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Students put physics to work

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By John Barnhart

    They could use three materials: cardboard, plastic and duct tape. And with that, physics students from Liberty High School built sea-worthy vessels.
    At least most of them were.
    Students in Jeff Steele’s classes brought their boats to Smith Mountain Lake State Park Thursday morning. Some had been working on their projects for weeks; some for just a few days.
    “It’s something fun to do at the end of the year,” LHS senior Will Grant said.
    Unfortunately, “Jenny,” the boat he and Jonathan Tice made, didn’t fair so well on the water.
    This is the sixth year Steele has brought his physics classes to the lake for the Physics Cardboard Regatta. Prior to building their boats, the students studied buoyancy, balance and other factors that went into building their entries. With school ending earlier, the project was moved up on the schedule, making it a little more difficult on the students.

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    They worked on their boats on their own. Steele said the project helps the students put real-world applications to what they’re learning in the classroom.
    Katherine Grimstead and Katelyn Howell’s boat did well, but they found paddling it through the lake a bit difficult, especially as the wind picked up on the rainy Thursday morning.
    “It’s harder than you think,” Grimstead said.
    They spent about 11 hours constructing “The Liger.”
    “It was pretty fun,” Howell said of the project.
    Christian Larsen and Eli Fraley found smooth sailing on their first run of the morning. Fraley enjoyed both making and racing their boat. And they both enjoyed the chance to get out of school for the morning.
    Austin Pierce, Amelia Wentzel and Michelle Cox constructed a boat to commemorate Liberty High School’s 50th anniversary. This was their second year making a boat. “It’s tough,” Cox said. “It didn’t get any easier.”
    Team Thing included Brianna Key, Christina Smith, Angela Rowan and Brooke Friess with Key and Rowan taking the first run in their boat, which did well on the water.
    The boat powered by Jordon Padgett and Scott Messier got a bit water logged, slowing their effort down.
    Jalenda Settles brought a group of fifth graders from Huddleston Elementary out to watch the cardboard regatta. The elementary students timed the boats and wrote down their observations as part of the class trip.
    “It’s just a great opportunity to see an extension of the science they’re learning this year,” Settles said.
    The USS Never Sail won this year’s competition, with a time of 1 minute, 34 seconds. Ben McPeters, Andrea Scruggs, Cameron Hackett and Chance Morton built the winning entry. They started making the boat Monday and finished at 1 a.m. Thursday.