Annual competition proves students are fit in physics


February 29, 2000|By Sherry Graham | Sherry Graham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TWO THOUSAND YEARS of physics were brought into play last weekend as students from 17 area high schools converged on Liberty High to compete in the eighth annual Physics Olympics.

Joining participants from Carroll's five high schools were students from Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery, Washington and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City. These students challenged themselves and each other to work through the problems presented at six stations during the three-hour event.

The students were challenged to: catch an egg -- using a device constructed with paper and masking tape -- dropped from a height of 4 meters; balance sand-filled cups using only meter sticks while moving; and transport the greatest mass the farthest along a fishing line using power generated by two balloons.

Other mind-benders included figuring out how to support a 1-liter bottle of water using the least amount of paper, and building a projectile device to fire an object off the ceiling and hit a target.

The Physics Olympics "was pretty challenging," said Steve Powers, a Liberty senior and member of the team that placed third overall with 1,140 out of 1,500 points. "There's a growing interest in physics; there are a lot of people taking physics now."

Powers and teammates Mike Haran, Jason Foss, Brett Jones, Robert Rosier and Steve Zucconi had to do well in a preliminary Olympics held at Liberty in order to compete Saturday.

Two other Liberty teams, composed of Daniel Dell, Jason Dahlke, Steven Greco, Ronald Warholic, Craig Cambias, Adam O'Sullivan, Josh Ahmanson, Nathan Beck, Bryan Fisk, Doug Mason and Tom Mergenov, participated on Saturday.

Finishing second in the Olympics with 1,175 points was a team from South Carroll High. Dressed in coveralls declaring "Property of NASA Engineering Club" and safety goggles, the group seemed well prepared and in good spirits.

A team from Archbishop Spalding High School earned 1,215 points for first place. The school will receive a plaque and $500 donated by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable. South Carroll and Liberty will receive $300 and $200, respectively, as well as trophies. All participants received certificates.

Brown Bag & Books

A new book club has begun at Oklahoma Road Middle School and it's turning children and adults into enthusiastic readers.

The pilot program, Brown Bag & Books, was held Saturday and drew more than two dozen pupils, several parents and staff to the media center for a lunchtime discussion of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.

"I wasn't really into fantasy, but after the first book, I went and read the next two books," said Larissa Martin, a seventh-grader. "Now I'm waiting for the next book to come out."

The group discussed the elements found in fantasy tales, along with their favorite characters and their roles in the story. Language use and symbolism were also debated as the group munched. Trivia questions stimulated a great deal of discussion.

"I was surprised how much the kids remembered," said Linda Bankard, a secretary at the school and a parent participant. "I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series and wanted to hear how kids related to this book."

The idea for the monthly meeting and discussion was hatched when media specialist Blair Reid chatted with pupils about what they were reading. Children shared their likes and dislikes in reading material, which led Reid to form the group.

"Students needed a forum to talk about the things they love in books," said Reid. "I knew I'd better do something with this energy."

She plans to base future reading selections on pupils' interest, with no specific topic or genre in mind. The next meeting will be held from noon to 1 p.m. March 16 when the group will discuss "Holes" by Louis Sachar. Pupils and adults may participate by registering in the media center.

Information: 410-751-3600.

Adventure program

The beginnings of a new physical education program have been installed at Freedom Elementary School, the second in Carroll County to have a climbing wall.

Thanks to about $12,000 raised by a Jump-a-thon, physical education teacher Elaine Cherneski was able to have an 8-by-48-foot climbing wall constructed in the gym.

Children are challenged to use their brains as well as their bodies as they traverse the wall.

"They have to think and plan their moves as they go across the wall, so it's really neat to watch them use this as a cognitive activity as well as a physical one," said Cherneski.

The design of the wall allows the hand and footholds to be moved so the challenge can be greater as pupils improve in strength and agility.

Plans are also being made for the purchase of Whittle Equipment -- a series of A-frame ladders, connectors, bridges, cargo nets, ropes, tires, tubes and mats -- which will be set up and used for weeks at a time and then stored.

These additions to the school's physical education program will be made in the next few weeks.

Sherry Graham's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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