Physics on the Ski Hill

Monday, 08. March 2021

Chris Strahler, who teaches AP physics in our US High School Program, took his physics students out of the classroom and onto our Hauspiste where our commitment to progressive education in the Swiss Alps truly came alive!

Chris’s class is super small, just two students. This allows for opportunities to be nimble and curious - together his class can explore areas of student interest. The students in Chris’s AP physics each designed an experiment based around skiing. This is Lorna’s experiment!

Lorna's Question:

Lorna wanted to test the aerodynamics of the racing posture versus ‘lazy boy’ posture. She hypothesized, drawing on her experience on the ski hill, that racing posture was faster than “lazy boy’. Still, she had some lingering doubt that ‘lazy boy’ could be faster. Lorna observed that the ‘lazy boy’ position creates a smaller cross-sectional area and there are similarities in leg position that might create a more aerodynamic shape.

Lorna’s Experiment:

To test things out, the AP Physics class set out to compare the accelerations in these two positions. They filmed six trials, three of each position, and used the position data to analyze the acceleration using Vernier's Logger Pro video analysis tool.

The Results:

Well, sometimes in science things don’t go as planned! Disappointingly, the results were inconclusive. The class saw reasonable variation from one trial to the next and almost no difference overall between the two different positions. The average acceleration for the two positions differed by such a small amount that Chris and his students concluded they don't feel confident saying that one position was faster than the other. All final velocities at the second pole were between 10 and 11 m/s based on our data.

Despite the disappointing lack of results, it was still a great learning experience! The class learned first hand about how we can be careful to set up an experiment and still not get a clear answer to the question. This happens a lot in science! And it’s an invitation to do more experiments.