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Students go into the 'shark tank' to fund projects

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Evan Watson and Tyler Myers present their concept for a pneumatic projectile launcher to a small group of teachers, administrators and community members.

Evan Watson and Tyler Myers are seeking $363.93 to develop a pneumatic projectile launcher for a high school physics project. They got it.

During a series of presentations to school and district staff, three teams of advanced physics students presented the case for their projects, which included the pneumatic projectile launcher as well as a super conductor and a wave interference machine. The guy holding the checkbook -- DHS principal Derek Carlson -- agreed to fund all three.

There's a nationwide emphasis on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM. DHS instructor Ben Magtutu has added physics to the mix, to create a class he calls PHLEM.

Students enrolled in the PHLEM class are already taking college-level physics through the Advanced Placement program. Magtutu expects them, as PHLEM students, to apply the principles they've learned in the classroom. They've got just one assignment -- designing and building a project that incorporates such concepts as fluid dynamics, pressure, momentum, electromagnetic induction, resistance, super position, constructive interference and destructive interference.

The juniors and seniors in his class brainstormed several ideas before voting to select the top three projects. They then divided into teams and began working on the first step, research and design.

With conceptual plans in place, they went into the "shark tank" to seek the funding they need to purchase materials.

Watson and Myers explained how they plan to create a tennis ball launcher using irrigation pipe and air pressure. The less expensive design utilizes a bike pump to build air pressure; the "go big or go home" version would require the purchase of an air compressor. The air compressor would allow them to more accurately measure the psi, which would translate to more accurate projections of the ball's path and distance.

They'll spend the second semester building and testing their launcher. By April, they are expected to have a presentation ready for Lincoln Elementary School's Science Night. In addition to demonstrating the launcher, they will have to explain the scientific applications in a manner young students can understand. A presentation will also be given for Delta Middle School students.

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