Physics students construct catapults to soak teachers
Several groups of physics students gathered at the upper field on April 30 to let loose their homemade catapults. Students ran to and fro between the field and the science classrooms to fill up their ammunition, launching volley after volley of water balloons at some of their teachers.
For 10 years, eager students have participated in physics teacher Jenny Garcia’s annual catapult project. However, some changes have been implemented over the past year because of safety concerns.
“There were too many catapults and not enough space last year,” physics teacher Kirk Davis said. “And so, to ensure that there were no injuries, we moved up [to the upper field].”
Chemistry teacher Kathy Nakamatsu accidentally broke her finger last year after being struck by a water balloon. By moving the event from the quad to the upper field, teachers had more space to dodge the balloons and hoped to minimize the number of balloons flying in the air.
“There could have been 10 or 12 balloons up in the air at any time last year,” Davis said. “And you can’t keep an eye out on all of them. So if a teacher was looking at one particular catapult, another [might] come from another direction.”
Noticeably, there were fewer teachers participating in the event. Only four teachers were prepared to sacrifice themselves for their students’ enjoyment, but a number of other teachers watched on the side, preferring spectating over being pelted.
Nevertheless, both teachers and students had fun during the event. Teachers held taunting signs about their students’ inability to hit them, while students tried their hardest to prove them wrong.
Senior D.J. Traina constructed an impressive metal trebuchet that stood out among the more typical wood catapults. Along with his partner, senior Ethan Drohan, Traina spent two days building and one day testing the massive catapult.
“The best part of building the catapult was actually when we were testing it,” Traina said. “We added too much weight and ended up bending a piece of ⅝ inch steel rod at a 45-degree angle.”
While many students participated for the extra credit, according to Traina, it was also an opportunity for them to pursue other interests, such as building something from scratch.
“It is fun for the students to actually try to build something, rather than just doing problems on paper,” Davis said.
Aside from being a project for the students, in past years, teachers have also been involved in the project. Different teachers would raise money and the top four or five teachers who raised the most amount would go out on the field as living targets.
Last year, teachers simply volunteered to be put up onto the chopping block, or rather, the target range.
“The project has morphed and changed over the years,” Garcia said. “But it is meant for the students to be able to have a hands-on project.”