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Murray Journal

Murray High physics students test their knowledge in year-end traditions

Aug 03, 2022 08:15PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In late May, Murray High School students paraded down State Street, carrying various sizes of cardboard.

Though it may seem strange to a visitor in Murray, locals know the long-standing tradition.

Physics students created their own cardboard boats, held together with only duct tape, then walked them to Murray Park’s outdoor pool to test their understanding of physics. The objective was to have the boat hold the students as they paddled across the length of the pool and back.

While nobody knows who quite started the cardboard boat tradition, physics teachers Tony Romanello, Kristi Ratliff, Alison Bulson, Katarina Nielson and even current principal Scott Wihongi, all had their students embrace the traditional cardboard boat race.

“That physics boat project has been going on as long as I can remember,” Wihongi said. “I was teaching in the science department 20 years ago, and it was going on then.”

It’s a task with little instruction. Current teacher Aaron Daniels gave students suggestions, including six different types of designs.

“I’m hoping they apply the engineering principles and the design process they learned,” Daniels said. “This one is a little more fun and a tradition at the end of the year.”

Daniels also provided calculations they could perform to see how much their boat would sink into the water—which some students did the math, and some students admitted they did not.

Best friends Eli Cushing and Jack Petty, both juniors, used three layers of cardboard.

“We got the cardboard from two boxes that held football helmets that was 5 years old,” Petty said.

Before launching their boat displaying scriptures, they said a prayer. As the boat took on water, they playfully blamed each other for not doing the weight calculation before “decommissioning” their cardboard.

“We didn’t even get a chance to christen it,” Cushing said.

Besides jokingly saying they should have used better cardboard, Petty said they learned “how to actually make use of the bare minimum. We figured out how high the side should be and what the length should be, but we didn’t do the weight calculation. We assumed that it would be able to float.”

The team of juniors Morgan Bushman, Sofia Bigler and Mariam Wakil only used two layers of cardboard and built a boat in a week to hold two of them.

“We had to meet the requirement that at least 50% of the group has to fit in the boat and paddle,” Bushman said.

Their boat survived.

Morgan Jones, who was the first one to complete the two laps of the pool, had the inside knowledge of her older brother Duncan, who floated across the pool in his boat six years earlier.

“I was excited to do this; my dad knew where we could get cardboard and I designed it,” she said, adding that her sister missed out on the activity when the school shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “I like that we do big projects like this.”

Daniels said throughout the year students have had other projects such as test gravity vehicles and hold their own egg drop letting the eggs fall from the football bleachers.

Another year-end tradition is taking part in Utah State’s physics day at Lagoon, which has been available since 1990. There Murray students and other area physics students descend upon the amusement park to drop an egg from the 60-foot sky ride, or they could make a force sensor, then ride a roller coaster to determine the g-force.

“Lagoon day was awesome,” Petty said. “We went on all the rides, but it was more than that. If we were able to know the velocity of the train car and the weight of every person, we could understand the acceleration. This has been a fun class.”