Thursday, May 6, 2004

Sports car provides inspiration for class

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

Patrick Gillespie, 14, takes an imaginary spin in a 2002 Corvette Z06. He's using the principles of Corvette design to make his own mini-car out of a mousetrap.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
DELHI TOWNSHIP - Donald Bischof's model car is a shoo-in to win the distance competition in Cheryl Bean's science exploratory class on car design.

"I think my distance will be best because my car is a little heavier and I'm using bigger wheels - training wheels," the 14-year-old Delhi Middle School eighth-grader said.

Just three weeks into the five-week course, Donald is already applying some of the science principles taught by Bean, including: "If the circumference of a wheel is larger, the greater the distance per revolution."

Bean is teaching students about the history of Corvette production, basic engineering and car design. As part of the elective course, students are required to design, create and race a car powered by the snap of a mousetrap spring. The mousetrap itself is the vehicle's body.

Bean said she started out by teaching basic principles of aerodynamics, Newton's laws of motion and torque.

She first offered the exploratory course last semester and said it was a hit with students.

"I've never had students so on task with no grade attached," Bean said.

Students are required to take six of the five-week exploratory courses a year. Teachers design the pass/fail courses, which often reflect areas of their expertise or interest.

Bean hopes her course will spark an interest in physical science, which is part of the ninth-grade science curriculum.

Exploratory courses have been available at Delhi Middle since the 2000-01 school year. Yoga, gardening and World War II are among the other choices this quarter.

Principal Jeff Brandt said middle school is a good time to expose students to career options through exploratory courses.

"We're bringing interest to them at an age when they're really starting to explore what they want to do in life," Brandt said.

Exploratory classes also help students who are not academically strong, Assistant Principal Marni Durham said.

"Through these experiences, they can find points of interest, and also find friends who have the same interests," she said.


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