Thursday, September 10, 2009


Last June students in Dr. Mehrbach's physics class took part in the annual competition to see how far they can propel a car on the gym floor powered by the spring of a Victor rat trap. Other physics students built small bridges to exacting load-bearing standards proportional to their sizes.

For 40 years Dr. Mehrbach and his predecessors have sponsored these second-semester projects. Students building cars must measure the energy trapped in the spring in Joules, calculate the "gear ratios" of the wheel and the spring, determine the average acceleration, and interpret other readings. The all-time record-holder is Seth Dunten, class of 1994, whose rat-trap car traveled 363.9 feet.

This year saw the first remote-controlled car, built by Paul Thompson, class of 2010, pictured top right. Other pictures: bridges by Annie Cravero and Sarah Donahue; and by Will Russell and Danny Morganelli, all from the class of 2009.

The best results of spring term 2009:
Rat-trap car: Gunnar Shaw and Cory French: 186.5 feet
Bridge strength/weight ratio: Tyler Hagen, 5.44 pounds per gram.

Just before school ended, other physics students built working catapults and trebuchets.

The catapult built by Mike Balch and Jason Barry earned 1172.9 points for distance and conformance to standards. This was a NEW WORLD RECORD POINT SCORE.

The trebuchet built by Connie Emerson and Kelly Wood earned 947 points and threw its bullet 183.6 feet. These were NEW WORLD RECORDS.