prep (Day 12)

That’s right, open house is already upon us. Hopefully you’ll be able to join us tonight between 6-8 p.m. at the Columbia Heights High School. As I’ve stated, come say hello, try out some coasters, look at individual displays, and maybe even eat some pizza. Please leave displays for others to check out, unless you are around at 8 p.m. Most physics students will take everything home tomorrow.

Spend some time investigating students’ individual displays.

We started the day by checking out all the student-created rockets. There were so many great designs!

These physics students should be proud of their hard work.

After sharing our rockets, we spent the next hour putting them to the test. Thanks to a number of you who were able to join us. I hope you had as much fun as we did! We also had a large audience of other SA students who came to cheer us on.

Sorry for the blurry moments…I was doused by this rocket at take off!
Every student found success today.

It’s been a great three weeks! I look forward to seeing many of you tonight.


Rocket Demo & Coaster Work (Day 11)

Hopefully our launch day (tomorrow) will be as beautiful as our demo launch day was today. A big part of the day was spent practicing for tomorrow. Various rockets were launched to give students an opportunity to see how they look in real life, practice with altimeters, and get some ideas for final tinkering. A number of rockets were launched with deficiencies to show students some things to avoid. Be sure to ask what happens without fins, a nose cone, and/or added mass.

Watch Newton’s Third Law of Motion in action. Check out the shadow!
One of several rockets launched today, allowing students to practice using their altimeters.

Coasters are really coming together, and will be ready to go tomorrow night for open house.

So close to open house!
It’s all in the details.

Want to know more about Fortnite or Minecraft? Our experts today, Caeden and Wesley, would be the perfect people to ask.

Tomorrow is a big day. If you’re available, consider joining us on the Columbia Heights High School baseball field just southwest of the high school on the corner of Fillmore St. and 47th Ave. You can park right on either street and walk out to the field. We plan on getting going at about 9:00 am. Make sure your physics student comes to SA tomorrow with their rocket. It is best if it has the cap on it.

We’ll launch from the outfield.

Tomorrow evening is our annual open house. Join us 6-8 p.m. Check out our classroom, figure out what class you’d like to do next year, and eat some pizza. I hope to see many of your there.


Coaster Design & Flight (Day 10)

Today, we reviewed the physics of flight. Ask your physics student about the opposing forces at work that make flight possible. See if they throw in terms like drag, thrust, or the Bernoulli Principle. They should.

Much of the day was spend tinkering with coasters. All six coasters function at least some of the time. I constantly remind them that they are working with imperfect materials in a temporary space. This inconsistency is to be expected. Most groups began decorating their coasters towards their theme and/or working on informational posters.

We wrapped up the day constructing altitude trackers and altitude calculators designed by NASA. We will test them out tomorrow as we do a few practice launches with sample rockets.

We’ll put these tools to the test tomorrow.

Experts included Braeden and Archer, discussing cars and stars. I’m not sure if they planned on rhyming expertise areas or not, but it did not go unnoticed. We can all now picture Braeden as an adult in a late 60s Camaro SS or Corvette Stingray. Archer alleviated any worries of the sun dying during our lifetime.

See Friday’s blog for details if you are considering attending the launch and/or open house on Wednesday. Thursday will be our final day.


Airport Visit (Day 9)

Our presenter from earlier in the week, Michael Lewis, invited us out to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport (Janes Field) to check out his medevac helicopter. It fell into place last minute, but what an adventure it turned out to be! It was exciting to see things he had presented, but in real life.

Check out the helicopter Michael Lewis uses to help those in medical emergencies.
Michael showed us his helicopter’s navigation system.
Helicopters are incredible.
We unexpectedly were able to check out a medevac airplane!
Check out the full squad.

We were able to get up close and personal with both aircraft, spend some time in a hangar, and even see the living quarters of the Life Link staff. What a great adventure!

Students also spent time today working on their coasters. About half of them are consistently successful, with groups beginning the “branding” process, selecting a name/theme and decorating accordingly. Others continue to tinker. These are always a big hit at our annual open house.

Our experts, Cullen and Max, added depth to our knowledge of unicycling and Pokemon card-collecting . Both came equipped with props, really adding to their presentations.

How does he do it?!!?

It’s hard to believe that next week will wrap up SA 2019. Big events include our rocket launch (Wednesday, CHHS baseball field, 9:00 am), and the SA open house (Wednesday, Columbia Heights High School, 6-8:00 pm). Hopefully many of you will be able to attend one, or both.

I strongly recommend that students get going on their water rockets this weekend. Avoid the stress of procrastination. Honestly, building these things can be a lot of fun. Make them as simple or complex as you want. The sky is the limit (pun intended). Below are some rockets (and students) from last year.

Nice job, guys!

Have a great weekend. Peace.

Nickelodeon Universe (Day 8)

Physics certainly can be a lot of fun. Today that was proven. Great times were had exploring Nickelodeon Universe and the world of physics.

Today, however, did not start with an amusement park. It started with making progress on our marble coasters. Check them out!

Our coasters are really coming together!

The rest of the day, essentially, was spent at Nickelodeon Universe. Students completed physics activities, with fun as the focus. Ask them about their experience.

What a crew!
Physics & fun!
Bumper cars = action and reaction

Our experts today were Andrew (3D printing) and Myles (LEGO history). Andrew brought in some of his creations and Myles wowed us with his deep knowledge of one of the greatest toys ever made.

Tomorrow we head out to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport (Janes Field) to check out some aircraft discussed during yesterday’s presentations. We’ll spend our remaining time on our coasters.


