Manatee School for the Arts class uses motorsports to learn about physics

ataylor@bradenton.comSeptember 14, 2011 

PALMETTO -- One yank of a pull string brought the engines of the karts at Andersen Race Park to life Tuesday.

Manatee School for the Arts students were seated in their respective cars. Donned in black helmet and visor, they smiled. They also wore neck braces and red jackets as precautionary measures.

Then, they were off, taking several spins around the track all in the name of physics.

Nicole Lewis, Donovan Augustin and Mikayla Fry were just a few of the students from the school’s physics class to take part in the lab by driving the cars. Teacher Frederick Hillier and Principal Bill Jones say the race park is an important part of their new study of physics.

“They don’t realize what they are learning,” Hillier said. “They’re developing a keen interest in physics.”

Jones said the students had a good time at the park.

“They understand what we’re trying to do with the class,” he said. “I keep saying this is what physics feels like -- the pressure, lateral forces, what makes the car go that way and this way. Now, Mr. Hillier will translate that into engineering and physics terms.”

Students took several laps around the track. Each lap could be translated into a lesson plan focusing on measuring sound, decibels, noise reduction rating, fuel economics, propulsion and other factors.

A black and white flag was waved into the air to indicate the final lap.

The students dashed from the cars to the main office, took off their helmet and protective gear, unable to contain their enthusiasm.

“Racing is not my thing,” Nicole, 16, said with a shy grin. “I’m a much too conscientious driver. But it was definitely fun.”

Mikayla, 17, said, “I thought it would be easier but it was hard. It was good though. I liked it a lot.”

Mikayla and Nicole represent a large number of girls who signed up for the physics class.

“We are meeting a national need for engineers,” Hillier said. “We’re getting them at the decision point.”

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