Eighth-grade students at Kenneth Henderson Middle School got a crash course in physics Tuesday afternoon, when police officers visited to demonstrate how the laws of friction and velocity are applied in the real world.
Traffic on Fleming Street adjacent to the school was diverted to allow the demonstration to take place, as the Garden City Police Department teamed up with the school to do a crash simulation.
The students, each with a sheet of paper bearing physics formulas, watched as SMPO Troy Davis showed them how detectives use physics and math, the same methods the students learn in class, to measure distances at crash sites.
Officers also used the occasion to encourage students to think about road safety.
“Through the demonstration, they learn about physics and math, learning different concepts like time, speed, velocity, motion, mass weight, inertia, friction, gravity and distance,” said Davis, who gave the demonstration.
The demonstration involved a car hitting a dummy or skidding to a halt just before hitting it. Every time the driver got out of the car, students came together to listen as the different physical forces, which had just been exhibited, were explained.
Students also got to measure the skid marks and to calculate distance and time, something they did with a lot of excitement. The whoops that filled the air every time the car screeched to a halt were a testament to this excitement.
Aaron Schafer, 14, said getting out of class for demonstrations like this was fun.
“We can do it outside and have some hands-on experience,” Schafer said. “We are learning about force and Newton’s three laws of motion, and so what we are doing is force equals mass times acceleration.”
“I think it’s really cool that they are doing this,” Taylor Sullivan, 13, said.
She said she also got to see at close quarters how people are affected when they are hit by cars.
“All of us pretty much understand what we are doing. We worked it out in math the last couple of days,” Sullivan said.
Charles Kressbach, a science teacher for the seventh- and eighth-grade, said what the students were shown at the demo also will serve as a test for the students.
“They are going out with a bang,” Kressbach said.
According to Alex Koning, who teaches eighth-grade science, the class has been looking at Newtonian physics and a real-world application was needed.
“They are looking at what happens when you have more force going fast in a car; how much longer does it take to stop, and then we also are looking at how the cops look at the tire marks to determine the actual speed,” he said, adding that the demonstration encompassed everything the class had been learning the entire semester.
The data from the demonstration was taken back to the classroom and studied further.
Davis explained that science teachers at Kenneth Henderson had the idea that, since the police use this same information during crash investigations, they could help the students with a demonstration.
“After this, it is expected that when they go back into class, they can finish their problems easier,” Davis said. “They can now calculate and say the car started skidding from here; two seconds into the skid, this is what happened; and three seconds later, this is what happened.”
Kenneth Henderson also is promoting bicycle safety because of a planned crosswalk that will run from the school down to Tally Trail, Davis said.
“We couldn’t use a bicycle for the crash demo; we don’t have any cars that would crash bicycles,” he added, saying the idea was for the students to calculate the force the car puts on a pedestrian or on a bicycle when it hits them.