This Week In Lab: Physics of Fair Rides!
The origin of fair rides dates back to the late 1800s when George W. Ferris was given the task of designing an engineering masterpiece for the Chicago World’s Fair, which would rival the Eiffel Tower built only years before. The World Fair in 1893 was held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the United States, so much planning went into it’s various attractions. Inspired at dinner one night, Ferris scribbled a rough design for the rotational ride on a napkin. At the time it was considered quite the engineering feat because of its size, beauty and function. The original ferris wheel was destroyed in 1906 because it was too large to be transported, but it inspired more and more “fair rides” to be designed and provide entertainment to the masses.
Today, children and adults alike enjoy heading to the fair each Summer to ride the modern rides which turn and twist and fly at incredible rates. In the lab, to celebrate the engineering finesse of George W. Ferris and his successors, August is dedicated to designing small-scale rides! Not only do students have to take into consideration the design of their ride, but the physics of it! If they decide to do a roller coaster, for example, the metal marble can’t shoot off the side of the track because a turn is too sharp! During the entire month of August the students will have time to design, build, tinker, test and complete their fun fair rides. They have the option of attempting one of the challenges which are ongoing this month: 1. build a ride that has two axes of rotation or 2. build a ride that shows 2 out of the 3 types of motion.
At the beginning of classes this week, instructors introduced the three types of motion: linear, rotational and circular. They also explained how each could be used in a variety of fair rides, which lead right into the mini challenge students were given! They had the option to either work on one of the month long challenges, or create a small build which demonstrated one or two of the types of motion discussed. As students dispersed around the room to work on their designs, the magic of the summer fair began coming to life right here in the lab. The instructors re-constructed a ferris wheel which was designed by a student last year to provide inspiration for this year. Roller coasters with chimes and more are beginning to emerge, as some students were so excited for August’s theme that they got an early start on their designs in July. We are ecstatic to see what appears this month, because one of our students might design the world’s next greatest engineering feat! Stay tuned for more on our August happenings in the Lab, and stay cool outside everyone!