FLIGHT!!! (Day 7)

Today we were fortunate to be visited by not one, but two, pilots, gracious enough to share their flight experience and expertise. Jim DeLeo has spent most of life flying airplanes, while his brother Michael Lewis flies helicopters.

Flight experts (and brothers) Jim DeLeo and Michael Lewis

Jim was an F15 Eagle pilot and instructor in the U.S. Air Force, while Michael flew Apache and Chinook helicopters in the U.S. Army. Jim’s primary flights these days consist of taking a floatplane to favorite fishing spots. Michael currently flies a medevac helicopter for Life Link III. We have been invited out to visit Michael at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport (Janes Field) for a tour. It looks like we’ll be heading out there on Friday! He also let us know about the upcoming Duluth Air and Aviation Expo coming up in July. The Blue Angels will be there!

Ask your physics students what they learned and what most interested them. See if they can define any of the following (these are admittedly tricky ones): Bernoulli’s Principle, yaw, aileron, rotor mast.

Check out our first successful coaster of the summer!

We continued with our big coaster challenge and spent time researching 2-liter bottle water rocket designs. At the very least, students should be gathering materials and researching/planning. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Our experts today were Vaughn (basketball) and Aubrey (track & field). We were exceedingly sporty today.

Tomorrow we head to the Mall of America to spend time experiencing physics in action at Nickelodeon Universe. Don’t forget lunches, SA shirts, and gray binders. Students SHOULD NOT bring money, as we will focus on rides and physics activities. Encourage your physics student to spend some time looking through the binder planning out a course of action for tomorrow. We are going to have a lot of fun.



Away we go!

After learning about centripetal force, groups of 3 or 4 began designing and building 30 ft. marble roller coasters. COLLABORATION and CONSENSUS, were two main areas of focus. By now, students should be able to explain how Newton’s Three Laws of Motion pertain to their coaster project. Things do what they are supposed to do. We keep this in mind as we design, build, and tinker.

How do these objects help to demonstrate centripetal force?

Our coaster time was full of challenges and successes. In your conversations at home, discuss next steps for tomorrow.

Pipe insulation, masking tape, and marbles make for a lot of fun.

Our first expert today was Walker, sharing about his love of world travel. He’s already been to seven countries, including a train ride through the Swiss Alps. Kaitelin is a ballet expert. It was fun hearing about her dream studio and performance theater.

Gray binders came home today filled with activities for Nickelodeon Universe on Thursday. Students should peruse them before returning them to class on Thursday. They should plan on completing at least three of the activities during our time at the amusement park.

Two-liter water bottle rockets were discussed today. This is our only project students complete AT HOME. Links can be found in our first week letter, if students would like to get a head start. Otherwise, just Google “two liter bottle water rocket”. These can be simple or relatively complex depending on time, interest, and materials available. A good rocket can be made with things just laying around the house. The recycle bin is a great place to start!

Here’s a sample rocket from our SA 2018 launch day.

Tomorrow we have two presenters on the physics of FLIGHT, spend some time researching for our rockets, and continue with our BIG COASTER CHALLENGE.


Marble Coasters Begin (Day 5)

Today was a whirlwind of learning and activity. We not only tackled the rest of Newton’s Laws of Motion, we also dabbled in potential and kinetic energy, centripetal force, and even structural engineering.

Our day started with a visit from Paul Schiller, a structural engineer from Barr Engineering. He provided a perfect lead-in to our roller coaster unit, as he has worked on the engineering of numerous amusement park rides such as the Log Chute and Fairly Odd Coaster at Nickelodeon Universe, and the Extreme Swing and Steel Venom at Valleyfair.

Watch this demonstration from roller coaster expert, Paul Schiller.

Paul loves working on amusement park rides because they are SO MUCH FUN for those who get to experience them. Structural engineering became a passion when he realized he was able to spend his work days problem solving. See if you can stump your physics student by asking them to define TRUSS and/or COMPRESSION FORCE.

Students will have the opportunity to continue testing with this contraption over the next two weeks. Ask them about it!

The remainder of our time together was spent learning about our marble coasters and completing challenges in preparation for the BIG COASTER CHALLENGE, which we’ll start tomorrow.

Think it will land in the cup? Watch to find out.
All challenges were met successfully!

Experts included Kirsten (figure skating), Zach (neutron stars), and Will (lacrosse). We have such a great knowledge base on a wide variety of topics in our class!

We head to Nickelodeon Universe on Thursday. Look for binders coming home tomorrow with activities for students to review prior to our trip. Please know by tomorrow whether or not your child would like a bag lunch provided for them on that day (free of charge).


Balloon Cars (Day 4)

Honestly, what a great first week! Our little community is developing into one that is both fun and supportive.

Today was all about balloon cars. Students had a practice run before we took a break, followed by two “official” trials after break. Tinkering took place between each run. The day was full of challenges and accomplishments, with every single balloon car having at least one successful run. See for yourself.

It’s crazy to think that some of these went over 40 feet!
You never know exactly what might happen next.
Many solid improvements took place during tinker time.
It just keeps going.
What a crew!

We use Question the Expert time to practice our skills as active listeners. In order to provide a variety of questions, students actively process Costa’s Levels of Questions. As a whole, the class has made dramatic improvements in involvement during this process.

Today, Irie filled us in on her love of skateboarding. She’s skated at parks all over the country! Devin enlightened us about his passion for sports cards collecting. Need a Wayne Gretzky card? He’s your guy!

Next week we’ll work through the rest of Newton’s Laws of Motion, discuss energy, and dig deeper into forces, all while facing our GIGANTIC COASTER CHALLENGE. Collaboration and application of physics knowledge will be key.

Nice work, everyone. Peace.