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Physics class goes mobile

Contest showcases student development

November 10, 2016
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

For the 22nd consecutive year, Canfield High School physics teacher Steve Hlaudy held Mobile Mania Day for his senior class.

The Physics Olympics showcase Nov. 2 gave the students a chance to use what they have learned in class by applying it to some fun competition. One of the events is the annual mobile contest.

"Mobile Mania is a quest for balance, like a see saw," Hlaudy said. "Students must build a mobile that freely hangs from the ceiling and has both translational and rotational equilibrium. That's a fancy physics way of saying it is balanced!"

Senior physics students have to calculate weights and variances of objects that will become part of a themed mobile. The plans and calculations come first, followed by the mobile being built and put on display in the physics lab. The entire school was then invited to come by and cast a vote for their favorite in several categories.

The event is a lot tougher than one would think. It involves a lot more than just balancing weights on a mobile's arms. This year's entries included such challenges as helium-filled balloons and an upside down mobile using air-filled rubber duckies in an aquarium full of water.

"For years we just did lab work, but this lets the students actually build something and experience physics," Hlaudy said.

In some cases, even the best of plans can create new problems. That was the case for Erica Whittenberger and Rachel Williams, who designed their mobile off the television series "The Office." The two students created a mobile with items that would have been part of the show.

"We had a coffee mug as part of the mobile, but it fell and broke early in the day," Whittenberger said. "We had to recalculate the entire mobile and adjust it to balance for the rest of the day."

Winning most creative was Mia Battista's "What's Up" mobile based on the Disney movie "Up." She included props seen in the movie such as the house she made of cardboard and the heavy money jar. Included was a large group of helium filled balloons, which had to be factored into the weight. While it lasted through the day, a few balloons were losing air and causing a slight tilt on the main arm of the mobile.

"It started out straight at the top," Battista said. "As the day progressed, it began to tilt slightly."

The mobiles were all designed with a fun theme in mind. The mobile designed by physics students Samantha Carney and Mya Kasten was called "Snap Chat" and was made of several frames that had clear plastic interiors with fun face masks designed in. One example was a bunny rabbit that a student could look through and appear to be wearing. They could then take a snap shot or selfie and send it off.

"We designed the different faces," Kasten said. "We wanted people to be able to interact with it."

Not only did their fellow students interact with the "Snap Chat" mobile, they also voted heavily for it. At the end of the day, "Snap Chat" earned the Best of Show.

The mobile entries were judged on the following categories: prettiest mobile, ugliest mobile, funniest mobile, most creative mobile, best balanced mobile and Best of Show.

Honors for the prettiest went to "Phlowers In Jars," ugliest that went to "Uggly Mobile" based on various Ugg shoes, funniest that went to "Teacher's Faces," and best balanced, which went to "Fish Mobile."

"The event has grown considerably over the years," Hlaudy said. "After starting as a lab activity two decades ago, it has become something that both students and staff look forward to each year. Kids in physics go all out, trying to earn enough votes to win the event. On average, we have over 1,000 votes cast."



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