Physics end of the year project takes full flight

Gracie Murray works on attaching components of the physics project together for the final showcase.
Photo By: Zak Sleeth

RAHS physics teacher Dona Bien-Aime is implementing within the AP Physics 1 and 2 classes a comprehensive end-of-the-year project applying physics concepts taught throughout the year to investigate why the Concorde jet was so inefficient.

Senior Matthew Arnold sees the project as a means of applying what he has learned throughout the year in a cumulative showcase.

“We were asked to point out where the Concorde was inefficient, said Arnold. “Namely how the wing is inefficient [and] create a poster to show, using physics that we know, the Concorde wing’s inefficiency.”

More specifically, the project focuses on the factors related to wing efficiency instead of calculating the exact wing efficiency. This is because of the complex nature of flight analysis and the time-limit for the end-of-year project.

“It’s more about seeing what factors affect [wing efficiency] in a more general sense, not necessarily finding how efficient a wing is,” said Arnold. “It just about seeing the factors of the design of the wing how that affects its efficiency.”

Bien-Aime agrees with the function of the project in the context of solidifying important concepts learned throughout the year in an aggregate way.

“[The project applies] concepts that [students have] learned definitely in [AP] Physics 2 like Bernoulli’s Principle, conservation of energy, and conservation of momentum,” said Bien-Aime.

The projects’ main objective is to prepare students for a future aerospace-related career.

“The main objective of the project is to apply physics to understand aerospace engineering, so you can see what exactly is going into a plane — how we design the wing, how we design a big massive thing that can defy gravity and move,” said Bien-Aime.

For the students who may not necessarily want a career in aerospace, the project provides and example of practical engineering.

“Aerospace engineering would be the most practical engineering,” said Arnold. “If you were to give this project to an aerospace engineer, they would probably have the best chance of solving it.”

The culmination of the project is mostly a poster showcase in lieu of a question-answer gallery walkthrough or a presentation.

“[Physics students] don’t have to do a presentation,” said Mr. Bien-Aime. “They’re not going to do a presentation for class, but they are going to have the poster standing there. Probably, in class or preferably in the cafeteria, so people can walk by and ask them questions.”

The information necessary for the project, including wing detail specifications, is available online from a variety of sources.

“I go online,” said Arnold. “There’s lots of good websites. Concorde has its own website with specifications.”

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