JASON 2012: Terminal Velocity

This morning was the second year that our group has attended the JASON presentation at Lamar University. JASON is a supplemental science curriculum designed for students  in grades 4 – 10 with the goal of getting kids interested in science through experimentation and involvement in their community with real-life application. One of their primary goals is to connect students with local scientists.

This year’s theme is Terminal Velocity and the video presentation featured four experiments by the Argonauts – student scientists in the JASON program. They learned about Newton’s three laws of motion in a demonstration that showed how those laws affect the ‘tablecloth trick’ – pilling the cloth out from under dishes without disturbing them. They learned about trajectory and the rate at which objects fall in an experiment called ‘Monkey Bullet’, which features a projectile weapon and a moving target. Then the Argos went out to the National Weather Service station to launch a weather balloon attached to a box containing instruments for measuring the temperature, atmospheric pressure and location via GPS. After that, the Argos went out to the Neches River to learn about cleaning up oil spills using simple machines – a wheel and an inclined plane in the form of an oil skimmer.

The highlight of the presentation is always the finale, when the guest speakers come out and we find out about the props. This year’s prop was a huge glass box in the corner of the room. Our guest speakers were from the National Weather Service and included a ‘storm chaser’.  They added balloons to the box, then turned it on and demonstrated the rotational current of a tornado. The balloons were neat, but they were nothing compared to the demonstration with dry ice! The fog clearly showed the formation of the funnel cloud and how it progresses as the wind speed picks up – at first, the funnel is loosely defined, wide and chaotic. As the wind picks up, the funnel is cleaner and leaner and spinning very fast.

After the video presentation and a brief Q and A with the students, the kids were dismissed to participate in the interactive sessions.  The kids learned about pulleys and inclined planes in the form of a wedge and how they’re used to bring down dead or dangerous trees from the National Forest Service.

Next, the students worked with Shangri La Botanical Gardens to build a model of a windmill to generate energy from wind power. The kids got to work with several volunteers to assemble windmills and record the air speed. They experimented with different sized and different shaped blades, and with the angle of the blades in relation to the wind and had the chance to document their findings.

After that, they moved on to the National Weather Service’s presentation and learned about harnessing the power of the wind with sailboat races. The kids teamed up to push their sailboats by blowing on the sails. As the teams rotated, the shape and direction of the sails changed and the kids got to see and experiment with different types of wind (blowing hard or soft) and what shapes harness it best (convex vs. concave sails). Then we moved over to the hurricane simulator and learned about wind shear and how crosswinds affect the formation of hurricanes.

The program was a bit different this year; we were limited to three hands-on sessions instead of getting to participate in all of them. Our group missed out on presentations by Village Creek State park that talked about the flow of water, erosion and how that affects the course of a creek or river, and on Time Warner’s presentation on the transfer of information over the internet. There were a couple of others as well, but they were hidden from our view.

Even though we missed out on some of the interactive sessions, we enjoyed this year’s JASON presentation very much and are making plans to attend next year!

For more information about JASON, the Argonauts and professional development opportunities for homeschooling teachers, please visit the JASON website. For our local JASON affiliate, the JASON Alliance of Southeast Texas, you can visit the JASET Facebook page.


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