Who says that learning can’t be fun? Not Suzanne Tibbits, science teacher at St. Mary’s High School. That’s why she chose to use Angry Birds as a theme for one of her science labs on velocity and distance.
“It seems like all of the kids have played Angry Birds at least once,” Tibbits said, “but not everyone has experience throwing a football or shooting a basketball.”
Once the theme was chosen, Tibbits had to order a launcher, which was meant for use with balloons but was used for stuffed birds on this occasion, and the class began collecting boxes.
Tibbits said for many of the boys in the class collecting the boxes was the most fun part of the lab. Each student had to bring in two large boxes to build the Angry Birds structure. In the days leading up to the lab, Tibbits said she would find cardboard box forts in different areas of the room.
Senior Adam Jung was one of the students building the forts, and agreed that the building might have been the best part of the lab. “When else do you get the chance to build a huge box fort in the back of the classroom,” he said.
But generally speaking, the students agreed that the lab itself was the biggest hit. Senior Cannon Wille said the Angry Birds lab ranks as one of the two most fun labs he’s done at St. Mary’s.
“Sophomore year we made bubbles that turned into fire balls,” Wille said. “That one and this Angry Birds lab were the most fun we’ve had in a science lab.”
While the lab was fun, it wasn’t without some issues. First, the plush Angry Birds didn’t fly so well. So the class began experimenting with different masses. They tried tennis balls, but those didn’t have enough weight behind them. That led them to a one-pound medicine ball, which worked well.
One part of the lab was for the students to use an altimeter to calculate the height of the birds. But once the “birds” were flying, the students found that other variables contributed to the degree of success they would have in the lab.
“What we found was that cardboard boxes are stronger than we thought,” said Kuran Mital, a senior.
Then after 50 minutes flinging Angry Birds, the launcher broke. Because of that, Tibbits said the classes weren’t able to collect good data, but she still considered the lab a success.
“The students got to see where the values they plug into equations come from,” she said. “So it was still beneficial.”
Next year, Tibbits plans to change things up a bit. Her plan is to divide the classes into teams and require them to build their own catapult. Then they will have a contest to see which team gets the best results.
Even though everything didn’t go perfectly smooth this year, the students weren’t too disappointed. For some the only disappointing part of the lab was that the real life version of the game was missing some of the features of the video game.
“I was disappointed that the yellow bird didn’t speed up,” Mital said. “Other than that, it was great.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below, Cannon Wille prepares to launch a "bird" at a cardboard structure in the St. Mary's High School gym during an Angry Birds-themed physics lab. (Photo courtesy of Ben Cloud.)