SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

May 28, 2015 15:30 ET

Rollercoasterology -- the science behind amusement parks

Over 2,000 junior and high school students head to Calaway Park to learn about physics

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - May 28, 2015) - What could be better for junior and high school students than when your classroom transforms into an amusement park for a day? That's just what's happening on Friday for over 2,000 students from across Alberta who are heading to Calaway Park to enjoy a few rides and learn a lot about physics.

The students go on the rides and study the math, forces, and physics of the amusement park rides with the help of the Rollercoasterology workbooks, written by Phil Langill, a senior instructor in the Physics and Astronomy Department.

"The best way to learn how amusement park rides work is to get on them, measure them, and experience them," says Langill. "Equations on a whiteboard are meant to describe the real world, but they are boring. Feel your body getting twice as heavy, just as the equations predict, and now the equations connect to the real world. And you can't make that connection in the classroom."

Langill and a dedicated crew of university volunteers will help guide the students through the workbook exercises, and take part in a few rides themselves. The junior high workbook covers the concepts of simple machines, forces, and geometry, and the senior high workbook explores Newton's laws, acceleration, and energy. The workbooks analyze various rides at Calaway Park, including Vortex, Ocean Motion, Dream Machine, Free Fallin', and Cosmic Spin.

The workbooks are a work in progress, so Langill will also be collecting data with an accelerometer from the Park's newest ride, Timber Falls. The four-minute log ride has three high velocity drops and a zig-zag river. "I want to add this ride to next year's workbooks, to give those participants a new challenge."

WHAT: Teaching the science behind amusement park rides for junior and senior high school students

WHEN: Friday, May 29, 2015, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

WHERE: Calaway Park, west of Calgary, just off the TransCanada Highway at Range Road 33

WHO: Phil Langill, senior instructor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Calgary

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Gloria Visser-Niven
    Director, Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Science
    University of Calgary