Students test laws of physics

Car dropped 101 feet in Hayden math, science experiment


— A Volkswagen Rabbit fell from the sky Thursday morning.

The aged, white car dangled 101 feet above the ground for a few minutes before a large crane released it, much to the delight of students and teachers who gathered on the track behind Hayden High School to watch the spectacle.

Math and science students spent their last day of school finishing up calculations and jotting down their observations about the larger-than-life arithmetic and physics problem.

What went up most definitely came down Thursday.

The crane slowly raised the car 101 feet in the air but quickly dropped its load when students and teachers finished their countdown.

The large thud that resulted elicited cheers and cries of amazement.

Math teacher Anne Barbier and science teacher Mari Mahanna wanted to give their students some real-life applications to their studies.

Students in Barbier's math classes predetermined the car would be traveling 55 mph when it hit the ground.

They didn't come to the car dropping empty-handed.

Video cameras, stopwatches, pencils, notebooks and makeshift plumb bobs, constructed from protractors, string and a piece of rubber, recorded the results of the fall.

Freshman Chelsea Smith measured the angle of the car from the crane with a plumb bob.

From her vantage point on the infield, she said, the angle measured 30 degrees.

She said she and her classmates planned to compare the data they collected from observing the fall with the predictions they made prior to Thursday.

Their conclusions on paper ensured the beginning of summer vacation.

Students had to turn in their work on the project before they could leave school.

Freshman Eric Cromie said he appreciated seeing the math project on more than just paper.

"It's a lot more visual this way," he said.

Barbier said the experiment came together thanks to the support of area businesses and agencies.

"It almost looked like we wouldn't be able to do it," she said.

Webb Crane of Grand Junction and Timberline Towing donated equipment and labor to the project.

Elementary, middle and high school students and faculty and a few curious onlookers got a lesson, not only in fast-flying objects, but also in safety.

Trooper Brett Hilling of the Colorado State Patrol took the opportunity to stress the importance of seat belts.

Two dolls, one in a seat belt and one without a seat belt, were placed in the vehicle prior to its release from the crane.

The doll buckled in a seat belt stayed in its seat, while the doll without a seat belt encountered a short, wild ride.

"We want you to wear your seat belt," Hilling told the crowd. "We want you to be safe on the roads."

Students crowded around the car after impact to see the damage.

Hilling said he hoped the sight was enough to convince young drivers and passengers to make safety a priority.


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