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Physics and amusement come together at Canobie Lake Park

The Union Leader

Original Article »

May 31, 2007

Canobie Lake Park is offering a few learning curves to go along with coaster turns this summer.

At an interactive classroom day at the amusement park, two "Mad Scientist" performers introduced countless elementary and middle school students to Sir Isaac Newton's three universal laws of motion.

Adam Lloyd Wilkinson, who plays the character "Crash" in "Newton's Revenge II," said amusement parks offer a unique angle to offering physics lessons, such as centrifugal force, at work with the Corkscrew Coaster.

"This ties in really well with the venue," he said. "Some teachers use our resource manual to have the kids look for things like ride velocities -- it's very clever."

With the Yankee Cannonball ride just feet away from the performance at the Midway Stage, Wilkinson attracted participants to the stage to where Robyn Pekarchuk began the demonstrations as a character named Professor Pruvitt.

With egg experiments and competitive games for student volunteers used as performance material, both Wilkinson and Pekarchuk have been instructing Newton's three laws of motion to students while they break for lunch nearby.

Additional planetary science demonstrations were offered by the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium. Mal Cameron of the planetarium taught the elemental properties of comets with student volunteers between Mad Science productions.

Spencer McCourt came from as far as Canton, Mass., with Galvin Middle School to spend the day at the park. In an experiment, he helped demonstrate inertia properties with a raw egg dropping into a bucket unbroken.

Sateja Paradkar, 11, of Nashua's Bicentennial Elementary School received the honor of dropping a bowling ball on Wilkinson's stomach as he laid on a bed of nails.

Although he got up from the bed of nails unhurt, Paradkar had learned Newton's second law -- force equals mass multiplied by acceleration.

After a Newtonian rap song summarizing scientific principles and a trivia contest, typically students pick up on a few things more than they knew before, Wilkinson said.

"By the end they don't realize how much they actually learned," Wilkinson said. "We fused it to their brains while they weren't looking."

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